Covid-19 and B2B Marketing: Impacts, Strategies & Emerging Trends

In more ways than one, Covid-19 has turned this world upside. In a panning, trickle-down effect, budgets are getting slashed, layoffs are occurring left and right, and marketers are starting to shift to newer ways to engage with customers and prospects. Now more than ever, they are being looked at to generate the much-needed sales pipeline to influence the revenue while creating programs to increase consumption and renewals. We all have seen frivolous spending to create a share of voice and personalize the customer experience, and now we are forced to execute creatively and become more frugal.

Impact of COVID on B2B Marketing

B2B communication alone has shifted from a place of targeted, rushed, cut-to-the-chase conversation to one of partnership and understood struggle. A sentiment of give-and-take has rushed over the field, highlighting the fragility and the need for mutual respect to keep such business-to-business marketing alive. The whole mindset shift from treating customers and prospects as partners and not targets has made up for the falling open rates, mail being sent to deserted offices, and calls being forwarded to unmanned phones.

The whole new social distancing has brought all in-person meetings and events to standstill. For B2B, the businesses rely on these customer engagements with experts and executives to advance the sales pipeline.

Recent McKinsey research on decision-makers’ behavior globally across industries since the crisis began reveals that the significant digital shift is here to stay. As per the study, more than 75% of the buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over in-person interactions. This sentiment has steadily intensified even after lockdowns have ended.

New Emerging Trends in B2B Marketing

With the world staying inside and in front of the computer, there’s no wonder how B2B marketing will shift in the wake of Covid. While marketing has progressively built an online presence over the years, more and more trends are being set in the online sphere during the pandemic.

Businesses are taking their employees from the shop or office to their homes and online in one fell swoop, cutting down the price of office-related costs. The marketing model in the wake of Covid is “meeting people where they are,” which is on social media, in front of a video camera, and over email.

Profits are turning despite much of the world staying in their living rooms. We will see even more businesses hold conferences, trade shows, and other networking events online to foster communication, connection, and growth. Many B2B sales leaders say going online is for the better, not only temporarily—but permanently. 

Strategies to Make a Resilient Marketing Engine

In 2020, what businesses care about more now than ever before is empathy. They don’t want products and deals getting shoved down their throats out of guilt when they are already barely staying themselves afloat. It’s vital to refine the messaging such that it doesn’t add stress on customers and prospects. It’s imperative to not hard-sell at every touchpoint and prioritize quality over the number of emails, webinars, cold calls, etc. What our customers need today is more focused and succinct content that caters to their demands tied to the pandemic.

Businesses must cater to how goods and services can fill the void left behind. The pandemic has forced B2B marketing to become more simplistic and cost-effective while working with less paper. Digital pipelines are essential to reaching other businesses and to streamline costs.

Above all else, focusing on customer needs is what will help businesses stay alive and thrive in a post-pandemic state. Following data in this ever-evolving marketing world is essential to developing alongside desires and demands.

Love in COVID Times – How a Couple Stayed Connected

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us as nothing ever before. People are coming together to support each other and are displaying commendable strength, and so many things that were taken for granted once are now being treasured. Be it weekend outings, vacations, watching a movie with friends or happy times with our loved ones, these tough pandemic times are pushing us to extremes.

Human relationships are also being tested for their strength and endurance. People are finding ways to stay connected and to make each other happy. Hari, a busy professional, is happily married to Anita and they have a lovely family together. Hari and Anita are a nuclear family but they both make sure they get to spend quality time with each other and with their lovely children. Anita is always busy looking after her family and unselfishly puts their needs ahead of hers. In all these years she has never complained and ensures that they all have a strong bond as a family, and though she expects Hari to pitch in she knows that he too gets busy with work.

