Thoughts on B2B Marketing Spend Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

“Full Steam Ahead” Probably Isn’t the Answer

How many B2B emails have you gotten over the last month that either start or end with “companies who to continue to spend on marketing through the pandemic are better positioned for success” or something to that effect?  Companies are sending emails like this because they are obviously desperate for revenue.

Seeing this “stat” repeated so many times and so many different ways got me curious if it was real and what the potential impact to businesses could be.  After all, I’m a marketing guy and have advised a swath of diverse businesses on plans of actions through this pandemic. 

The options for intelligently navigating the reality this pandemic has created fall on a continuum.  The perfectly optimized response will depend on what you’re selling but it will fall somewhere in the middle of “stopping everything because you’re too afraid to act” and “plowing ahead with total disregard to the macro environment.”

Marketing Response Continuum to Coronavirus

Don’t Take Advice from Idiots

It will come as no surprise that there is no definitive source for the phrase in question.  The closest you can get are a pair of Harvard Business Review articles titled “How to Market in a Downturn” from April 2009 and “Roaring out of a Recession” from March 2010.  Both suggest an intelligent, measured reaction in the times of economic slowness in which these articles were written.

The Coronavirus pandemic isn’t a recession, a downturn, or a pullback, though.  The global economy has been paused but the ripple effects are more like tsunamis.  Check out this WSJ video from 4/8 for some idea of the impact.  People don’t seem to understand the actual severity of the situation.


Let’s return to what is now clearly a falsism: “companies who to continue to spend on marketing through the pandemic are better positioned for success.”  You are an idiot if this is part of your value proposition because we’re not in a recession- the economy has outright stopped.

Money that doesn’t have to be spent, isn’t being spent because uncertainty is so high. But, even with the bitter taste of that medicine in your mouth, you can still market effectively in this new reality.

What you Should Do to Market Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

  1. Look at your analytics often to make an easy decision
    • Continue spending where you’re winning
    • Stop spending where you are no longer winning
  2. Be genuinely helpful with your content
    • Most businesses don’t want to buy new Martech or embark on new campaigns right now.  Stop hammering them with the falsism that continued spend will better position them.
    • Be helpful in the way your audience expects you to be helpful.
    • Ask yourself if your brand really needs to be the 1,000th message someone gets about the importance of social distancing.
  3. Maximize lull-time by handling the time intensive projects you’ve neglected
    • CRM data management / data integrity
    • Optimize webpage meta descriptions or alt-tags for your images
    • Create new segmentations or mapping for prospect/customer journeys

The US and global economies will make it out of the woods but it may get worse before it gets better.  Use your data to make smart decisions about your marketing spend, be helpful with your content, and maximize your time by tackling large effort/large-reward projects now.

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