COVID-19: How B2B Marketing Is Working

Abbey Houston
14 min readMar 20, 2020


The world is reeling from the effects of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, which less than two months ago was mainly known as the Wuhan virus. Its spread across 150 countries has now caused over 7,500 deaths and infected 189,000 others.

In the US, the death toll has passed the 100 mark with 50 states reporting cases of the novel virus. There have been death reports from 18 different countries. The grim report from most health systems is that the virus is not going away soon.

People have been asked to adhere to social distancing. Should the measure fail to contain the virus spread in the US, which is said to be in a tipping point, the situation could get out of hand, as it has done in Italy. Europe has become the focal point of the epidemic as the spread stabilizes in China, with Italy reporting 31,000 new cases and 2,508 deaths.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Impact on Marketers

The effects of the virus on the global economy have been catastrophic. The markets collapsed for the third time on March 16, soon after the US Federal Reserve once more lowered its interest rates. The panicked markets took the Fed’s move as a sure sign of an oncoming recession.

Consequently, Wall Street stocks plunged so fast that trading had to be suspended to stop the bloodbath. Wall Street is not the only affected bourse. All major global economies are feeling the squeeze with stock market carnage reports streaming in from significant trading hubs in Asia and Europe. The oil market has also cratered, adding more angst to a worsening situation.

The global economic crash and isolation measures to contain the market are a sign of troubled times ahead for the marketer. As an illustration, retail sales have dropped by 20.5% in China. The virus has severely affected the Chinese manufacturing industry and countries in the Asia Pacific economies with close links to it.

The consequent domino effect has cut supply chains to many other countries heavily reliant on the Chinese manufacturing sector. Businesses like Apple have had to shut down their business first because they are no supplies coming in from China. Secondly, most retail stores have to heed to social distancing measures and close down to contain the virus spread.

The travel industry is also going to lose over $820 billion as international travel comes to a grinding halt. The services industry globally is also facing contraction, and ports are empty. Some businesses, such as Virgin Atlantic, have asked workers to take two months of unpaid leave, and others are beginning to initiate layoffs measures.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has lowered the global economic rate prediction for 2020 from 2.9% to 2.4%. Businesses are losing money, but also losing conversions and traffic as spending contracts.

Neil Patel’s global perspective of traffic data from different websites with 5000 and above visitors per month shows;

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  • Particular e-commerce products like wipes or diapers have had more traffic, while luxury goods have had less traffic.
  • Most industries have had fewer conversion rates. Data shows that while the financial sector has received more traffic, they also have fewer conversions.
  • People are willing to pay for fresh news, so news sites have reported a considerable conversion lift.

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The insight above shows that marketers are about to deal with the effects of a new recession. The economic downturn is going to wipe out some businesses and competition as well. The savvy marketer is going to find it easier to achieve results.

The Effect Of The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Epidemic On Social Media Engagement For Brands

As expected, the epidemic has not only affected engagement rates on websites but social media platforms as well. Data from Rival IQ analyzing engagement rates from mid-February to early March shows that engagement on all social media platforms has plunged alongside that of most websites.


As it is with news related websites, Twitter is performing much better than Instagram and Facebook are. Brands have in the last few years have turned to Twitter and Instagram to build an audience since both platforms allow for the creation of digital personas. Both platforms have also become the home of most influencers, journalists, and media personalities.

Twitter handles are currently aflame with the freshest epidemic news content. The freshness and instant access to updated news content on Instagram and Facebook have been hampered by their algorithmic displays. Consequently, Twitter is the most engaging platform currently.

On Twitter, higher education and media brands are receiving the highest engagement from readers because they are a major source of vital information for the masses.


The engagement rates on Instagram have plunged the lowest amongst all other major platforms. The video and photo sharing platform has had a 14% dip in engagement rates. Social media users have turned to Facebook for social connection and Twitter for news updates.

Non-profits and media brands on Instagram have been trending the most since their content is relevant to the ongoing epidemic. The worst-hit brands on Instagram are in sports, hospitality, travel, software, and technology.


