Covid-19 outbreak caused an unprecedented disruption in the B2B marketing landscape. Due to exceptionally high levels of uncertainty that came with Covid-19 pandemic, B2B marketers had to explore new routes to market. They had to reframe their go-to marketing strategies in response to the challenges imposed by Covid-19. For example, before the crisis, 57% B2B companies were using in-person sales for selling their products. Post pandemic, the figures reduced to just 20%.

b2b marketing

Source: MarketingCharts.com

Although the market conditions are slowly shifting back to normal now, the challenges imposed by Covid-19 still remain. In this article, we will discuss the challenges faced by B2B marketers in the post-COVID world and the strategies they are adopting to ease those challenges away.

CHALLENGE #1: MAKING VIRTUAL MEETINGS AS EFFECTIVE AS IN-PERSON MEETINGS 

Covid-19 has changed the way companies conduct marketing meetings. With the pandemic creating the need to move in-person meetings to virtual meetings, marketers had to look for ways to make virtual meetings just as productive as in-person meetings. After the pandemic, 62 million virtual conferencing apps were downloaded.

covid marketing

Source: TechCrunch

Tips to Make Virtual Meetings Effective and Engaging

  • Presentation Matters: Present yourself well and dress appropriately to look as polished as possible in virtual meetings.
  • Make use of visual aids: In order to run your meeting without any trouble, make sure every participant is well-resourced. Prepare a presentation, share your screen with every participant and explain them as you speak. Participants can even screen record your presentation if they want to go through a point again.
  • Prepare your team well: Educate your team on using virtual meeting software to its fullest potential. Video conferencing platforms these days have really advanced features such as, breakout rooms, and built-in polls that can take your virtual meeting to the next level. So, make sure each member of your team knows how to use them.  

CHALLENGE #2: PROVING ROI THROUGH SOLID ANALYTICS AND DATA

In a post-pandemic study conducted by PWC, it was found that cost-cutting intensified after the pandemic outbreak. The graph illustrates the areas where the companies considered cutting costs post Covid-19.

Source: PWC

In difficult times like these when businesses are more focused on cutting costs, instilling confidence in your prospects is very important. Therefore, it is very important to convince your clients and prove ROI of every new campaign through analytics and data. Here are some ways to do that.

Ways to Show Effectiveness of Your Campaigns

  • Focus on Adaptability and Agility: Understand what works and repurpose your content into different formats.
  • Make Efficient Use Of Different Tools: Use different tools to provide deeper insights to the clients.
  • Make Use Of The Right KPIs: Identify the Key Performance Indicators and measure every program you launch against them.
  • Share Success Stories: Use email marketing to share success stories of how your solutions are helping other customers thrive in these difficult times.

CHALLENGE #3: BUILDING A DIGITAL-SAVVY BUSINESS

As the traditional in-person engagements decline due to the impact of Covid-19 on B2B sales, it’s very important for B2B marketing companies to focus on digital transformation. Studies indicate that B2B companies who focused on transition to digital tactics, experienced 8% more returns and five times more growth in terms of revenue. Here are some main challenges facing B2B marketers as they brace themselves up for digital transformation:

  • Digitally Empowering The Sales Team: Equipping the sales team with the right tools to deliver value as they interact with the clients.
  • Finding Ways To Digitally Engage Customers: Developing ability to easily engage prospects and customers using digital mediums.
  • Meeting Customers’ Expectations: Creating compelling content and experiences to meet customer expectations.

Below are some ways to beat these challenges.

Tips to be More Digital Friendly

  • Create Rich Content And Resources That Prospects Find Valuable. As per CMO council, at least 90% of B2B buyers look for valuable content before making a purchase decision. This means interactive product demos, online reviews, and educational content have become more important than ever.
  • Make Sure Your Digital Content Is Easy To Find And User Friendly. If you haven’t refreshed your website in quite some time, it may be time for an upgrade. In an age when B2B buyers are doing research and making purchase decisions online, you want them to be able to access your brand information easily and quickly from all their devices. So, make all your digital content optimized to enable your customers to access your digital content easily from their mobiles as well as desktops.
  • Make Your Team Digital Savvy With The Right Skills For The Future. As your business adopts modern digital tactics, you may require new team members with appropriate skills. Digital experts, content creators, web developers, SEO specialists, and digital project managers— these are all roles that will be essential to building a digital savvy team in a post-COVID-19 world.

