Written by Baneet Braich
Event cancellations, paused budgets and social distancing measures are fostering a new virtual norm to take care of business. With face to face events at a standstill, many B2B marketing leaders are scrambling to transform their advertising efforts during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Budgets are definitely shifting to accommodate a world of digital advertising, said Lisa Shepherd, founder of the Mezzanine Group in Toronto. Since the pandemic, half of Mezzanine’s B2B clients have shifted 50 per cent of their budget to digital advertising, she explained.
Canadian B2B companies are “upping their content game,” said Shepherd. More money is being invested into Facebook and Linkedin ads and content development which includes: quizzes, interactive white papers, video, online savings calculators, she said.
Businesses are also opening up to apps like Whatsapp and TikTok. “WhatsApp is a huge technology in emerging economies,” indicated Shepherd. She also pointed out how in South America and the Middle East, Mezzanine’s Canadian companies -who sell global- are investing in building apps for WhatsApp because customers want to engage on Whatsapp.
Tik Tok is proving successful for consumer businesses, however, Shepherd said she is not seeing much usage with B2Bs just yet but the potential is there. “It takes a little while for them (companies) to figure out their voice on Tik Tok,” she said. Downloads of TikTok increased by 315m in Q1 2020, making it the most downloaded app ever in any three-month time period, according to SensorTower.
While digital advertising is helping B2Bs go global, airport advertising is decreasing due to the pandemic. “The eyeballs are not there. The companies who have a contract they can pull from airport advertising are doing that,” said Shepherd, adding businesses must remain nimble on where and how they advertise. “What is happening today is different from what was happening six weeks ago.”
Sidestepping Facebook and Google
With uncertainties and new catalysts amidst COVID-19, advertisers and marketers can now turn to a new Canadian digital advertising platform to spread their messages.
Maple Network Exchange (MNE), a new Canadian digital advertising platform, is meant to help Canadian businesses shift away from foreign players like Facebook and Google MNE is bound by an alliance of ten Canadian publishers that reach a combined audience of 80-85 per cent Canadians from rural and urban Canada.
The economic impact is about leaving aside exchange rates and investing in Canadian businesses, said John Hinds, CEO of News Media Canada. “When you have that huge migration of revenues to Silicon Valley that really guts quality news publications in communities large and small. This is a way of really re-investing in local news and getting their ad passage out to Canadians,” he said.
Hinds said there is more opportunity to think local with geographic advertising even for B2B companies. The main motive of MNE is trust. “A lot of trusted brands have a concern about where their ads are going to appear. Are they really appearing on sites, and whose site?” he said.
The pandemic has also inspired solutions for self-serve advertising platforms. Hinds said he finds B2B companies struggle to facilitate marketing efforts on their own. “I think one of the challenges for B2B often is this sense that I have to get an agency, get my creative, I have to have this huge layout of resources. For Hinds, the importance is in targeting the geographic audience and taking self-serving measures to reach leads.
Virtual show floors
Despite the uncertainties of COVID-19, B2Bs are prioritizing advertising through virtual engagement. Nearly 95 per cent of event professionals plan to invest in virtual events moving forward, according to Bizzabo.
For Softchoice the increasing numbers for virtual events were surprising. The solution provider is seeing five to six times higher numbers for webinar participation. The numbers for leadership and other boot camps are, “through the roof,” said Julija Noskova, the company’s vice-president of marketing. Their recent virtual discovery expo last week – which entered its second year – attracted an impressive number of people, she added.
“We had 2,000 people registered for the event, ” she said. “More than 50 per cent actually attended the event, and those numbers were a good surprise for us.
On average, Noskova said attendees spent two hours inside the VDX experience, with the breakout sessions garnering more than 3,000 views over the course of the day. The virtual vendor booths, which replaced the physical expo floor, had 8,545 visits.
Noskova is also noticing the key advantage of reaching a new audience using virtual event platforms like 6Connex. The platform enables companies to host virtual trade shows, job fairs, summits and more.
“We saw a very healthy split between Canada and the U.S. in terms of participation. And it makes it so much easier to grow your audience,” she said, adding audience growth remains vital as B2Bs prioritize the nimble mindset for future advertising strategies.