Facebook has had a 13.5% decline rate in engagement rates. Higher education brands are however enjoying increased engagements because the content has utility as education institutions move classes and communication online.

As it is on Instagram, travel, sports and hospitality brands on Facebook have shown the sharpest declines in engagement. One key finding of the data is that creating corona virus-related content on Facebook is so far the only way to keep an audience engaged.

Best Social Media Use Practices For Brands During The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Epidemic

  • Be very sensitive and post content that does not come off as awkward in the light of the ongoing epidemic and the strain of social distancing
  • Post fewer updates when the opportunity calls for it since there is less attention amongst fearful readers. 74% of brands are posing less content on their social media platforms. Your content should be empathetic.
  • Build content that creates trust through long-form campaigns and projects. Long-form video, podcasts, series, entertainment, essays, training content, and articles are the best way to go now.
  • Work on your social listening skills. Learn what social media users around you are talking about and address it.

The Effect Of The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Epidemic On Ad Spend

Virus containment measures such as widespread lockdowns have not only induced global panic but disrupted supply lines as well. Many ad budgets are plummeting since brands no longer see the point of paying for ads that no one will notice as social isolation becomes more prevalent.

People can no longer go out shopping freely, a factor that has significantly affected the media spend in Asia. The effect of the virus on ad spending in Asia is expected to replicate itself in other cities in the world as the virus epidemic makes headways in locations outside Asia.

Businesses are now preoccupied with balancing the vital need to keep their customers engaged with their brands while containing the massive losses from the forced business shutdowns. They are also finding the best methods they can use to reach to the strengthening online purchase method.

Digital ad spending predictions have, therefore, fallen from $712.02 billion to $691.7 billion across all forms of media. Most of the reduction in ad spend is attributed to a decrease in advertising in China, the world’s second-largest ad market.

This year Chinese total media as spend budgets will fall to the lowest levels recorded. From a projected growth of 10.5% in 2019, a figure of $121.13 billion, The East Asian advertiser will have an 8.4% growth rate, raking in revenue figure of $113.67 billion.

Currently, the virus has spread in all corners of the globe. As per data from Influencer Marketing Hub, over 69% of brands will cut back their 2020 ad spend allocations.

The virus containment measures have turned customers into home-based methods of entertainment and information access. Consumers have turned towards streaming services and mobile gaming. This factor should, in practice, turn more advertisers towards digital ad spending.

The Effect of the Epidemic On Consumer Behavior

Advertisers should, therefore, strive to come into terms with the effects of the epidemic on consumer behavior. Since more than ever before, people are working from home, spending more time online, their exposure to digital ads has increased. Consequently, there is also an expansion of ad listings across different online platforms, which could lead to lower cost per thousand impressions (CPM).

However, there is less willingness to spend as more layoffs escalate, and consumers adopt a “wait and see” approach towards spending. Data by Amperity COVID-19 Retail Monitor shows that the overall retail demand in the US is down by 90%.

While online revenue in most industries has dipped by 74%, some sectors like health & beauty have grown by 19.28%. Businesses that deliver food and products to residences have also flourished.

The advertiser also needs to keep it in mind that the disease has negatively impacted most businesses. Data shows that 65% of all businesses that do not offer essential goods or services are reporting declines in revenue. Since supply chains have been cut off by virus containment measures, most businesses have cut back on peripheral spending, with ad budgets taking the first hit.

The changed behavior of consumers will be key to any marketing strategy as demand and in-store, traffic slows down. TV, direct mail and digital advertising tempered with compassion will keep the brand engagement going.

What About Affiliate Marketing?

Besides Out-of-home (OOH) advertising, one other marketing-related industry, in choppy waters due to the epidemic is affiliate marketing. Self-quarantine and social distancing have led to decreased spending while supply chains have been disrupted negating many of the efforts made by affiliate marketers.

While the affiliate marketer in the medical supplies, health, supplements, breathing, oxygen, and entertainment products and services is enjoying good fortunes from the pandemic, those in other sectors are suffering a fate worse than that experienced during the 2008 financial crunch.