CHALLENGE #4: ENSURING SUCCESS OF VIRTUAL EVENTS

As per statistics, the global trade show market size in the year 2019 was 34.4 Billion U. S. Dollars. As the on-site events and trade shows got cancelled due to the coronavirus, B2B marketing companies suffered a huge setback. Thankfully, many events are now moving forward as scheduled in a virtual-only format. The below image shows the increase in number of virtual events post Covid-19:

covid marketing trends

Source: mhojhosresearch.com

Switching to virtual-only format has its own share of challenges, like:

  • Making the presentation engaging for the customers and prospects.
  • Creating buzz around the virtual event.
  • Preparing digital only content.
  • Training the sales team for virtual events.

Here are some ways to overcome these challenges and make virtual events as effective as physical events.

Tips to Make Virtual Meetings Effective

  • Start early: Create a landing page for your event. Offer rewards for registering for your event. If you already have an email list ready, email marketing for your event is sure to give you a good ROI.
  • Make your events truly live: Going live instead of recording or replays ensures maximum attendance and also creates a truly live experience for the participants.
  • Make it easy for the participants: Make connecting to your event easy by providing a pre-event guide to the participants. 
  • Engage the audience: Use the right social media platforms to engage with your customers. Increase engagement by using social media polls, quizzes and interacting with participants in real-time.
  • Send “swag bags” to the participants: Use traditional or virtual swag bags to complement your virtual event. By doing so, you will help the event participants get the most out of your presentation.
  • Reward the attendees: At the end of each session, draw out random prizes for the attendees.
  • Make use of Breakout sessions; Using breakout sessions, you can divide attendees into small rooms of a few people. This way, the event attendees can discuss the important points of the events with the other attendees.

CHALLENGE #5: RECONSIDERING HOW AND WHEN TO IMPLEMENT INBOUND MARKETING

Post Covid-19, B2B companies are rethinking their inbound marketing strategies. Instead of thinking what they could have achieved sooner, they are focusing on nailing down next-level strategies for jumpstarting their inbound efforts. The challenges are several but there are tactics that they can use to increase online prospecting, lead generation and sales.

Inbound Marketing Tactics to Rebound from the Effects of Covid-19

Pay-per-click (PPC): PPC is a good marketing tactic to use if you don’t have a deep content library. With people spending more than 16 hours a day on digital media post pandemic, PPC is a sensible route for B2B marketers.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM): This marketing strategy can help you reach in-market buyers and connect with prospects much before your competitors. Here are some ways to create the right ABM strategy:

  • Create events and marketing campaigns that match the ABM strategy for that account. In the below image different ABM strategies have been described.
b2b marketing covid-19

Source: itsma.com

  • Use the right tools: There are various tools available these days that can help you notify the ABM account manager whenever someone from the target account visits your website.

CHALLENGE# 6: CREATING MARKETING MESSAGES DESIGNED TO CONNECT WITH THE CUSTOMERS

Aligning marketing messages to exude empathy with the customers helps businesses engage with customers on emotional and cognitive levels. It also helps marketing companies understand B2B buyers better. Empathy should not be confused with sympathy. The image below sums up how being sympathetic is different from being empathetic.

