B2B Marketing after COVID-19: What changes and what doesn’t?
The world will never be the same again..
So it’s high time to get creative and adapt your marketing to the crisis
We’ve heard time and time again about the “new normal,” and how B2B marketers should expect the same in their respective industry.
Anticipating the future is a fool’s game at best; it’s more like figuring out the next person to be doffed on Ozark.
In this scenario, it becomes even more difficult, considering the unique cause of our situation.
That said, there are enough breadcrumbs left by previous crises and recessions to make some educated guesses on our post-COVID B2B marketing world.
While it is simple to say B2B marketing will be different, it is actually harder to determine exactly how it will be different.
Though we don’t exactly know when ‘our new normal’ would end, but let’s consider what B2B marketing after COVID-19 will look like:
What will permanently change?
What will go back to the way things were in the olden days?
Let’s find out..
1. Shifting business models
With maximum economic activities put on hold, many B2B companies have eventually found their products and services starting at a near-zero demand.
With their offerings rendered irrelevant, several B2B startups and established companies have been forced to quickly reconfigure their product offerings and transform their existing business models.
Given the scenario that the current demand comprises of only “essential items” and COVID-related equipments, many organizations have shifted to manufacturing PPEs, masks, sanitizers and essential grocery items.
B2B business decisions are being made everywhere to stay relevant during the “unusual” time and keep earning revenues.
Adaptability – remains the key to survival.
Therefore, B2B organizations which showcase quick adaptability are the only ones that will succeed in staying afloat over the long phase.
2. Revenue marketing will become more important
In the year 2010, Harvard Business Review conducted the most extensive research on the impact of past recessions on corporate performance.
It further studied 4,700 companies over the three recessions prior to 2008.
The results were discouraging.
Almost 17% of companies didn’t survive a recession.
Another 80% hadn’t regained their pre-recession growth rate, three years after the recession (40% amongst them hadn’t even returned to the same revenue and profit levels).
Only 9% flourished—outperforming their competitors by at least 10% in revenue and profit growth.
It is possible that even more so than before corona virus, the C-suite will place a greater focus on B2B marketing to deliver noteworthy contributions to B2B sales pipeline and revenue.
Surging digital engagement, decreased travel costs, and the need for a return on dollars spent; will ensure CMOs are even more accountable for initiating and influencing the top line.
CMOs in return really need to focus on closing the analytics gaps that persist in most B2B marketing organizations, preventing their marketing team from actively measuring and optimizing pipeline performance.
3. Technological automation and robotics will come to the fore
As B2B organizations look for different ways to increase efficiency, improve outcomes and optimize costs, they’re proactively considering greater adoption of technological automation and robotics.
Increased automation assists B2B organizations tide over the shortage of skilled labour while helping decrease manufacturing costs and keep up the cost advantage.
According to a market research, it is expected that the global traditional industrial robotics market size is expected to grow from $44.6 billion in 2020 to $73 billion by 2025.
Substantial use of automation also allows manufacturers to maintain the norms of social distancing for their workers, paving the way for safer and unhindered production.
Moving forward, we will witness an increase in the acquisition of AI and cloud-based solutions not only in large B2B organizations but also in small and medium scaled enterprises.
The SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS solutions would increasingly be used to improve client relationship management and enterprise resource management, among other functions.
4. Your B2B Tech market spending will transform
The flourishing trend towards remote working has boosted business spending on remote operations software.
A study conducted in March predicted that over 40% of all businesses would increase software spending allocations by the end of 2020.
This sudden urge to spend on software is however countered by the effect of the epidemic on revenue generation and brand positioning.
Most B2B businesses, therefore, have to minimize spending as a recession looms.
44% of Marketing and 36% of IT support departments, for example, will have their software budgets reduced.
The task and project management technology will also have fewer allocations to spend on what is now termed as “non-essential” software spending.
Post COVID economy does require collaboration, web conferencing, and remote desktop technology tools.
Consequently, 30% of all B2B businesses in a survey conducted said that they needed web and video conferencing apps, while 23% of them were acquiring remote workforce tools.
Spending on security software is also up 41%, signaling an increased need to create secure remote working conditions.
These new acquisitions will also be beneficial post the epidemic as businesses begin to adapt to new normal.
5. Hyper-personalized communication & interaction will be a game-changer
Hyper-personalized communication means targeted, relevant experiences at every encounter with your brand.
And, the “new normal” is all about creating hyper-personalized and connected experiences for your digital prospects.
Modern-day clients are increasingly expecting customized experience when they engage with brands on the internet.
In this era of limited consumer attention, as B2B brands compete for a bigger share, personalization is now imperative.
A one-size-fits-all approach will fail in the near future. And so, hand-tailored research for individual clients must be done.
Identity is the bedrock for personalization. Without acknowledging who your clients are at every interaction, it becomes virtually impossible to treat them as individuals with unique interests and preferences.
B2B marketing will be revolutionized by brands that deliver hyper-personalized experiences. However, the goal of hyper-personalization fueled by identity requires the right strategy and investment.
B2B organizations must focus on putting the identity at the center of the consumer strategy.