Hari is a devoted husband and father and is always there for his family. But Hari’s mother doesn’t stay with them and is resides in another city. She stays alone and usually manages by herself. But when COVID-19 struck India and seeped its deadly poison throughout the country, Hari had another responsibility to handle. His mother, a senior citizen, needed help. She couldn’t be left alone to manage things. Not when health officials were warning senior citizens to be especially susceptible to the deadly virus.

That’s why Hari got to his mother’s side as soon as possible to help her and be with her until things settled down. Anita stayed back with the kids instead of travelling and exposing them to risks of infection. It was overwhelming for her, of course. Doing groceries by herself, managing household work, handling the kids…and all this while staying in one of the worst affected cities in India. But Anita was strong…she had to be strong for Hari who felt bad leaving her like this but had to be with his mother. Anita did not complain even once while Hari was away and ploughed through each week keeping things on track.

And her efforts were not unnoticed.

On Mother’s Day in May 2020, Anita got a wonderful surprise. A lovely and heartwarming video shout-out message from one of her favorite young celebrities – Manjari Phadnis. To tell Anita how much he loves and appreciates her, Hari had requested a personalized video celebrity shout-out message on Faverou, where Manjari conveyed Hari’s feelings to Anita and made her feel loved and special.

Personalized shout-out videos from celebrities like the ones offered by Faverou are the latest thing in personalized gifting. There are so many thoughts that we want to convey to our loved ones but want to make it more warm than some expensive store-bought gift. What better way than to get one of their favorite celebrities to send a personalized video message across. Just like the shout-out from Manjari Phadnis that reminded Anita how much Hari loved and helped them stay connected even long distance, you can also pick a celebrity on Faverou and gift a video.

The New Autographs – Personalized Celeb Videos

Craving of doing something more than just commenting on each social media post of your favorite celebrity and not getting any response? Or liking and tagging their photos and getting lost in the crowd? Celebrity engagement platforms put you directly in touch with a variety of celebrities by letting you order personal shout-outs. It’s almost like meeting your favorite celebrity in person! You can ask them to talk about anything, and they’ll make you a personalized video message with a tailor-made script, albeit in their famous style.

The range of celebrities offered online is broad, and the celebs can be from sports, entertainment, talented and famous personalities, and so on. The main reason why channels like Faverou that allow you to purchase personalized shout-out videos are becoming so popular is that unlike selfies that look impersonal and forced, autographs that can be bland or social media comments that can be ignored, these shout-out videos can be fun, quirky or super emotional. Imagine it’s your younger brother’s birthday, and you pick one of the celebs listed on Faverou to roast him about his crazy habits as a kid and wish him too! Shout-out videos as gifts for your parents can be more endearing and sentimental. It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime and remains special forever.

What fandom loves is that celebs actually put a lot of effort into the videos they create, and practice it before recording and sharing it with their fan.   A simple message can be turned into a short rap song, a poem etc. Celebrities make sure they create videos that connect with the recipient instantly. This makes each dollar spent on the videos worth it and the message in them more memorable.

Personalized celeb shout-out videos can hit the right spot for a loved one just at the right time. For instance, on Mother’s Day this year, Hari was torn between spending time with his wife, Anitha, and being in another city to help his mother during the lockdown in India. So he purchased a shout-out video for his wife with Manjari Phadnis (of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na fame, along with other movies), who made Anitha’s day with a heartfelt shout-out. Now Anita has such a unique personalized gift, which will stay with her lifelong, reminding her of her husband’s loving and thoughtful gesture.

Celebrity engagement platforms like Faverou are the hottest trend and have revolutionized fandom’s access to celebrities. Fans can buy personalized and direct videos and connect with their favorite celebs. Young men and women would love the idea of someone they admire and famous blowing them virtual kisses and send love! Even the celebs are happy to cash in because now they have a much more vibrant platform to connect with their fans.

And you don’t have to only gift such shout-out videos to someone else. You can personalize your script to have celebs promote your business, rap you a song that can be your personalized caller tune or just record a video where they tell the world what an awesome person you are. Love it or roll your eyes, personalized celebrity shout-out videos are the new thing in celebrity engagement and personalized gifting.

