Knotch’s Chris Vitti on Relevant, Resonant B2B Marketing During a Time of Crisis

Editor’s note: This interview is part of Mission North’s new “Marketing Risks Worth Taking” series, an ongoing forum with marketing leaders who are sharing their perspectives about adapting to a new reality. 

Chris Vitti has a unique view of the state of B2B marketing right now. As SVP of marketing at the content intelligence company Knotch, he is close to the platform’s insights related to content performance, audience sentiment, and the ROI of campaigns. And, because Knotch works with CMOs and their teams, Chris is intimately aware of the challenges and opportunities that marketers and brands are facing today. 

Given this industry perspective and experience in the trenches as a B2B marketer, Chris immediately came to mind when Mission North kicked off this series about how marketers are adapting to our new reality. We talked about how he’s using data to make decisions and quickly change course, how B2B brands can lean into their human side, and how sales and marketing teams can best support one another in extraordinary circumstances. Our Q&A, below, has been edited for length.

Do B2B marketers still “need to think like B2C” as we’ve heard in recent years? Or has all of that changed with COVID?

One-hundred percent. More than ever. There has always been another human on the other side of that email or phone call, and now, humans have even more complicated needs.

B2B marketers now need to be thinking about not just a buyer’s needs at their company, but that buyer’s needs in life. Now is a great time for every B2B marketer to update their persona profiles and also ensure the content that they’re creating is resonating with their target audience.

What data are you most frequently consulting? 

I always want the data straight from the source, and I want it displayed in a way that quickly tells a story. I’m also not a marketing executive who believes in filling the funnel with tons of leads that usually end up going nowhere. As a marketing team, we measure our success based on the number of marketing opportunities that have been qualified by our sales team. To do that, we rely heavily on “lead source” to understand our most effective first touchpoints, and “primary campaign source” to understand the campaigns that are turning leads into opportunities. Doing this allows us to change course quickly if needed. For example, we decided which marketing channels to invest more in during the crisis, to make up for the lack of physical events that are no longer taking place. For us, and many other brands, it’s virtual events and content marketing that are filling in the gap.

B2B marketers now need to be thinking about not just a buyer’s needs at their company, but that buyer’s needs in life.

What can sales be doing to support marketing right now (and vice versa)? 

Marketing teams need their sales teams to be fast in responding to inbound leads, and then patient once the conversation starts. Everyone is fragile right now and looking for a true business partner, not a hard sell.

On the flip side, marketing needs to constantly create new content because each week is different. What worked last week may not work this week. So timely content pieces, that are high-quality, are the best tools you can put in their toolbox. Make sure the sales team knows when the pieces will be ready, where they can find them, and the messaging they should use when sharing them.

What are the customer retention superpowers you are observing during this crisis—either at your company or elsewhere?

Be relevant, be kind, and add value.

What consumer brands do you admire for their COVID-19 response? Why?

Overall, there are so many brands I’ve been impressed with, including Ford’s announcement to produce ventilators, Home Depot’s focus on employee and customer safety, and Petco’s COVID resource center. Brands doing their part are the ones I’ll remember when we get to the other side of this crisis.

What does that look like at Knotch?

Our priority is to help our customers understand the effectiveness of their COVID-19 content and communications, and even help non-customers by offering Knotch for free. To help the larger community well beyond Knotch, we also started a weekly virtual roundtable series, which has reached thousands of attendees since we launched it in the middle of March.

On April 29, I will be hosting a Dispatch Live conversation with Chris and marketing leaders at Dosh, ServiceChannel and Red Roof Inn about what’s next for marketers and what it means to take smart risks today. RSVP and learn more about the event here.