B2B Marketing During a Crisis: 8 Ways to Keep Awareness Up

John Forberger
5 min readMar 19, 2020


I hope this post finds you.

B2B marketers are in an odd spot right now. What’s the next right thing to get right? Budgets are being reexamined, in-person events meant to network and “fill the sales pipeline” were canceled or went virtual, and brand awareness has dropped. Oh, and anyone who keeps saying it’s business as usual is a 🤡.

Fear not — for the next five-ish minutes — I got eight bite-sized ways that B2B marketers can stay top of mind with target audiences during the Coronavirus crisis. Tip: Grab your favorite cookie sleeve right now.


  1. Communicate appropriately
  2. Read the room
  3. Drop the hard sell, now
  4. Live your company values
  5. Reset media relations expectations
  6. Time campaigns
  7. Call customers
  8. Revisit your PR strategy

Messaging, Messaging, Messaging

Rethink how you speak to your audience today because it’s a different world. Things that weren’t viewed as insensitive or lazy last week might be today. On top of that, marketing and communication plans that worked for years may not have value.

It’s critical for B2B marketers to communicate appropriately to everyone including customers, staff, prospects, investors, shareholders, office rabbits (it’s a thing), you get the point. I’ll help get you started.

Below are five questions I gathered from professional communicators that all B2B marketers must ask themselves today.

  1. Is our tone appropriate in everything we’re distributing?
  2. Is announcing a feature set or new clients wise right now?
  3. Did we reread all scheduled content?
  4. Are we active on the right channels?
  5. How have clients been affected? If so, can we help them?

Confidently answering the above questions will put you on the right path and even more in the mode of being audience-centric, which is always a necessary approach.

Practice Email Distancing

I couldn’t help myself, but marketers and their communication teams should show some restraint with email pitches to reporters. As always, read the room. If you don’t, your email may end up in #prfails on Twitter.

Read the room or else.

Ease Up On the “Sell”

How salespeople treat prospects in these difficult times will not be forgotten when buying power returns and things stabilize. Be the real you, the vulnerable person.

By the way, ungated content is the new $5k prospect dinner.

Just help people. Now.

If you have content that would benefit a business during a time of crisis, give it away without asking for an email address. Make that webinar transcript a blog post, send mastery tips in a newsletter. I’m not saying get sloppy, but polished anything isn’t necessary.

If salespeople are tapping you on Slack, WhatsApp, Fleep, Ryver, HipChat, email, and/or text (SMS to weirdos) asking for collateral like case studies, gently tell them to drop the need to sell. Now’s not the time for that.

Live Your Company Values

Now is the time to live your core values, more than ever. Your customers and local community need to really know that your business exists to drive their business as it says in that gorgeous 33-slide sales deck. Post on social media how you’re making your team available to small businesses, friends, anyone.

All the reasons you tell job applicants and prospective customers that your company exists, prove it. Mission statements? Actualize them.

Reset PR Program Expectations

With everything going on, expectations with media relations activities — like many things — cannot be what they were last week. In order to get ahead of any unpleasant surprises or letdowns, consider approaching your executive leadership team sooner than later about how your media outreach plans have changed and what they can expect in the next week or so.

Review all public relations objectives and related tactics. Don’t hesitate to adjust the course, if necessary. If you wanted to secure personality profiles (story focused on one person), that’s probably not happening. They’ll happen soon, which leads me to the next point.

Don’t Turn a Campaign Into a “Slampaign”

One question on the mind of B2B marketers is, “Should I launch that campaign?” If you’re convinced a campaign has been thought out and what you offer will truly help businesses, then tread carefully and definitely lead with the benefit(s). Nobody wants to hear how a “thing” helps you or your partners.

Keep in mind, B2B businesses who are acting selfishly or seemingly acting selfishly (or being tone-deaf) won’t be forgotten when we’re all out of this. No marketer wants to see their campaign blasted on social media due to poor timing or looking opportunistic. If something feels icky, it probably is.

In the last few days, several SaaS companies and cloud-based platforms have launched campaigns offering free or discounted trials. Speaking of campaigns with benefits (ha!), kudos to Lifesize and their careful rollout of a free trial lasting six months without users having to speak to a sales rep. That’s newsworthy.

Contact Customers

Use the phone part of… your phone. In the last few days, you’ve already been dialing into conference calls on your phone because you don’t want Lisa in accounting with the pristine kitchen to see you on video or you haven’t changed your sweater in 73 hours, so we all know your phone works.

While 59% of marketers say that running productive meetings remotely during this global crisis will be somewhat or very challenging, dialing a customer won’t be. Call them.

Keeping a brand top of mind is one goal every marketer has. To the surprise of public relations professionals like myself, many B2B marketers aren’t dialing their customers and checking in. They’ll remember the gesture.

Of all the partners your clients have — you may be the only one who calls them. You may help someone take their first deep breath of the day. Unlike other times when customers are “heads down,” it’s highly unlikely anyone will scold you for checking in on them.

Revisit Your Media Relations Strategy

Everything has changed in the last week, and so should your strategy. Perhaps you haven’t looked at your media relations strategy since your PR agency presented it, but now’s the time to do so.

Adjusting to market conditions comes with the job of marketers (or growth marketers if you’re called that, sorry not sorry) and right now it’s imperative to do exactly that. So, after you join that virtual dance party and grab the unofficial work-from-home meal of peanut butter on a spoon, sit down and stare down your strategy.

If your B2B business has news like fresh hires or funding, you may be able to land a story, but know that you probably won’t get the ear of reporters as you normally would.

If you’re wondering how to be seen and communicate effectively during a crisis, please don’t pause — just reach out. I’m doing impromptu 15-minute calls when I can.

P.S. Drink whatever you want in your coffee mug while on video chats.

About The Author

John Forberger is the founder of the only B2B public relations agency for retail vendors and partners, Forberger Communications.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.



John Forberger

I run a comms and brand strategy consultancy helping B2B companies speak clearly to everyone, everywhere. Visit www.johnforberger.com