B2B marketing during Covid-19: 8 transformations to stay ahead

The pandemic has been a catalyst for B2Bs that have been dragging their feet on e-commerce, per eMarketer.

What do business-to-business companies need to do to survive within the current climate. eMarketer B2B analyst Jillian Ryan offers these eight solutions.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the global economy, business-to-business companies are figuring out how to stay trading, operate and recover. In fact, eight-in-10 US B2B sales and marketing leaders have said their business has taken a hit, per a survey conducted last month by inside sales engagement software provider ringDNA. And roughly half of those respondents said that they don’t anticipate a rebound until 2021.

In order to keep afloat, B2B businesses must transform their marketing and sales to remain relevant in a Covid-19 world. eMarketer has identified eight areas of B2B business that have changed since the start of the pandemic and what marketers need to do.

The loss of in-person events drives B2Bs to digital

In a pre-coronavirus world, face-to-face events were a critical B2B touchpoint. Without them, B2Bs must look to digital channels to recreate the event experience virtually. While many companies were quick to execute on this front, audience fatigue is a concern as the pandemic rages. Continued virtual executions must be thoughtful and add value.

Reworking marketing budgets and the mix across channels

Beyond webinars and virtual conferences, B2Bs have been leaning heavily on other digital channels to reach buyers since the onset of the coronavirus and associated lockdowns. While more dollars shift to digital channels, B2Bs are also contending with budget cuts. In fact, 62% of B2B professionals said their marketing budget has decreased due to the pandemic, according to April 2020 research from McKinsey & Company. With fewer dollars, B2Bs must be more agile with their planning and constantly re-evaluating what’s working and what isn’t.

Shifting the message and tone

Earlier in the pandemic, mission-based or cause-related marketing messages were surging, according to March 2020 polling from the IAB. But as the months wane on and societal divisiveness on everything from mask wearing to social justice percolates, #InThisTogether platitudes don’t resonate as they did at the start of the pandemic. B2Bs must continue to refine their messaging and offering to meet buyer needs and pain points.

B2B buyer behavior and spending in the wake of the Coronavirus

Like marketers, buyers are uncertain about the future and working through their own budgetary constraints. B2Bs must be mindful of how their target audience are experiencing their own pandemic-related hardships but a general theme is that buyers will spend if the product or service will help them stay in business.

B2B goes digital

Intentional targeting by refining segments and ABM approaches

Marketing that is deliberate and precise gets results in a Covid-19 world. Many B2B companies are reevaluating their target account lists, for example, to ensure that their dollars are spent to reach buyers that are willing and able to buy. This means B2Bs must be vigilant in making sure they are working from the most current and accurate buyer personas, customer data and account target lists.

Sellers engage prospects in new ways

Sellers are also feeling the loss of in-person meetings and are relying more heavily on virtual meetings to engage with prospects. More than half of B2B SaaS sellers surveyed by SalesRoads in May 2020 noted that prospect budget cuts have affected their ability to sell. McKinsey data also indicates that many firms are re-evaluating their current sales model and considering a more digitally driven one.

Serving and supporting current customers

Customer retention and success has always been important but B2B companies should be putting increased emphasis on this as restrictions trudge on. The idea is to provide less friction for customers experiencing a lot of friction elsewhere. This can be the difference between a nice-to-have and need-to-have which equates to a renewal or even upsell.

E-commerce transformation

The conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic have been a catalyst for B2Bs that have been dragging their feet on e-commerce product sales. B2B International found that B2Bs with digital sales capabilities that intend to build on them post-pandemic have higher expectations in the next five years than those that don’t or won’t invest in these digital channels.

B2B marketers are battling the conflicting pressures of budget cuts on one side with the continued need to engage audiences on the other. To do this successfully, B2Bs must consider these eight pivots now to alter how and what they sell. See the full B2B Best Practices in a Covid-19 World: Eight Initial Pivots and How They Can Drive Long-Term Digital Transformation, on eMarketer.com.

Jillian Ryan is eMarketer principal analyst covering B2B and marketing transformation at Insider Intelligence.

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