They must take ownership of identity through a private identity graph to provide the flexibility, transparency, and compliance framework to support their use cases. They must also inform technology, specifically the technology supporting personalization, through identity.
B2B brands that can execute on this identity strategy framework will be best positioned to thrive in the hyper-personalized world.
1. Digital marketing will still be your savior
Rework on your existing digital marketing tactical plans.
If there is one lesson we’ve learned from past economic downturns, it’s not to take your foot off the gas when it comes to B2B marketing and promotion.
Now that your clients are stuck at home, purchases and business decisions are happening online. And if you aren’t taking advantage of cost-effective digital solutions, such as SEO/SEM, pay-per-click, inbound content marketing, and social media advertising, you’re likely missing out on your members’ business.
So it becomes crucial to accelerate your digital investments and shift media spending to online channels, with a focus on client activation rather than brand building. Beside from enhancing your own websites, also consider partnerships with reputable e-retailers.
Digital marketing can not only help in boosting online sales but also enticing leads to visit you in person once they reopen.
Put digital marketing at the center of your operating model.
For many B2B companies, this crisis has been a catalyst for developing and executing an online and omni-channel marketing strategy.
Step up your personalization efforts in digital marketing.
After all, that is what builds brand trust and loyalty.
From a B2B marketing standpoint, this means evaluating your pre-COVID tactical plan to identify areas that need adjustment, including budget.
2. Your emphasis on building B2B Customer Relationship
An interpersonal business relationship can be fantastic and is often why a client exists in the first place.
Healthy business-to-business customer relationships will still be a sure shot solution for you to lead to top line growth, stability to manage disruption, and overall sustainability as a B2B organization.
Similar to personal relationships, every successful business relationship is built on a foundation of core virtues, such as integrity, transparency, and trust.
The pandemic has forced B2B businesses to maintain and build relationships with clients when their world has been upended.
But what can smaller, newer, more vulnerable businesses do to strengthen relationships with prospects when social distancing has minimized or eliminated personal interaction?
We have figured out 5 key strategies that might help companies weather crises and preserve their bonds with clients:
- Humanize your B2B company
- Educate your clients about change
- Assure stability and consistency
- Revolutionize your offerings
- Tackle the future diligently
This framework emphasizes making current and potential clients aware of your company’s plan, supporting them and providing new value that they might require.
3. Sharing your brand as authentically as possible
Authenticity and consistency is critical to developing a solid relationship with your clients.
Posturing or sterilizing your content keeps prospects away from relating to it.
It also sabotages the trust your B2B leads have in your company because they’ll struggle to get an accurate picture of what your brand is.
Thus, authenticity & consistency are the only ways to fix this; before, amidst or after the pandemic.
By allowing your B2B marketing content to be as authentic as possible, you allow your audience to fully apprehend the company they’ll be working with.
Transparency, which goes hand-in-hand with authenticity, will allow your clients to trust your brand more quickly.
And, because your audience can see your brand for what it is, the connection they can build is much stronger and more real.
Your B2B marketing strategy post-COVID must be more authentic than it has ever been.
Instead of metaphorically selecting the “suit and tie”, take the “shorts and sandals” approach to your content, spending less time on carefully crafted words.
Tell them honestly about your products/services, your company, and your industry, sharing the good and the bad, and let the audience decide for themselves.
This approach will change the way your audience feels about you for the better.
4. The importance of Experiential Marketing
Considering that B2B decision-makers often spend several months in making a decision, the best way to nudge them towards the decision you want (..even amidst the pandemic) is for them to experience your company’s products/ solutions.
The 20’s is going to be the decade of experiential marketing in B2B : brand experience, employee experience and client experience.
More B2B organizations will comprehend the importance of the ‘right’ experience in sustaining their leadership position.
They will still try to adopt a holistic view to tie together BX, EX and CX, creating an unforgettable journey for all stakeholders.
Just like #SodexoCXOFoodwalk, there are various experiences that combines a brand’s proposition with a ‘money-can’t-buy’ culinary experience in an intimate, professional setting.
5. The era of live events
Much is being written about the demise of live events. But we really don’t believe that will be the case.
Even in this digital world, our desire for face-to-face interaction and real social affiliation is not expected to change.
We all are hardwired for it—especially if we talk about B2B marketers.
This could easily be explained by looking at live events in much the same way as travel following 9/11. People back then had every reason to stop traveling. Be it their concern for personal safety, or the overall process of traveling becoming tedious because of the safety precautions put in place.
Although it did take close to 3 years for travel to return to its pre-9/11 levels, but we’ve experienced record travel growth ever since then.
Similarly, it will take time for B2B marketing conferences to flourish again.
Global vaccination being the first critical step.
B2B revenue and marketing budget growth will also be a vital driver.
But eventually, live events will still return as strong as ever.
Remember: This Phase Won’t Last Forever
We won’t be speculating too much about when this period of catastrophe will end. But by all guidance, we’re expecting to emerge from quarantine sometime this year. Meanwhile, we encourage you to prepare your B2B marketing strategies for the transition thoughtfully and proactively.
Our B2B Sales & Marketing Consultancy firm can assist you during this pandemic, with our digital marketing services to help you sell more and map out relevant marketing strategies for you; to help you stay ahead & come out stronger…