Trending Video Shoutouts – Get Celebs to Wish You & Your Loved Ones!

Who hasn’t dreamt of being able to interact with a celebrity? For decades, fans world over are ready to line up for hours just to be able to get an autograph or sneak in a selfie or even a handshake. The desire to share a moment in the spotlight with a celebrity has been around for ages and seems just within reach thanks to social media channels and the paparazzi. But with celebs getting edgy and unhappy about being objectified, or even trolled on social media just so that a fan can get some attention, the need for something different was obvious.

Now with platforms like Faverou that host personalized celeb videos, fandom the world over has a chance to interact with celebrities not just from the entertainment industry, but even sports, authors, social influencers and politics. How do celebrity-engagement platforms work? It’s quite simple really.

They sign on various celebrities with fan appeal from different milieu. Fans can pay for a personalized video message – called a shout-out – from their favorite celebrity, who will record and share a short video via the platform. For example, if you want to wish wife on Mother’s Day for being a strong pillar of support, you can pick a celebrity she is most likely to enjoy and ask a celebrity to record a message for your wife based on some pointers you will share. The celebrity can give their own spin to it and share the video shout-out via Faverou.

Voila! Your wife receives a video (See how Manjari Phadnis conveyed the wish in this amazing way) with the celebrity wishing her and complimenting her on being a great parent.

Fans world over are loving such an opportunity to get closer to celebrities. It’s so much fun hearing a personal message recorded by a celebrity, with them actually speaking out your name and that of a loved one. What’s exciting to see is the way that fans are using these celebrity shout-out videos in creative ways. They’re being bought as gifts to celebrate an occasion such as a birthday, or to convey an important message. For instance, if you go to Faverou, you can ask a celebrity to talk about pretty much anything and they’ll make you a personalized video message. Simply select the celebrity you like most, give a rough draft of your message along with the intended recipient, and pay up! As the latest trend in the world of influencer marketing, celebrity shout-out videos are gaining a lot of traction.

For fandom, such an authentic experience is  a win-win scenario. Fans get to hear celebrities address them by name, while celebs can connect with their fans on an emotional level and build their popularity instead of feeling objectified, while monetizing their fan following. And with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the entertainment industry, celebs have both time and opportunity to stay in touch with their fans. Celebrity shout-out videos are the latest in personalized gifting and have taken the concept to an entirely new level. Fans are loving their videos whether it is for them or for someone as else a gift.

Riding the Waves of AI

From simple games to self-learning systems – AI has come a long way

Today, talk of artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere – from Apple’s Siri to how Uber dispatches drivers to the way Facebook arranges its Newsfeed. However, it wasn’t long ago that AI was regarded by many as purely science fiction – the plotline of Hollywood blockbusters such as 2001: A Space Odyssey. The term “artificial intelligence” was coined in 1956 with the hopes of creating machines that could emulate human intelligence,  such as reasoning and judgment.

Those early days drew scientists from academia to enterprise to ignite a revolution of innovation that we’ve been riding ever since. Here are three significant waves of AI that have brought us to where we are today – each one taking us closer to the fulfillment of that early vision.

First Wave: Age of Search and Deductive Reasoning

The first wave of AI generated a lot of interesting ideas in the 1950s. Engineers devised algorithms and software, and provided programs with logical rules which led to simple games such as the first computer program capable of playing Draughts. Although these first-wave AI systems could perform straightforward reasoning tasks, they were unable to learn anything on their own. While they couldn’t be applied to business at the time, some of today’s applications in smartphone maps can be traced back to this first-wave of AI systems. But in general, this wave did not have any material impact on business or people’s lives.

