+ Point of view

‘The new different’. Let the experimentation begin

Written by Paul Maher

Let’s be honest, we don’t know much about the “new different’. Yes, Amazon is now the second-largest US employer. Yes, most teams are working from home and yeah, we’re heading into a depressing recession which could easily turn into a full-on economic depression. But what all this means for B2B Tech is largely a mixture of guesswork and TBCs. 

Time to bury bad news?
Some B2B Tech leaderships have made early decisions which they hope will prove prescient. IBM and HPE are reducing pay and laying off tens of thousands, in a move many see as one they were going to have to make anyway. Unicorns are not immune, with Uber announcing layoffs and UK neobank, Monzo, suffering a difficult down round as its CEO moves sideways

These are all just the opening gambits by boards who really know very little about how their customers will behave and buy in a few weeks or months from now, never mind years or decades. The uncertainty of what the new different is, like the virus that caused it, is now endemic. There is just no sure way to know what your customers’ customers will do.

This means, for switched-on marketers, now a great time to experiment. Our continuing conversations with the top tech decision-makers has seen a wide variety of responses. They range from doing nothing much to trying a little of everything. As Positive often acts as additional ‘heads and arms’, this is the response we are rallying behind.

Here are just three recent responses, which may help guide your response to the different economy B2B tech is about to inhabit.

Exploring new options
Business development teams will notice taking the office commute out of the workday is having some positive impact on their ability to hold sales conversations during the lockdown. Many of us are ‘Zoomed out’ and much as we love our colleagues there is only so much interaction with postcard-sized versions of them which adds value. Our teams are having conversations with prospects we have wanted to engage with for years. One recent discussion with the EMEA lead for a CyberSecurity player proves there is little to lose from fresh ideas. While some excellent branding work was underway, the exact customer messaging coming from the US-based corporate team was off. As always, more communication leads to a deeper understanding of needs and this, in turn, creates opportunities. We suggest some social listening of local micro-influencers to fine-tune her imminent campaigns.

Poised to comeback
One CMO, whose company completed a major fundraise late last year, told us she was halting all new projects until Q3. She also had to assume field responsibilities for colleagues who were exiting the business. She saw her board’s decision as understandable but shortsighted. Her experience of previous top-down ‘haircuts’ has taught her kicking off brand new projects is way slower than picking up the pieces. Using this knowledge, she has cannily ‘mothballed’ the work, ready to start up again fast in the second half. We are standing by, ready to go as soon as she is.

Radically different
Another scale-up who has early market traction and is in-between funding rounds has used the downturn to rethink its Lead Gen strategy. Pre-lockdown its primary source of leads were third-party events, where it met the mostly financial sector prospects it would convert to leads over the next twelve months. With this source of leads now dead, it is accelerating plans to develop its own community. We are now working on a new community-building programme using ‘virtual dinners’ to replace the In Real Life executive dinners which typically kick off such Category defining moves. From both our perspectives, success means trialling brand new event technology, pairing that with tried and trusted social drip campaigns and creating massive amounts of value for a community which exists only in our heads and a few slides at present.

Our motto for this project is ’Fortune favours the brave’ and this experimental approach, taking on a new team of advisors for a new reality typifies the one certainty from this interesting year. Doing the same things post lockdown as we did before, could be as deadly for business as this plague has been for too many of us.

In our last newsletter, we wrote about how to experiment and come back strong for the new normal, whatever it is. You might want to check this out, too!