Gym offers and some forms of education are facing a complete shutdown. Online classes and e-learning are on the rise taking center place in education. Flexible marketers have therefore shifted their focus to items in demand such as hand sanitizers and PPE.

Unfortunately, some businesses are incapable of fulfilling sudden changes in demand, a situation that has put some payouts and programs on hold. Ad spending and affiliate partnerships are a huge source of affiliate marketing revenue, and a decrease in Ad spending in all major sectors has led to decreased loyalty affiliate performance and rewards.

How Has COVID-19 Affected B2B Tech Spending?

The growing trend towards remote working has increased business spending on remote operations software. Over 40% of all businesses in a study done in March said that they would increase software spending allocations. The urge to spend on software is however countered by the effect of the epidemic on revenue generation and brand positioning.

Most businesses, therefore, have to decrease spending as a recession looms. 44% of Marketing and 36% of IT support departments, for instance, will have their software budgets reduced. Task and project management technology will also have fewer allocations to spend on what is now termed as “non-essential” software spending.

The COVID-19 economy does require collaboration, web conferencing, and remote desktop technology tools. Consequently, 30% of all businesses in a study said that they needed web and video conferencing apps, while 23% of them were acquiring remote workforce tools.

These new acquisitions will also be beneficial post the epidemic as businesses begin to adapt to new normal’s. Spending on security software is also up 41%, signaling an increased need to create secure remote working conditions.

Lack of New TV Shows Or Sporting Activities

Unfortunately, other factors are going to affect the expected increase in digital ad spending. First, containment measures have affected the supply chain. This factor implies a failed revenue generation.

The lockdowns have also tightened cash flow, and there are signs that Amazon ad spending is also slowing down, especially amongst third party sellerswith smaller ad budgets.

Secondly, the business of scripted TV production has also been severely affected by the pandemic. The productions of the world’s most popular TV shows from Warner Bros. Television Group, Disney TV, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Netflix have been halted as the industry heeds to CDC’s measures to protect its workers.

Consequently, productions that bring in massive ad revenues such as Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, and The Morning Show are currently on hold.

One other factor is that sporting events that are a massive source of revenue for streaming services have also been called off. Currently, the fate of the 2020 Summer Olympics remains in the balance as the host, Japan, battles the epidemic.

The opening or continuation of premier sporting events such as the NBA, Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, Boston Marathon, Hong Kong, and Singapore Sevens and Masters Golf tournament have all been postponed or suspended.

Consequently, in China, for instance, digital ad spending is projected to grow by 13% from a previous prediction high of 15.2%. All these changing dynamics in advertising amid volatility in the global economy have also changed consumer habits.

The Cancellation of Big Marketing Events

The epidemic has not only affected sporting and entertainment events schedules but large marketing events as well. Marketing conferences and summits globally have moved online or have been postponed as the virus brings the travel and events industry to a grinding halt.

As an illustration, Adobe digital experience conference is now truly digital while Google I/O has been scrapped. The Google Cloud Next conference will be held online just as Microsoft’s MVP Summit will be.

The proliferation on the internet and its technology has become the bedrock of the events industry. This ensures there is a form of continuity as social distancing measures shut down physical events.

Where Is the Market Today?

The tourism and travel industry has come to a complete halt. Still, businesses that enhance customer lifetime value will reap big once the pandemic is over.

Demand for travel in China is reawakening, giving marketers some much-needed playground. Globally, restaurant seated dinners are down by 99% while most trade shows have been canceled. Their budgets are moving into digital advertising as savvy marketers quickly adapt and re-evaluate their past strategies.

How Brands Should Navigate The COVID-19 Messaging Minefield

Leading experts say that corporate communications are taking the lead from other forms of a brand to customer interactions. In the absence of retail footfall, new sporting and TV streaming content, and altered customer habits, marketing initiatives are turning towards expressions of support and donations.

This form of brand marketing is highly reliant on a thorough understanding of customer personas, geopolitical, and cultural issues. One of the most effective means of personalized corporate communications is via email marketing.

