How is COVID-19 changing B2B marketing?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world in almost every aspect and global marketing trends were not an exception. If in 2020 marketers had to find a way to quickly adapt to our changing realities, 2021 tested how sustainable our methods were. Now 15 months later we know which changes are here to stay — here’s how the pandemic changed B2B marketing forever:

If it’s not online, it doesn’t exist.

The pandemic saw a huge shift in focus on the online and digital space. Locked inside our homes, with no possibility to experience physical “real-world” marketing, we focused our attention on the online world. As a result, now everything important that needs to happen seems to be happening online.

Digital now is an essential part of doing any business. Companies that had no digital presence or activity had to quickly adapt and make room for a new kind of marketing. According to McKinsey statistics, businesses that provide an outstanding digital experience are 2x more likely to be chosen.

This is not a new trend — digitisation has been at the forefront of many companies, but the pandemic definitely accelerated the shift.

As employers realise that remote working can be just as effective as office work, there has been a big shift in favour of remote selling. 96% of B2B teams have shifted fully or partially to remote selling and have thrived.

Strong online presence, digitisation of marketing processes, direct outreach and ads — all these are an integral part of your marketing strategy in 2021 and beyond.

Customer should be the centre of your universe.

You probably knew this already, but COVID-19 has highlighted that even more.

In the ever-changing world of digital selling, customers expect you to offer exactly what they want. You are not just competing with other players on the market — but also with the last experience your customers had.

That’s why it’s crucial that all your marketing and sales strategies center around the customer and their needs — otherwise you might even get their attention.

Value-based selling and putting your buyer at the centre of your selling strategy is the hot new trend you should get behind on.

Instead of trying to make a sale, focus on bringing value to a potential client without expecting anything in return (even though we know that most businesses work to make revenue). That does not mean providing your product or service for free. Rather, it is framing the sale as collaboration or partnership, designed to be mutually beneficial.

A good rule is to start segmenting your target audience to get to know your customer better. These days clients expect high personalisation — even if it comes at the expense of their digital privacy.

So, give the people what they want — personalise your marketing funnel, map out the customer journey around them and start building authentic partnerships.

Authentic relationships are everything.

Today’s customers are not looking for an easy fix but a long-term sustainable, mutually beneficial partnership.

COVID-19 has placed a new emphasis on relationships, particularly in B2B sales. Faced with a virtual sales environment, teams with existing relationships have been able to maintain revenue momentum, capitalizing on the strength of their prior bonds. In contrast, prospecting for new customers has required an evolved set of skills focused on selling solutions, not products.

It is the trust that drives momentum for B2B sales. Trust will be built by and rewarded to those that listen to customer needs and then craft solutions to meet those needs.

Creating trust and building long-term genuine relationships with prospects will continue to be a priority in 2021.

Analyse, adapt, agile.

Those are not just empty marketing words any more. The pandemic has shown us that agility in modern marketing is key.

As the crisis unfolded, a company could quickly find its message was wrong or its supply chain not in a position to deliver, which immediately led to a crisis.

Imagine a commercial showing people clustered together not demonstrating social distancing, for example. Suddenly, long-lead time creative processes and annual budget cycles felt anachronistic while all the traditional approval dynamics became constraining.

Seeing and adapting to sudden changes should be the norm that all marketers aspire to.

Agility must be permanent. Doing things the sale old way just because it’s always worked isn’t cutting it anymore — in a world with rapidly changing trends, technologies and sudden global crises you should always be open to new and creative solutions.

Technology is crucial.

We’ve always known that, but just as with many trends, the pandemic has merely accelerated its coming.

To thrive in 2021 and beyond, B2B sellers will need the right enablement tools to enhance their productivity and engage with prospects and customers in more meaningful ways.

For example, 61% of overperforming leaders use their CRM to automate parts of their sales process, vs. 46% of underperforming leaders. By automating parts of their sales process, sales leaders free up time to focus on selling.

Digital transformation does not only refer to automation tools and CRMs, but also approaches to sales strategies. 65% of sales leaders stated that a dedicated sales enablement team is critical to the success of an organisation.

Along with the continuously changing conditions and state of the world, sales representatives must minimise time spent on admin and maximise focus on revenue-generating activities. So it’s time to choose your technology wisely.

Bottom line

The pandemic is far from over just yet, but the trends it generated are clear. 79% of marketers say that the changes they made are likely to stay in the next 12 months post-COVID. However, nobody knows what other curveballs the future will bring next, but being able to adapt, choose the right tech and genuinely focusing on helping your clients and the world are the themes which we believe will stay on.