In this episode of Leadtail TV, host Bryan Kramer chats with Steve Mann, former CMO of ThetaRay and prior VP at SAP and CMO of LexisNexis, about how things have changed in the last year and switching your focus to 3 and 6-month marketing strategies. Steve is known as an out-of-the-box thinker and his ideas for marketing teams during this time are just that!

We’re sharing some highlights in this blog post but you can watch the full episode here

How Has Demand Generation Changed in 2020? 

Demand generation strategies have slowly but surely been evolving from fully rational conversations to a combination of storytelling with rationale sprinkled in. 

For Steve, the realization that a person buying blue jeans and a person buying anti-money laundering software are both making emotional decisions wasn’t something he initially understood. 

But once he did, he began weaving storytelling into the rational argument for the intended product. 

“Over the last year, I would say I’ve brought those strategies forward and in a somewhat classic omnichannel way, really tried to inhabit the channels that my consumers are at” – Steve says of his strategies over the last year. 

However in the last three months, his messaging has become much more about distraction, humor, and nuance, rather than acquisition. 

“People haven’t been very focused on making major purchasing decisions right now,” he says. 

Ways to Avoid Sounding Tone-Deaf in Demand Generation

Steve shares a classic rule he learned from his mother, “Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying anything.” 

This is very true in this case. Rather than speaking out of turn or risking messaging that is tone-deaf by overlooking the obvious, for many brands the right choice is to simply stay silent. 

For instance, if you’re a travel company asking their many thousands of email subscribers about booking their next vacation in the middle of a national shutdown, to many you may come across as unfeeling. 

Steve says that rather than sending out calls for action, instead provide high-level content with wonderful stories and keep people engaged without asking anything in return.

If you’re not willing to do that, then it may be time to simply stay silent until it makes sense to reach out to your customers. 

What Content Types Are Most Effective for Demand Generation Right Now? 

Bingeable content is in…but only if it will eventually lead to conversion. There has been a push toward documentary-style content that shares amazing stories, but that style is only effective if sales come too. 

That being said, right now, with industries seizing and businesses failing, creating content that will keep your clients and customers engaged is extremely important. Especially when you’re in B2B industries.

People aren’t in the mood to make huge buying decisions, but they ARE planning. If you can cost-effectively stay top of mind with documentary-style content, then it’s definitely a clever way to keep your audience engaged. 

Should Your Brand Still Be Talking About the Pandemic? 

The short answer is no. Unless your brand has products or services to help combat the effects of the pandemic in your market. 

Steve shares the story of Coursera. They’re an online learning platform and they’ve provided a free course via John’s Hopkins on contact tracing. 

As Steve says, “Now, that’s a great way to be connected to the thing that disrupted your market and then take advantage of it. And they’re not taking advantage of it monetarily because it’s a course that you can take for free, but they are taking advantage of it in terms of linking something that I care about, that concerns me, and they’re providing a solution to give me a feel of more control over my life, which at the end of the day, that’s what marketing’s all about.”

Don’t equate your holiday sales and promotional material with COVID-19 unless you’re actually providing products or services that are related. 

Instead, either leave COVID-19 out of the equation or link it, like Coursera did, with something that matters to your clients or customers. Otherwise, you’re doing yourself and them a disservice.

Why Customer-Centric Marketing is Essential but Requires Overall Company Change

Putting your customer at the center of your marketing is very important, but creating a truly customer-centric marketing strategy requires having a fully customer-centric business. 

Everything from marketing, to sales, to the services and products that you offer, all have to be designed to meet your customer where they’re at and answer their articulated and unarticulated needs. 

So rather than shift your focus to customer-centric marketing in the face of the pandemic, look at your overall business and start making those shifts as a whole. Because in point of fact, market disruptions like this one will happen again. Use this time to become more prepared so that you’ll weather the future storms as well.

As Steve says, “You never know when a market’s gonna get disrupted and you need to be prepared ahead of time.” 

It’s interesting because we’re always preparing for those long-term disruptions as the market shifts due to new entrants, but massive disruptions that affect multiple industries at the same time? They’re so few and far between that we rarely create a proper strategy for them. 

But they’re happening more and more frequently, so it’s time to create and discover the narrative you want to present to your clients and customers when something huge comes again.

Now It’s Your Turn

Feel free to share any comments, and let us know if you have any questions for Steve which we’ll happily pass along! 

Watch the entire episode here or listen to the podcast version here.