For obvious reasons, 2020 will always be remembered as a defining time in human history. Beyond its impacts on our personal lives, this year may also be remembered by those of us in B2B sales and marketing as the division of two eras; grouping our tactics and priorities into those we used pre-COVID-19, and those we use now. For better or for worse, this is the year B2B marketing changed for good, and here are the three keys to better B2B marketing in a post-COVID world.
1. Accept that this is our new sales and marketing reality
As we’re all aware, in-person selling and marketing has been necessarily replaced by remote methods. And despite early dire predictions, these remote methods are increasingly seen as effective. According to a May 2020 survey of B2B decision makers by McKinsey, 65% believe the new [remote selling] model is just as effective or more than before (up from 60% in early April). Furthermore, the same survey found these changes are expected to stick around: 32% are “very likely” to sustain these shifts 12+ months after COVID-19 and another 47% are “somewhat likely” to do so. In fact, Forrester forecasts that in the long term, 80% or more of the sales cycle will happen in digital/remote settings.
2. Offer solution-oriented, personalized content that reflects buyers’ specific needs
As remote selling and marketing methods evolve from temporary measures to the new normal, buyer expectations are evolving with them. B2B buyers must now rely entirely on digital channels and resources to make purchasing decisions. Savvy marketers have been quick to beef up their digital assets and increase spend in online channels – but being digitally available simply isn’t enough: the lack of interpersonal interactions has created a social void, leaving buyers (like the rest of us) yearning for human connection.
Buyers don’t want to feel like a “target”, they want to trust the salespeople they do business with: according to the LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020, just 40% of decision makers describe the sales profession as “trustworthy.” However, 88% of buyers agree the salespeople they ultimately do business with are “trusted advisors.” Now more than ever, B2B marketers must help our sales colleagues to build trust with highly personalized content and communications.
3. Get on board with marketing automation
As the majority of B2B marketing is pushed into the digital realm, marketing teams built to support a more traditional mix will find it difficult to keep up with the demands of an all-digital program without the right tools. This will be felt most acutely in industries such as manufacturing, where marketing budgets tend to fall below average and speed of adoption of new marketing technologies typically lags other industries. But with all customer interactions now digital, even traditional marketing organizations will find immense value in tools that give them greater access to customer behavior insights, in-depth performance metrics, and automation capabilities to lighten the load. Now is the time to evaluate your website, CRM, email, and social media programs and look for opportunities to streamline, integrate and automate.