The science of media - Post COVID Learnings and Marketing Strategies


02/21/2023 | Elliott Berger

As it did elsewhere, COVID-19 has impacted B2B marketing in several ways. What are the most significant changes and, as we see the pandemic fade, how can we take advantage?


1. What’s in a name? A conference is not a show or a symposium; all events are not created equal


Pre-COVID, there was a clear trend for conferences to try to be shows, and for shows to add conference-style content – and for all events to enter into some strange competition where bigger + more costly = better.


During the virtual COVID days, we discovered that audiences will attend online events, but in different ways. For content – by which I mean individuals appearing as "talking heads" or in panels, "fireside" chats and interviews – there were actually MORE people per event than prior live iterations. But no one visited virtual booths or did much "virtual networking" – not surprising because a website is better than a virtual booth, and LinkedIn / Zoom is there for networking.


We discovered everyone missed getting together – especially with people you don’t know. What’s happening now and how can we take advantage?


  • The best content-heavy conferences can be virtual or hybrid with a heavy online component. With no travel costs and less time needed, these attract large global audiences.
  • Large in-person events are meant for networking, discovering vendors, and meeting people. They will continue to be live and bigger than ever. My tip: Avoid distracting side events and content options, focus on getting a great open style booth in high traffic areas. Build something lightweight, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive to produce – brand it well and promote your attendance to new customers.
  • Avoid small events with few customers. These are expensive on a cost per lead basis, making it hard to generate a return. Instead, go on the sidelines, get a suite, hold a reception or presentation with a high value speaker and avoid high show fees.


2. Hollywood in Biotech! Well, not really, but we can become Executive Producers...


The desire for online content during COVID lockdowns also translated to successful self-organized events for many marketers. Though it’s always possible to sponsor a media company’s event at JP Morgan or CPHI online, it’s expensive, and your brand presence is limited.


Several marketers have put together successful half-day online conferences by themselves or with minimal agency or media company assistance. This independence offers control of the agenda and a useful focus on your experts or brand advocates – all at a lower price. There are two keys to success here:


  • First, and it sounds obvious, but the agenda must be interesting. Topics should be broad and in demand (rather than narrow and sales and marketing driven), well-paced, and well-presented by top notch experts. Some well-known names from the industry are a must have, but they can be supplemented with your own or partner experts.
  • Second, a massive promotion plan to internal and external databases is critical to ensure attendance. To do proper lead generation, external promotion to new potential contacts is crucial. Efficient promotion can include attaching the announcements to all other communications during the run-up to the event, complemented by selective, cost-efficient media purchases and social media promotion.


3. If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one to hear it, does it make a sound?


Like that oft-referenced tree, a white paper at the bottom of a publisher’s site won’t make any noise either!

Though digital is all the rage – and ever more important post-COVID, where even the most reluctant audiences are online – too many folks still report "put it on the website" or "tweet it out" (to their 10 or so followers) as their key digital activities.

Digital marketing is all about the math! How many people saw it? Where they the right people? How many times? What is the engagement? If the result is not sufficient to make a difference in your business, you’re wasting time and effort.

Make sure you have scale, variety, and focus to get it right. And if at first you don’t succeed, give thought to what has worked and what didn’t, substituting bad parts for new ideas. Too many digital marketers boast of great traceability, but never stop to think about the data they’ve generated.


4. You can be famous! OK. Maybe not – but your experts could be


One good friend has always famously pronounced: "If you are not published, you are not an expert!" With a high ongoing appetite for expert content, it’s easier than ever to get your experts published (or tweeted, posted, YouTubed, or podcasted).

During COVID, customers have gotten used to looking for and scrolling through interesting content – therein generating good marketing leads.

First, plan around your key topics, get a commitment from your experts, set the timing and provide enough support in recording (sound or video), writing/editing, graphics, vital project management, and the right headshots (important!).

Second, line up proper noise making and signal receiving apparatus (prep digital, social and PR teams, then measure, measure, measure. Make your experts famous – and make sure they know it!


5. Eggflation is here – and it hasn’t bypassed B2B media. Mitigate – then take advantage.


Not only is inflation driving media costs up, but, in digital marketing, more customers are going online for content - virtual events, social, podcasts, and videos. All have driven competition for the best spots and raised prices for sponsorships, email sends, and speaking spots. There are several ways to mitigate:


  • Prioritize topics early – what do you want to be known for and what leads do you want to get? Then talk to all the media companies and make a deal to sponsor and get those leads.
  • Make your marketing plan early – perhaps 18 months early for the largest activities; pool your funds and negotiate with all media companies – make a bigger deal with one or two for the best pricing and supplement with the rest to access more databases and grow your reach.
  • Partner with your vendors, suppliers, best customers, equipment manufacturers or consultants and do expert events together – it adds credibility for everyone and divides costs.
  • Most importantly, build your list continuously and obsessively. The upfront cost is worth it because subsequent emails, event invitations, new content promotion, and newsletters become free! The same applies to LinkedIn and Twitter followers.
  • But don’t abuse the privilege of owning a good database. If you bombard your audience with every thought that crosses your mind (regardless of whether it’s relevant to them), they will opt-out in droves


6. Be social!


Social media is finally penetrating the most conservative sectors. Potential customers likely won’t engage in an open discussion, but they are clicking your content and reading your news, announcements and event invitations. This activity has accelerated through COVID and will continue to do so.


  • Build your following! It’s a pain but, as with e-mail lists, once they follow, you will be top of mind, maximizing future news.
  • How? Be interesting – your new articles or conference speeches (recorded or transcribed – remember the famous scientists bit above), news announcements and event invitations.
  • Repurpose – whatever you create (articles, videos, webcasts), make a shorter version and, yes, post!
  • LinkedIn is a key tool for business (tailor your audiences by segment, company, region, title), but Twitter is excellent for generating clicks on any "news" posts (including content and events). Facebook is good for people-related type news.

In short, COVID accelerated and clarified a number of B2B marketing trends. It’s easy to lose focus in B2B because there are many moving parts, though we can always come back to what’s important and get that right.

Whatever the weather, it’s up to us to take advantage, making smart, cost-efficient, customer-focused decisions to build our brands and drive growth.

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Elliott Berger

A long time marketing leader in Life Sciences, with roles including CMO at Catalent and VP of Innovation at Johnson & Johnson.