How COVID-19 has transformed B2B Marketing
Nothing in living memory has had such a far-reaching impact in such a short space of time as COVID-19. How will B2B marketers manage the challenge and proactively plan for the future?
How COVID-19 has transformed B2B Marketing
Nothing in living memory has had such a far-reaching impact in such a short space of time as COVID-19. Uncertainty and change have become an everyday part of our personal and business lives. Consumer marketing has been hit hard, with international sporting events cancelled and huge swathes of the global economy ground to a halt. While B2B marketers are arguably slightly less vulnerable, it remains a challenging time. Here are just some of the ways the global pandemic will push B2B marketers to change for the future.
Doing more with less
46% of respondents to a recent B2B Marketing survey say they are already experiencing or expect a significant and/or rapid downturn in revenue (The great disruptor: B2B marketers' response to COVID-19, B2B Marketing). Previous periods of economic slowdown show marketing budgets are often the casualty. Already, 40% of B2B marketers say their budget has been reduced, with a further 18% frozen. But this kneejerk response could end up causing damage for years to come, particularly in B2B where the buying cycle is often much longer. A targeted focus on marketing will help to keep sales pipelines full, and will be an essential part of recovery. For the immediate future, the reality is marketers will likely have to get more done with less.
Setting the tone
In marketing, we are constantly adapting to meet the needs of our customers. With many issues dividing society at the moment, cause-related marketing for the sake of it feels a little insincere. Marketing sets the tone for how customers perceive a brand during a difficult time. It’s risky to appear to be exploiting current events for personal gain, or pushing the hard sell. Marketers should focus on relevant communications that offer a solution to buyer pain points, while offering reassurance and empathy.
Let’s get digital
Limiting social contact tipped the events industry on its head, with a rush to move live in-person events to virtual venues. Nearly half of marketers plan to replace at least some live events with webinars, with technology companies significantly more likely than other industries to move to a fully virtual experience in future (How COVID-19 is Impacting B2B Marketing, B2B Marketing Zone and Webbiquity LLC). Webinar platform ON24 saw a 167% uplift in April alone (ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report Special Edition: Post-COVID Trends), with more and more businesses turning to virtual events to create digital footfall. Even once social restrictions are lifted, digital interaction will command a larger share of communications than before. With more of a shift towards remote working, companies need to be strategically agile to ensure their message is still heard.
Importance of data
Up to now, B2B audience segmentation has tended to be unsophisticated, largely based on industry, geography and simple firmographics like revenue. Positively, 68% of marketers believe the COVID-19 crisis will improve the data and insights they hold on their customers (B2B Best Practices in a COVID-19 World, www.emarketer.com). For example, more marketers are making use of behavioural data to create predictive models that segment based on customer needs. This more nuanced data will enable companies to focus on prospects who are willing and ready to buy. Marketers must ensure they understand their buyer personas and are working from the most up-to-date customer data and target lists, if they are to really see an impact.
The human touch
How we communicate with our customers has changed – face-to-face meetings have been replaced with a more human window into each other’s lives. I’ve seen clients’ bedrooms, their kids, their dogs, all while sitting at my dining table discussing their latest campaign. And do you know what? I like it. I feel like we’ve built stronger relationships over the last few months because of it. Obviously, there will always be a place for the more formal business meeting, but for day-to-day interaction, the human touch is here to stay.
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the way we work – now and into the future. Marketers need to keep momentum so they’re raring to go when the good times return, and – as much as possible – proactively plan so they are able to adjust and adapt quickly.