The best email marketing strategy should follow the guidelines below.

Agile Marketing

The typical processes and timelines of yesteryears now need to be accomplished in short periods. Marketing departments need agile marketing strategies to adapt better to the COVID-19 scenario. You need to trust new data to ensure faster decision making to maximize your new strategy and opportunities’ ROI.

A Shift to Online Events

Many marketing initiatives have been canceled. Fortunately, consumer engagement online is rising, meaning that B2B marketing can pivot towards this channel. You will find it much easier to plan and execute virtual trade shows and online events. The collection of ROI and measurable data is also effortless. Webinars that offer high-quality content will receive more budgetary allocations since they will generate more leads for businesses.

Have a Decreased Focus On Sales Campaigns And Brand Awareness

A safer way to maintain customer engagement is through increasing customer-building initiatives. Luxury brands such as Estée Lauder, LVMH, or Kering, whose revenue has been adversely affected by a lack of retail traffic, have been very swift to issue messages that support their customers.

As an illustration, LouisVuitton’s LVMH has effectively shut down its perfume production to produce adequate hand sanitizer free for the French health authorities.

Communicate About Prevention And Donation

Have more corporate messages regarding prevention or donations of medical supplies. In any other season, publicizing contributions may backfire as a marketing ploy. However, these initiatives have been received with a lot of enthusiasm from the global community.

This move ensures that once customers can spend, they will spend with the brand that stood with them during the epidemic.

Connect With Trustworthy Organizations

Brands should also be cautious about collaborating with organizations and businesses that have a bad reputation. To prevent the misuse of funds meant for victims of the pandemic, companies are connecting with other firms within a tight circle of trust to avoid any public backlash.

Address The Outbreak But Don’t Be Too Salesy

Businesses can also build email-marketing campaigns that address the outbreak. Marketers should, however, steer away from messages that too salesy and try to be helpful instead. Hospitality and travel-based businesses can, for instance, write to their customers about their hygiene and safety measures, change of fees, or relaxed cancelations.

Use The Right Tone

Emails that are tone-deaf and incognizant of the ongoing epidemic might rub some of your customers the wrong way. National sentiment is at its highest, and brands must conform their messages of support to this factor.

Do Not Exploit The Situation

Businesses that take advantage of the public during the epidemic could find themselves in legal trouble. Worse, they could lose the loyalty of their customers.

Why Email Marketing Will Win Over Telemarketing

The odds stacked against telemarketing have escalated in 2020 with the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. On March 7, 2020, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, declared a state of emergency, which prohibits unsolicited telemarketing calls during the period.

Banning telemarketing during the COVID-19 outbreak emergency period is, however, not an unprecedented act. It has been done before as a responsive measure when there is extreme weather. The governor said that telemarketing during emergencies could hinder the state’s resident’s ability to access safety information.

Telemarketing is, therefore, widely regarded as obstructive to communication. Any marketer found to violate the prohibition could suffer financial, legal, and reputational risks.

The roadblocks against telemarketing open the door wide for email marketing. The financial markets and the global economy are suffering significant losses from the epidemic, and this has a direct impact on ad spending.

Email marketing is going to take center place as advertisers begin to review their ad spending budgets. The advertising format has many advantages, and the current environment only serves to strengthen it. Some of the benefits to telemarketing include;

  • Targeted and personalized emails have a 74% high chance of customer engagement. Telemarketing is not only inappropriate in the epidemic season but is so invasive that it rouses anger from customers.
  • Data shows customers respond more positively to personalized emails than telemarketing.

In telemarketing, most calls end up in voicemail. In email marketing, there is always the potential for follow up when the initial response bears no fruit. You may get an answer on your subsequent outre


New doors have opened for email marketers in the wake of the virus epidemic. Personalize your emails and use PR to enhance customer loyalty and engagement as other forms of advertising like telemarketing take a back seat. We hope the Coronavirus passes soon with an impact that is as minimized as possible.

Originally published at on March 20, 2020.