Second Wave: Age of Knowledge Acquisition

The second wave of AI began in the 1980s with big AI projects when engineers turned their focus to helping machines acquire knowledge. Instead of just programming precise rules for machines to follow, engineers tried to teach machines the knowledge of experts, and developed statistical models which machines could use to adapt this knowledge to different situations. While second-wave AI machines had some breakthroughs – Deep Blue became the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in 1997 in chess – many second-wave machines struggled with accuracy and complexity issues, rendering them impractical for most business applications. Commercialization of AI was still elusive.

Third Wave: Age of Machine Learning

Since the turn of the century, we’ve been riding the third wave of AI, where computers use machine learning and deep learning techniques to automatically learn from vast amounts of data and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.  The immense processing power enabled the development of neural networks, better natural language processing, and enhanced image processing. Third-wave AI is now able to consume data from statistical models, identify patterns in the data, create common-sense rules, and incorporate information from multiple sources to reach a conclusion on their own. For example, AI – along with the internet of things (IoT) connectivity – is extracting data from wearable devices and public sources to create personal health updates in real-time. We’re seeing third-wave AI driving numerous commercial applications in personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and operating self-driving vehicles used in the industry. This wave is expected to last for a long time.

While the journey from the simple games of the 50s to the self-learning machines of today has been quite a ride – we have just scratched the surface of the full potential of AI. One thing is for certain: AI is more than Hollywood storytelling.

Next Wave: Ushering in the New Era

And now nearly after two decades of effort, Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, in partnership with NASA, successfully launched its first two people into orbit, ushering in a new age of human spaceflight in the United States. It’s this unwavering commitment and curiosity that drives this wave of AI.

to be continued..

Why Should You Define Your ICP?

Are you tasked with

  1. Generating high-quality leads
  2. Meet MQL and Pipeline targets
  3. Operate within pre-defined LTV, CAC, and Churn metrics
  4. Get more customer testimonials and referrals
  5. Increase share of voice

If the answer is yes, please read on this article on my perspective on Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and why it is business imperative to get this right.

The primary role of the Product Marketer is to establish a strong value proposition for the company and the product. Customers only know what you tell them and how you tell them. If your messaging is confused and not focused on your ideal customer profile, you aren’t going to see results.

An Ideal Customer Profile represents your targetted customer that would gain the most value from your offering and is also willing to pay for it.

Two main narratives resonate with customers are:

  1. How does it help make money for the business
  2. How does it help save money for the business

All other tales about efficiency, compliance, productivity, Quality, Reliability, etc. should ultimately cling to one of the two narratives to associate tangible value to the product and outcome.

ICPs are not only crucial for the acquisition phase but also add significant value over time as buyers can offer testimonials, referrals, and agree to join your advisory boards. So this exercise is essential and shouldn’t be just about downloading a random “fill-in-the-blanks” template and pretty it up for your stakeholders. I have had the opportunity to create messaging for products in my current and previous roles at large enterprises and startups.

At every opportunity, ICP has been about asking the right questions to stakeholders and then framing the critical pillars of value. The process across these great companies was quite similar in terms of how you go about identifying the ICP and crafting messaging.

It all starts with asking the questions and writing down the answers to these basic questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • How big is the problem?
  • What is the offered solution?
  • Who needs the product?
  • Do the primary users of the product have the authority to buy?
  • If the user and decision-maker are different, What is the motivation for decision-makers to buy this product?
  • What do the user and decision-makers think about the problem and solution in this space?
  • How do they gather information today?
  • What are the obstacles to getting in front of the customers?
  • Are there any dependencies on the solution offered?
  • How is the competitive landscape?

It would be best if you write down answers to understand the buyer context. The positioning statement should answer how the product shall be perceived in the marketplace by ICP. The value proposition should offer the key benefits to the ICP.

Then you have some of the essential variables which vary based on the product and value for the customer’s business. Also, these variables are an easy setup to A/B test or quickly tighten them up or relax them based on how big the funnel you need. So use it in the context of your product hypothesis and calibrate it as needed until you get the desired results on LTV, CAC, and Churn.

  • Size of the company in $ and Employees
  • Title/Role of the person
  • Geographic
  • Industry etc.

