We don’t have to tell you that 2020 will have changed pretty much everything from the way you think about social gatherings, to the way you get your groceries, to the way you think about teachers (your job is difficult!), right up to your managing your daily work life. Along with everything else that changed in 2020, B2B marketing has changed a lot!
In this blog we take a look at how our marketing for B2B companies has changed over the past year.
Strong shift to digital channels
As you know, everything was shut down to varying degrees in 2020 regardless of where you are. Conferences have been canceled, networking events have become virtual and many B2B companies have been strictly removed and no longer allowed visitors on site. With all of these changes, we’ve seen a massive shift from personal marketing channels to digital marketing channels.
Companies that were already using digital marketing channels relied on them even more. Companies that only occasionally used digital marketing suddenly embraced digital as a new way of marketing. Companies that have never done digital marketing have made an effort to be up and running online.
The great thing about digital marketing channels is that they work for all types of businesses and industries that B2B companies operate in. There may be some channels that work better than others, but digital marketing works. Why? Because you can meet your ideal prospect where they are looking for your products and services – online.
In 2020, many things were delayed or slowed down due to the pandemic. Shipping was slower, materials were scarce, factories kept having to shut down, etc. While we all experienced large logistical delays in products, services increased and we saw orders that were more timely.
How has this changed B2B marketing? Companies had to become more nimble, more flexible and more responsive. The time it takes to respond to a website lead or live chat request can really get you business. I know this sounds like the opposite of what you might have expected, but it’s true.
Why is that happend? With everything your prospects juggling these days (distance learning, babysitting, remote management of their internal teams, tasks they may have previously outsourced), they don’t have time to sit around waiting for an answer. They need answers quickly or they move on. Timely, responsive responses and marketing engagements are now essential.
Personalization is really important
One thing the pandemic taught us was not to put up with additional noise. All clutter – both digital and real – had to go. Because of this, you need to think about every communication or point of contact with a prospect. If you don’t make a unique connection or don’t speak to their requirements, they will likely ignore your message or delete it altogether.
There is also a psychological element here. Remember that many companies and their employees are completely removed, leaving little human contact. Hence, like an email newsletter or post, any contact needs to be humanized and create a connection. Just posting blogs on social media out of context will not connect with your audience. Whenever possible, communication should also be personalized and not automated.
For B2B marketing, this impacts many automations that marketers rely on. Instead of setting up automated lead nurturing, customer updates, or outbound campaigns, marketers need to switch and become very thoughtful and deliberate in all communications. The person you want to connect with today doesn’t have the same needs or environments as they did in 2019. Campaigns that have been personalized got a better response from the target audience.
In 2020, every single B2B marketer learned to be flexible. While it is good to have a strategy, it is better to have a flexible strategy or a nimble approach. The conference that you rely on year round for good leads may be virtual or poorly attended. Your biggest source of referral traffic can go out of business. The sales team may email you more frequently asking how you can generate more leads.
A flexible strategy with a variety of moving parts allows you to adjust and move the focus as needed. (I refuse to say PIVOT !!!). While you can’t plan the unexpected, you can certainly come up with a few alternative ideas. Now is a good time to test a strategy that may not have worked in the past but is now more applicable.
A good example is content marketing. We’ve found over the past year that when many businesses are largely remote, business professionals (SMBs) have more time to blog. We even found that former SMBs who were reluctant to get involved in content creation are now big advocates! Amazing.
Less Polish, more connections
Let’s face the facts. Even if you read this on your work computer at 1:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, there is a 90% chance that you are wearing pajama bottoms. They can even be your “work PJs” that you put on when you get out of bed because you want to feel completed as you move. Even if you’re wearing real jeans, khakis, or even a suit while reading, you have to admit that 2020 helped us all become more real.
We’ve all seen a shirtless toddler walking past a person presenting a pitch, or a cat jumping on a desk during a company meeting, or even an employee who refuses to record a video because it’s a burden -Minute meeting and they haven’t brushed their hair yet. Yes, some of these may be extreme and fall by the wayside as we settle in, but the truth is that none of us expect our suppliers, customers or employees to be 100% professional in their behavior.
After all of last year, many people are okay with less polish and a more humane connection. In fact, many prefer bonding to polishing. Yes, it’s great to see a nicely designed digital ad or newsletter banner, but it’s nicer to read something that we believe personally resonates with us and our daily struggle. This does not mean that professionalism is gone, just that it is time to “get real”. People want to bond with you and your brand. Creating real connections is critical to future B2B marketing.
This is our perspective on how B2B marketing has changed after the whirlwind of 2020.