Account-based marketing during COVID-19

The 6-step ABM Action Plan For Sales Reps And Marketers During COVID-19

03 November 2020

The rapidly spreading coronavirus leaves no one untouched. 

Seismic levels of change continue to pull the rug from under the feet of businesses, consumers, and employees alike. 

For sales reps and marketers, whose dynamic roles are challenging under normal circumstances, COVID-19 blurs the lines that denote “normal” out of focus. 

  • What should marketers and sales reps do differently during COVID-19?

  • How should B2B businesses adapt their approach to lead generation

  • How do both marketers and sales reps inject empathy into their messaging and outreach? 

Are just some of the tough questions both departments face. 

It’s a disorienting time for everyone. And the world may have slowed down, but things haven’t come to a complete stop. 

B2B sales reps and marketers can still take productive action that positions them for success amid, and after COVID-19. 

Ahead, I’ll cover how B2B teams can create an account-based marketing action plan to pre-empt marketplace changes, support buyers, and quickly adapt during this crisis. 

Note: Need to streamline your ABM efforts? Sign up for free Leadfeeder's 14-day trial to learn how to align your sales and marketing teams.

Why do B2B companies need account-based marketing during COVID-19? 

With the current shifts caused by the virus, inbound lead generation has taken a drastic hit. 

As a standalone strategy, it’s no longer suitable for the current buying environment.

Data from multiple industries shows a universal drop in web traffic and conversions.

Account-based marketing growth & decline neil patel

A handful of industries like food, finance, medicine, and remote tech, remain unaffected. But for the most part, inbound traffic and conversions are on the decline. 

With buyers and decision-makers switching to defense, ABM reigns as the lead generation strategy that sales and marketing teams should use during COVID-19. Here’s why: 

  1. It unites sales and marketing teams. A siloed relationship with marketing murders the productivity of sales reps. ABM unites both departments under a common goal, which is critical to surviving a crisis. 

  2. It embeds empathy in your approach. ABM is centered around the decision-makers you’re targeting. Naturally, this means sales and marketing teams grasp how decision-makers are affected before they initiate contact or craft a message. 

  3. It helps deliver personalized offers and content to leads. With marking and sales working together and empathizing with buyers, they’re better equipped to conduct empathetic outreach and create high-value content. 

The 6-step emergency ABM action plan  

In the throes of turbulent change, an emergency ABM action plan needs to be set. 

Marketing, sales, and C-suite teams must unite to establish a new baseline of operations and grasp how they should adapt. They’ll need to: 

  • Update old benchmarks and KPIs

  • Forecast marketplace changes and disruptions

  • And add new resources, skills, and strategies to their team’s repertoire. 

Without this critical first step, navigating the choppy waters of a crisis is impossible. 

While the granular details will differ depending on your industry, the steps to creating your COVID-19 ABM action plan are:

Step 1: Brainstorm best/worst-case scenarios 

The speed and frequency of the changes hurtling towards us? 

They’re unprecedented. 

To spot approaching changes on the horizon, gather your team and survey your surroundings. 

You need as many eyes as possible actively thinking about how your company, industry, or buyers will be affected by COVID-19 and how your company can help. 

Include observations from every department, not just sales and marketing; you never know who might suggest a breakthrough insight that’s invisible to everyone else. 

If you’re interested, we’ve revealed exactly how the Leadfeeder team is reacting to COVID-19 in our “Tearing up the playbook” webinar (Youtube link). 

Step 2: Update baseline metrics, dashboards, and KPIs

If your company operates in the B2B, real estate, legal, or health industry, you’ve probably noticed a spike in digital advertising costs

This is because buyers are spending more time online and vendors are relying on their digital brands to attract them.

While the bump in ad costs will hurt profits, you can pivot by exploring cheaper digital channels, or switching to strategies like social selling and account-based marketing

So if budgets lurch lower than you’d like, leads begin to dwindle, and growth starts to stall, it’s okay, you’re not alone…

Out of 250 business leaders, less than 30 percent report growth as a priority during COVID-19. 80 percent, however, report new productivity tools as a top priority. 

account-based marketing business challenges

What’s important is realizing your new reality and adapting to it. 