Once you have the hypothesis ready, you should start looking into the data to validate the hypothesis. Some of the data could be as simple as your historical data from Salesforce, HubSpot, or any other CRM, website traffic, and surveys. If neither of these provides a proper validation, consider a customer advisory, analyst advisory, or customer interviews. It is essential to validate before you start pouring your marketing dollars to create a ton of content and invest in the demand generation funnel.

Are you ready to create your ICP? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Meeting Automation Platforms are Changing the Game

The modern-day meeting planner has their work cut out for them. The importance of face-to-face meetings has not diminished. And, yet the schedules of business executives are busier than ever. Figuring out how to schedule strategic B2B meetings during the middle of tradeshows, conferences, and business events can feel almost impossible. Especially, if you’re still trying to use spreadsheets, emails, and phone calls to make it work.

So, how are meeting planners, executive admins, and event managers supposed to keep it all straight?

Meeting Automation Platforms are here to save the day! They make it easy to manage a large volume of meetings while allowing you to gain valuable insights to make data-driven decisions.

Automate the planning process

MAPs take the manual work out of the pre-meeting tasks including the strategy, logistics, and communication. Meeting and event planners no longer have to deal with the chaos of using email and spreadsheets to schedule and manage important meetings.

MAP automates the process in real time for both internal and external participants. The platform allows you to send invites to the other parties after the important persons within your own organization have confirmed their participation. You’re easily able to see what meetings are scheduled, who they were scheduled with, and when they were scheduled all in one place. You can even automate meeting reminders.

As your company grows, the platform is able to scale with you allowing you to successfully pull off strategic meetings even with a lean staff.

Collect the data that you need for tracking

MAPs integrate with leading sales and marketing software like Salesforce, Marketo and HubSpot. This makes it easy for you to input, store, and analyze data all in one platform. You’ll actually be able to measure the ROI of each meeting and tie into your CRM system. This allows you to report real data that sales and other departments need.

Change the way you schedule and track meetings

Using a Meeting Automation Platform allows you to change the way you plan for meetings and events. These systems have been able to reduce the manual work that goes into meeting planning by up to 80 percent. So, instead of focusing all your attention on the process, it lets you spend time on what’s really important— the meeting.

Remember, Meetings advance Sales and drive Pipeline, and Pipeline is the leading indicator of Revenue. More Meetings = More Revenue. Don’t just stop with CRM and Marketing Automation, digitize your strategic B2B meetings and increase the number of engagements that drive your business growth.


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Why Organizations Should Embrace Sales, Marketing and Meeting Automation

There’s no denying that there are plenty of opportunities for your organizations to make the right connections with potential clients and vendors at events, tradeshows, and conferences. All the right people are there, and you have plenty of advanced warning when they are taking place. However, as any meeting planner will tell you, the process of getting the meeting schedule established doesn’t always go smoothly.

Many meeting planners are stuck trying to use spreadsheets and emails to schedule meetings for multiple executives. This creates a huge headache for the following three reasons:

  1. It’s difficult to collaborate with others

Some of the meetings that take place at events involve multiple executives from different organizations. While it’s important that each of these people be in attendance, it can be difficult to organize everyone together. Doing so can involve months of back and forth phone calls and emails trying to coordinate schedules. It’s a balancing act that meeting planners have to carefully walk.

  1. It’s too easy to make errors

Have you heard the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen”? The same concept can apply to meeting planners. When multiple people get involved in making plans it’s easy for errors to be made. When one person decides to change the plans and not everyone knows at the same time, everything can quickly fall apart.

Even when there is only one person responsible for entering data, when they have to log in to multiple email accounts and enter the same data into spreadsheets it’s easy for errors to be made. One simple error that goes unnoticed can have big consequences.

