Tim Brennan

An unfamiliar set of circumstances confronting organisations has caused a fundamental change to many of their objectives. Plans that were made months ago have been halted by lockdown, rendering many marketing strategies obsolete.

For the B2B tech community;  expos, exhibitions, and networking events have historically been important for demand generation. Gartner’s latest research  has shown  that technology and service providers spend an average of 11% of their marketing budget on third-party trade shows, and 6% on hosting events. Due to mass cancellations and postponements, these events no longer present a viable marketing option for the immediate future.

In light of this disruption, how else can B2B tech brands start conversations and generate demand?

Traditionally, advertising was the go-to channel to increase the awareness of an organisation. However, last year it was revealed that trust in advertising hit an all-time low. As Tiffany HSU wrote in the New York Times in October: “The Advertising industry has a problem. People Hate Ads”.

Advertising is rigid, expensive and very hard to buy. Programmatic advertising has made costs and impact unpredictable, with brands paying for bundles of views and lots of clicks on junk sites that are littered with bots and do not convert into opportunities to sell.

On the other hand, during this crisis, media consumption is soaring. Readership of business and financial news is reportedly up 27%. The attention is there as decision makers are looking for answers, solutions, advice and distractions.

Getting in the media and getting into the editorial through earned media coverage offers a cost-effective, targeted, and open form of marketing that allows organisations to communicate with potential prospects much more constructively, especially in times of crisis. Providing a unique perspective on a common business issue in an industry media outlet creates third-party endorsement, validation and trust. Successful marketing leads to sales, but trust needs to build for a sale to take place.

This has been reflected in our own research. In a joint research campaign from Champion Communications and techUK sales representatives cited increased trust from prospects as the factor that would have the most significant impact on their ability to convert leads to sales. Additionally, 89% said media coverage would help increase their sales. Successful marketing leads to sales, and the value of earned media in demand strategy is clear.

Additionally, as brands look to balance their books, ROI is a matter of priority. Communications services go beyond earned media, branching into crisis communications, content creation and campaign development. The PR industry is less rigid in the services they offer, focusing more on holistic thinking and creativity in order to add true business value. PR is an inherently agile discipline, reacting to the news agenda as it demands. COVID-19 has caused an acceleration in the need for PR practitioners to assume more functions.

Lockdown has meant that digital readership is at a record high, and journalists have a ravenous appetite for business solutions to COVID-19 related problems. Businesses are the modern drivers of change, and the tech sector is better suited to embracing innovation and agility than others. This now needs to be reflected in our marketing strategies, and by encouraging cooperation, debate, and solidarity, communications can generate demand through compelling and well-placed content.