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Responding to Coronavirus: A Playbook for Portfolio Marketing

April 03, 2020 | By Katie Fabiszak

  • The coronavirus outbreak will affect all types of businesses — no organization will be immune to its impact
  • Portfolio marketers must take action to identify required changes in go-to-market plans
  • Key areas for portfolio marketers to prioritize include target audiences, sales impact, buyer’s journey maps, messaging and product launches

It has been a difficult and chaotic time for B2B organizations, as the outbreak of COVID-19 has touched every corner of the world. The first order of priority, and rightly so, is to focus on employees and customers — and make business changes that ensure the health and safety of everyone. Companies have done a great job of providing remote working capabilities, and folks are settling into the universal work-from-home environment we are now living in.

There has been a recent surge in client requests as they start to question their current go-to-market strategies and whether they should be adjusted given the current environment. So many conversations begin with “What do we do now?”

Here are specific actions portfolio marketers should take to help their organizations:

  • Review your target audiences. A lot of hard work went into determining the go-to-market plan for 2020. But is it still relevant? The first thing portfolio marketers should do is review existing target market segments and buyers to determine the impact of COVID-19. The SiriusDecisions Buyer Audience Framework can be leveraged to support this work. For example, if you have prioritized the airline or hospitality industries, you’ll want to consider how their needs and priorities have changed, and alter your plans accordingly. It’s possible you must avoid segments in which your marketing efforts may appear inappropriate or insensitive, and redirect your attention to target other segments that may now have greater potential. It’s also highly possible the buyer personas themselves will remain the same. However, you must understand what has changed (e.g., short-term initiatives, challenges, primary buyer needs).
  • Understand the sales impact. There probably isn’t a more directly impacted area than the field sales rep. EVERY sales rep is now a “virtual seller” (much like the inside sales rep), and all have concerns about how their sales quotas will be impacted. One of the cornerstones of sales knowledge transfer is understanding sales personas and recognizing that different sales aids are needed to support them. Portfolio marketers must arm field sales teams with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful now that they are selling in a remote world with little to no face-to-face buyer interaction. Understand that the field sales organization may not be used to selling in this manner, and we must provide them with better ways to engage with buyers. Partner with your sales enablement or sales operations teams and offer additional training. It’s a good time to schedule training, as many reps should have more time available due to being unable to travel. Be sure to provide knowledge on target audience changes and which product offerings are ideal to position in the current environment.
  • Update the buyer’s journey map. The buyer’s journey has been disrupted. We know that user events, industry conferences, and peer networking events can play a large role in a buyer’s decision-making process. If these important face-to-face human interactions are no longer viable, what can be done to replace them? Portfolio marketers must identify the best options to deliver human interactions in a digital way. Shifting to a virtual conference is definitely one option. A great example is our own Forrester SiriusDecisions Summit 2020, which we have now transitioned to an online event. There are many other interactions that can be considered (e.g. chat rooms, creating online communities). For a full list of possibilities, check out Jessie Johnson’s blog post “Sixteen Ways to Deliver Virtual Content Experiences When Event Plans Change.”
  • Consider the effect on messaging. Do you have a crisis response team identified within your organization? If yes, partner with them to understand what they’re focusing on from a communications perspective. Julie Ogilvie’s blog post on this subject is a must-read: “Responding to Coronavirus: A Playbook for Marketing and Communications.” Be sure you are aligned and reinforcing corporate messaging as part of your plans. You should be focused on portfolio messaging that will need to be revised on the basis of any changes within your target audience. Think about the questions your buyers have and how those questions have possibly changed. Does your solution provide something different (or better) for your buyer in this new environment? It’s important to be authentic and relevant, and ensure you are creating messaging that resonates with the buyer.
  • Rethink your product launch timing. Portfolio marketers must look at annual launch plans and determine if changes are required. It may be necessary to alter the strategy, such as packaging multiple offerings into an overarching theme rather than having a series of launches. Launches often coincide with big industry conference events, many of which have been postponed or canceled. Portfolio marketers will need to think about how they can create the concept of a “digital launch,” taking steps to deliver launch plans online.

Reconsidering go-to-market plans is a key action portfolio marketers can take to help their companies navigate this difficult time. It is critical to understand what has changed and what buyer needs are most important. While this post is specifically related to portfolio marketers, anyone can benefit from the Forrester SiriusDecisions Core Strategy Report: “B2B Crisis Preparation.” Given the current situation, this report is being offered for free to both clients and non-clients. Click here to read it.

B2B Crisis Preparation

Core Strategy Report

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Katie Fabiszak

Katie is a principal analyst in the Portfolio Marketing Research Service at SiriusDecisions. She is a strategic business leader with more than 20 years of experience working in sales and marketing to create and align go-to-market strategies for B2B organizations. Follow Katie on LinkedIn or Twitter @Fabiszak.

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