The following ideas and recommendations were originally written in March 2020, for a company in the Machine Learning space I was advising. I think these insights can provide some great value and inspiration to lots of B2B SaaS-based companies.

The below insights were designed to help make your marketing strategy “antifragile” amid the Coronavirus outbreak. Antifragile, as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is a term that describes something that gains from a situation of disorder.

I believe there lies an opportunity in the current crisis if it is handled correctly.  While the long term marketing strategy may not necessarily going to change, It would be wise to shift some of the Q2+Q3 budgets to alternative growth channels, ones that are likely not only to be resilient to the crisis but also benefit from it.

First things first, I would take a moment and talk to existing customers, they would love to see that you care and display true empathy and care. Keep in mind that their needs, budgets, and concerns likely have changed, it is crucial to stay on top of things, and understand these changes. These will serve as a basis for upcoming marketing changes in your arena. Additional benefits for these calls would be to ask for testimonials, referrals, and online reviews of your product. 

  • Virtual events – Instead of having a single big annual event, speared out and create “mini” repeatable events for different theme topics, territories, etc.. Example: MLFrankfurt, MLondon, etc… (Every month or two). 

Such local events are faster and easier to scale up (and down) as needed. This is also wise since it is quite easy to transition them in the future to physical meetups or events (compared to a single big yearly event). 

Remote Speaking opportunities. Research and find out remote (webinar for example) speaking opportunities for company executives.  Consider joining forces with exhibitors that offer complementary products and services to co-market a digital event series.

  • Develop a direct mail campaign that targets event attendees to encourage engagement via webinar or virtual meeting. Talk to event organizers that were canceled and try to get the list of attendees/ use growth hacking technics to get it.  Take into mind that some shows have built-in communications with event attendees that can be used (those could be valuable in case of cancellations).  For example, a tradeshow host or association may have a website and regular communications with attendees, is there an opportunity to co-market through these channels? Are there plans to reach the audience via streaming the event?

-Consider suggesting a unique offer for people who already scheduled to meet with you in events that were canceled. 

  • Paid Media Evaluation– I would sugged evaluate current running ad campaigns as It is likely to we would see a spike in desktop usage and a decline in mobile usage since many people are going to stay indoors, working remotely and not commuting as much. It would be wise to check analytics for such trends in the past few weeks, and optimizing campaigns for desktops. 

In addition, since your audience is likely to be exposed to unusual stimulations while working remotely we may also see effects on the performance of campaigns. I suggest reevaluating running campaigns, possibly shortening them and make them more accessible. 

One of the symptoms of an economic downturn is fewer business deals, fewer purchases as the current economic climate signals uncertainty. in such terms, it is likely that CPA will rise and the ROI will be harmed. 

I would also suggest to keep an eye for ad rates, find deficiencies, and create smart, targeted campaigns on the cheap. (Both FB and Google reported that it is likely we’d see a drop in ad rates and their revenues) . 

-Shift or increase spend in digital advertising to promote product launches that were planned as part of the event. Use paid social to directly target buyers who had meetings or are on your account-based marketing lists.

-Take your solutions page and create funnels per use-case, industry with dedicated landing pages, and run PPC campaigns. The more focused the messaging and audience will be, the more likely the results would be better and more optimized. 

  • Product announcements and launches– If those were planned for any of the events, direct them to virtual events/webinar, direct your PR firm to expand media engagement strategies, boost with paid advertising. 
  • Activate SDRs and sales teams to reach buyers who have scheduled meetings in advance with you and offer to have a web meeting instead. Keep in mind that other exhibitors will be doing so as well, so timing is crucial, ensure that this outreach happens shortly after an event cancellation. (Mostly for 3rd party conferences, not ones you’re hosting)
  • Build and nurture presence on Review sites (Talk to existing customers, get them to write a review, boost efforts with promotions and ads). Build a flow to do this automatically for new customers? (After X amount of time as an example a client will get a popup/email to encourage them to write a review). Such activity can help with positioning and shorten sales cycles that are likely to be impacted in the current crisis. 
  • Podcasting- Produce a weekly show that covers the topics of AI/ ML and hosts influencers from the industry to discuss their challenges, predictions, etc…  (This week in AI/ This week in MLOps.  This can provide valuable content and help to position the company as a thought leader, which will help with both branding and in the longer-term generate demand. In times of limited ability to travel, attend conferences it is likely that your prospects will be looking to consume more online content in this vertical.
  • Optimize the existing sales process. Is the current funnel 100% remote or some or does it involve physical presence and sales meetings? Convert those into virtual calls with the goal of making it 100% remote and scaleable.  A global sales machine. Make sure to tightly align it with marketing goals for the next 2 quarters. 
  • Build an affiliate marketing strategy and work with affiliates.

  • Build and foster a community around the vertical.  The idea is a place for influencers, customers, leads to sharing their thoughts, experiences, and opinions. Tip: Can also work well with a podcast, webinar. Example: Hosting an influencer on the show, afterwords he will be answering questions on the community. (On a practical level, you can either use a Facebook/Linkedin group or alternatively a dedicated platform Like Vanilla, Discourse, etc…)

  • Think of smart ways to retain and upsell to existing customers, focus on nurturing existing customers with the highest lifetime value. The messaging should be mostly about empathy, support, being there, being nimble and not trying hard sale or promotion of your products. 
  • In sales demos, emphasize how the product will help company X deal with the CoronaVirus. Example: increase efficiency.  Also, try to listen and ask prospects about how their industry will be impacted, the very fact you’re listening and being relevant is a great deal and will be beneficial. (nearly every industry is worried and would appreciate such thinking).