Your data will not always alert you to brewing threats or changes, that’s why —while updating existing benchmarks — you should closely monitor front-facing metrics like: 

  • Brand search volume and traffic 

  • Conversion rate fluctuations

  • Year-over-year trends

Important tip: Review your key metrics, KPIs, and dashboards weekly. You’ll need to stay abreast of last-minute changes to adapt and act on time. 

Step 3: List existing and emerging roles for each department

Right now, outside sales teams have been yanked “inside”. 

Likewise, marketing teams are rethinking content calendars, shifting advertising strategies, and going all-in on live digital events. 

To deliver great ABM during COVID-19, you’ll need to list how your team’s existing strengths and skills can evolve to grapple with a new environment. 

If marketing has never hosted remote events, now’s the time to learn. 

If your reps aren’t trained on leading with empathy, it’s time to embrace a new approach. 

At Leadfeeder, doubling down on value-driven webinars is one way we’ve adapted. 

abm covid19 leadfeeder webinar

Our entire team has been busy delivering free webinars and training to sales teams during the COVID-19 lockdown, and it’s paying off. 

Our registration and engagement levels are breaking record numbers. We received 4,000+ registrants with over 1,600 live viewers.

Step 4: Review resources available for ABM initiatives 

Cash flow is king during a crisis. 

But, you need to strike a balance between preserving cash and using it to adapt. 

That’s why reviewing your resources and budget is vital. It allows you to protect profit while optimizing performance. 

Create a list of: 

  • Essential must-haves

  • Non-essential niceties

  • And unnecessary luxuries

Then share the list with your team. This way, everyone can agree on what’s needed to get the job done. 

Step 5: Curate social proof to relieve defensive decision-makers 

You already know that social proof like case studies, whitepapers, and reviews are powerful assets to any ABM initiative; they’ll play an even bigger role during COVID-19. 

In a November 2019 survey from Avionos, more than 80 percent of US B2B buyers said they were worried about a 2020 recession

Now that a recession seems more likely, buyers will slash spending to mitigate financial damage and preserve budgets for essential expenses. 

With relevant social proof at hand, you’ll have an easier time showing buyers how you benefit them during desperate times.

Step 6: Sit with your support teams to instill empathy

In their April 2020 Benchmark study of over 22,000 company support teams, Zendesk discovered that teams across the globe are facing: 

Ticket spikes, customer cancellations, market volatility, and increased uncertainty.”

There’s also been a 14 percent rise in companies’ average weekly ticket volume since February. 

account-based marketing covid19 valatility

Your customer support team is probably under severe strain right now, and my advice to sales and marketing teams is a little unorthodox...

Listen in to conversations with buyers and take notes — or even better, temporarily play the support role while paying attention to: 

  • How they’re using your product/service during COVID-19

  • How buyers describe being affected by COVID-19

  • What changes have occurred in their industry

  • The language buyers use

This will help both marketing and sales teams deliver better ABM because they’ll: 

  1. Develop authentic empathy by listening to buyers 

  2. Get granular insights into how buyers are being affected

  3. Understand shifting perceptions and uses for the product they’re selling 

Swift action is the key to great ABM during COVID-19 

COVID-19 has violently thrown us all into a limbo-like state right now.

Suspended in midair, we’re all scrambling for security, assurance, and the slightest bump of a firm foothold. 

However, the only way to position ourselves to land on solid ground is to assess, adapt, and act quickly. 

And that all starts with a solid plan.  

Your emergency ABM plan doesn’t need to be perfect. 

It needs to be grounded in real-time data and above all, actionable. 

Use the steps above to kickstart your plan, you can adjust later. 

Note: Need to streamline your ABM efforts? Sign up for free Leadfeeder's 14-day trial to learn how to align your sales and marketing teams.

Anna Crowe
By Anna Crowe

Anna works as a SEO Consultant and writer for Search Engine Land. Over the last decade, Anna has successfully developed and implemented online marketing strategies, SEO, and conversion campaigns for 100+ businesses of all sizes; from the Fortune 500, to startups, and nonprofits. She enjoys burritos and puppies (in that order).

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