Many are ready to classify 2020 as an “annus horribilis” and to pretend it never happened. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to announce that it was a banner year. There are many things that should go (like saying you were muted a dozen times a day), but the events of 2020 sparked some positive B2B marketing practices that should definitely stick around. Here are a few that top my list:
- A new way of leadership. The events of this year have fundamentally changed the way in which all leaders act and lead. They made it acceptable for their team leaders to be comfortable saying the words “I don’t know,” and they have shown their humanity and were more willing to listen. This change supports the culture of experimentation that ultimately drives innovation, and that is something essential to marketing that should definitely be kept.
- Elasticity. Marketing directors had to turn quickly to reformulate their plans to manage change, rethink initial decisions, and see them through the lens of a changing environment. Resilience is a skill; it’s not something that happens on its own. Companies had to take steps to build their “resilience muscle”. The marketer should keep training this muscle.
- A new planning routine. This year’s climate called for market shifts to be taken into account and a perspective on what has worked and what has not worked for other organizations. 2020 made it impossible to simply fall back on last year’s tactics, so B2B marketers are finally getting off the tactics treadmill. Don’t fall back on old routines – incorporate the same careful assessment into your standard planning processes.
- A culture of experimentation. Once just a goal for many B2B companies, the creation of a culture of experimentation has gained momentum in 2020. The events of the year have forced marketers to embrace the unknown and become more innovative. To innovate successfully, companies had to make experimentation an integral part of everyday life – and that’s a good thing.
- The art of prioritization. Companies had to reassess their target industries. Those targeting the hardest-hit industries like travel and transportation have been forced to rethink and re-prioritize their market segments. This required collecting data and insights to determine which segments will do well in the years to come. This practice should continue. Marketers must continue to play a critical role in finding and identifying new growth opportunities for the company.
- A stronger focus on customer loyalty. This year, marketers became more aware that what their organizations were doing today could affect how customers would support them when the market recovered. That meant understanding what their customers needed now and identifying what their organization was uniquely positioned to do.
- Identifying transferable skills. No live events? What now? The inability to continue planned personal events sparked more than just tactical changes. This led marketing directors to consider how to leverage their live event-focused resources. They found ways to transfer skills such as project management, negotiation and problem solving to other marketing disciplines. This is a great example of an adaptive marketing organization, and adaptability will continue to be as critical to success going forward as it is today.
- Crisis preparedness. Before the global health crisis, Forrester’s research showed that 50% of B2B organizations did not feel they had an adequate crisis communication plan in place. Many had no plan at all. Now they do, and these plans should remain. In fact, marketing managers should evaluate the relevance of the plan scenarios in the new context every year and make the necessary adjustments so they don’t get caught off guard again.
This post was written by VP and Research Director Jennifer Ross and originally appeared here.