  1. It’s difficult to track metrics

The main purpose of scheduling strategic B2B meetings when you attend events is to grow your business. But spreadsheets don’t make it easy to track the results of these meetings. This means you have to add one more platform into the mix of emails and spreadsheets. Then you have to trust that the right people are going to remember to update the information. There are a lot of variables involved making it very difficult to actually pull off.

Emails and spreadsheets just aren’t reliable tools when it comes to business-sensitive data. There are high opportunity costs in case of errors and with the GDPR rules, you can run into problems with using email. Event planners deal with a lot of stress from coordinating executives, customers, logistics, and rooms. There is a huge need for automation and the right technology to help keep things running smoothly.

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Why You Should Grow Your Business the Old-Fashioned Way

Imagine for a moment that someone decided they were going to help you grow your business. Sounds nice, right? So, this person went out and gathered all the right people together. They brought your potential vendors and potential clients all in one place. Now, all you have to do is make the connections and work on closing deals.

This might sound too good to be true, but it’s not. It happens all the time at tradeshows, conferences, and other business events. The right people are there, now it’s up to you to take advantage of it. One of the best ways to do this is by leveraging strategic B2B meetings at events.

Face-to-face interaction is where it’s at

Don’t fall for the belief that you don’t need to have as many face-to-face meetings now that we have technology at our fingertips. Yes, online marketing is important and there are plenty of ways to increase sales through a website and social media. But, when it comes to making real connections with the right people in a company, negotiating deals, and closing sales, face-to-face is where it’s at.

But, don’t think just showing up in person at an event is going to work. According to an article on The Washington Post‘s website, “More than eight in ten executives prefer in-person meetings to virtual contact, noting they create space for tough, timely business decisions and foster more complex strategic thinking.” Scheduling B2B strategic meetings when you are traveling to events is an effective way to make this happen.

Trust is built in person

One of the reasons that face-to-face meetings have such a large impact on business growth is because they help build trust. 72 percent of people are influenced based on looks and a handshake when networking. And, the same survey found that 85 percent of the people questioned preferred in-person meetings and conferences because they “build stronger, more meaningful business relationships.”

Those are good reasons why you should be trying to make the most of your time at tradeshows, conferences, and events. You won’t experience the same results simply from showing up. You need to plan before the event begins. This allows you to have strategic B2B meetings scheduled with the key executives that you want to develop working relationships with. And, don’t forget about existing relationships that you want to continue to foster.

This is easy enough for small companies. However, large corporations need to be proactive in keeping meetings straight and tracking results. With the right planning for these meetings, you can create, reach and exceed your growth goals

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Cloud 101

The Three Types of Clouds

A public cloud provisions virtual machines (VMs) on servers located at a third-party site. All sys admin services are provided by the third party, including security, connectivity, data access, and backup/recovery. Since resources are available on demand, this is the most cost-effective solution. But the public cloud doesn’t address concerns with security or the need to acquire special skills for the cloud.

A private cloud uses virtualization similar to a public cloud, but all resources are dedicated solely to one client. Sysadmin services can be performed either by a third-party provider or by a company’s own IT staff. The company still owns and maintains all VMs, regardless of where they operate. A private cloud addresses most of the CIO’s concerns, although it does not deliver as much cost savings as the public cloud.

A hybrid cloud combines the advantages of both public and private clouds. Non-mission-critical data can be moved to the public cloud, lowering the cost of keeping it in-house, while not exposing the company to many risks. Sensitive data can stay within the private cloud under close control. As expected, costs are lower than a private cloud but higher than a public cloud.

What Holds Back Cloud Adoption?

Make no mistake about the cloud watchers. Though cautious, they are far from indecisive. They know what complexities lie buried in the digital depths of their departments. So the notion of moving sensitive data off-site seems like a radical overhaul of the IT infrastructure they worked so hard to build.

For these CIOs, allowing a third party to manage mission-critical data brings up some significant concerns, including:

• Privacy and security
• Legacy application support
• Availability and reliability
• Licensing costs
• Flexibility

More in the next article on each of these concerns – stay tuned!