Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the ‘new normal,’ many B2B businesses are emerging with an evolved context, offering and even business model to what they entered the pandemic with.
This adaption can mean that now the business itself is somewhat misaligned with the brand messaging and identity.
How have B2B companies changed?
1. New strategic offering
B2B buyers became increasingly cautious during Covid. And to no surprise, that has resulted in extended buyer journeys, increased buyer inertia and higher expectations on value.
This, and likely the move to complete remote sales, led many companies to adapt their sales approach and teams. They were especially looking for people who are more strategic and insight-led – rather than those that rely on charm and a company credit card, according to this HBR article.
B2B buyers have also applied this approach to product offerings, with companies expanding existing solutions to include new “consultative knowledge and resources designed to help customers succeed during the pandemic,” according to Edelman.
2. Increased product investment
Covid propelled product-led companies to invest and attract interest from investors. “PE dealmaking in B2B products actually rose 20% in 2020,” according to Insight 2 Profit, and we’re now seeing waves of these companies coming in strong, ready to disrupt markets with high-growth KPIs.
And on the other side of this fence are the established brands, which now have a new, aggressive competitive landscape to deal with.
We’ve seen this product investment also within organizations. Many have taken the opportunity to evolve or pivot existing product capabilities in response to the overnight change in market needs.
3. Expanding digital experience
From discovery, sales and onboarding through to customer service, everything had to move online. And with 70-80% of B2B decision makers preferring remote human interactions, or digital self service, it seems that this will be the new norm.
In fact, McKinsey predicts that B2B leaders that continue to commit to digitizing their go-to-market models will see the return in the form of increased customers and retention, catapulting them far ahead of their slower-moving competitors.
4. Marketing seen as a leader for growth and digital transformation
This isn’t a change in the business offering, but rather a change in how the broader business understands the role and contribution that marketing can make.
From an overnight shift to 100% digital, to an increased uncertainty in markets and individual buyers, the customer needs and experience became the number one topic of conversation for the C-suite. We saw marketing elevated within the C-suite as a driver of digital transformation, a key leader of the customer journey and the voice of the consumer.
There’s certainly greater expectation, but this is an exciting time for marketing. Harvard Business Review sees this as marketing’s opportunity to seize an ongoing central role in that dialogue, thereby driving the organization’s broader growth and innovation agenda.
The impact on brand
These changes may seem like evolutions on a roadmap, but they are important pieces to building a UX-centric, consultative, best-in-class solution.
This is great, but only if your audience knows about it.
And with B2B buyers searching anonymously online for up to six months (Vital stats, Earnest), you need this message to be central and clear across your digital touchpoints, or you will likely never get the opportunity to correct misperceptions.
Identifying the disconnect
If you recognize these changes within your business, or you’ve experienced others, it’s important to strength test your brand to see if and where the disconnect between your current offering and current identity is.
Ask yourself these questions:
What do you currently say about yourself?
How are you describing your business and solution across core prospects and customer touchpoints (website, sales presentation)? How do you describe the problem you solve?
How does the market view you? Research the industry, review the latest analyst reports and look at what others say about you.
What do you currently offer?
What is your core product/solution, what problem do you solve, and for whom? How do you make people feel?
If your answers are not similar across all three questions, it’s time for a brand re-boot. And, by going through this exercise, you now have the perfect inputs for a brief to help change things.
Sarah Przybylak, client lead at Earnest.