3 Marketing Tips for Managing B2B Customer Journey in the COVID-19 Business  Climate

Source: gartner.com

Tips to Help You Create Marketing Messages That Exude Empathy

  • Don’t be pushy: Avoid content which is focused on pushing buyers to the next stage of the sales.
  • Make customer-centric marketing materials: Align your content marketing materials to the customer’s psychological state. 
  • Reinforce a sense of community: Use your marketing messages to reinforce a sense of community.
  • Use the correct language and symbolism: Your marketing messages should include language and symbolism that amplify your empathy for your customers. 
  • Stay top of mind of your prospects. Instead of just focusing on sales, shift your focus on building long-term relationships with the prospects. There are several ways of doing so. For example, engaging with customers’ social media posts, giving strategic, genuine gifts or giving handwritten letters are all some effective tactics for staying top of mind of your prospects.

CHALLENGE#7: SPENDING MARKETING MONEY AND TIME JUDICIOUSLY

As the economies suffered due to the pandemic, it became important for businesses to be careful about where their marketing time and money is spent. As per a marketing report, 50% of B2B buyers are holding off unnecessary purchases.

marketing during pandemic

Source: marketingprofs.com

Making the right marketing decisions is also important for businesses to attract prospects most likely to convert to purchases.

Important tips to make sure your marketing time and effort is being fully utilized

  • Align your sales and marketing. When the sales and marketing departments work together, your inbound marketing efforts become successful. To achieve this goal, make sure both the teams are on the same page about achieving common goals and working towards getting qualified leads. Marketing and sales team should use B2B intent data to understand the buyers better.
  • Collaboration between all go-to-market teams. Go-to-market teams include marketing, sales, product management, and sometimes customer success too. Collaboration between all GTM teams will lead to revenue acceleration. 

CHALLENGE#8: FASTER PURCHASES

The B2B buyers today are quite active. They are pursuing multiple options, comparing requirements, collecting RFPs and reading reviews online before making purchase decisions. Modern B2B buyers are self-directed and don’t waste time. If a marketing company takes too long to respond, there are two problems when selling to a new B2B buyer:

  • It gives a message to the buyers that company’s operations aren’t up to par. They also assume that support won’t be good either.
  • If the competitors are faster to respond, the buyers are likely to engage with them.

With the B2B buyers of today expecting to make faster purchases in a frictionless way, B2B marketers really need to work on speed and ease.

Some Additional Challenges and Their Solutions

  1. Shorter shelf life of products and services: In a time when the competition is fierce, there is a tremendous pressure on the B2B marketing companies to innovate their products. The products must suit the demands of the “New Normal” created by the coronavirus. The innovations must encompass multiple dimensions, including – products, solutions, services, experiences, etc.
  1. Making connection between your brand and your customers: In highly competitive, crowded, and noisy market spaces, being vulnerable with your customers has the power to cut straight through the clutter. This strategy also allows your business to establish a human connection between your brand and your audience. A good way to humanize your brand is:
  1. Highlighting your employees in your content: Encouraging employees in building their own personal brands, supporting and growing employee advocacy, and highlighting real people in your content.

Have your employees’ author blogs, share updates about your brand from their personal accounts. Ask your employees to use email marketing best practices to connect with the customers.

  1. B2B companies have multiple target audiences: With today’s B2B marketers selling to different user personas, user types and roles, addressing them specifically is very important. It is important that the content creators create content that is able to meet different needs. You can also build a library of SEO blogs, with keywords relevant to different audiences.
  1. Old tactics may not work: The world has changed a lot post pandemic, therefore it’s time to align your marketing tactics to adapt to the “New World.” For example, While the email open rates of other emails declined during the pandemic, the ones that acknowledged the pandemic saw a 41% increase in open rates.

Conclusion

While the pandemic has certainly presented a set of unique challenges to the B2B marketers and their teams, it’s important to learn strategies to thrive and survive. The businesses that will be able to take advantage of the opportunities available right now will be able to master B2B sales during and after the crisis.

Kristin Mortis on Twitter
Kristin Mortis
Kristin Mortis is a Marketing Manager with 8+ years of experience at TDInsights based out of Plano, Texas. She helps businesses deliver the strongest marketing turnaround with cutting-edge digital strategies and tools. She writes about B2B Marketing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and other technological innovations. Connect with Kristin on Twitter to learn about the emerging practices being implemented in the B2B segment.