In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, change has become the constant, as the way we work, plan, and respond to our new reality remains top of mind. This mindset continues to deeply impact how businesses and customers engage and conduct business.
B2B Customer Behavior Continues To Shiftperson holding smartphonePhoto by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash
"B2B customers are increasingly relying on rich content and highly personalized online engagement to guide their purchase decisions. This rapid shift in behavior—accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis—has made it more challenging and complicated than ever for B2B companies to generate demand and manage leads effectively and efficiently." —Basir Mustaghni, Managing Director & Partner, Marketing, Sales & Pricing, BCG*
The Challenge For B2B Marketersperson using laptopPhoto by John Schnobrich on Unsplash
And yet, the main challenge for B2B marketers is evergreen: effectively communicating value to a target audience. Our "new normal" makes this problem complex, especially for B2B marketers.
Marketing communications, regardless of the product, services, or brand, is based on the fundamentals of knowing the offer and the audience. It's about navigating a relationship built on a continual understanding of the 5Ws (who, what, where, when, why, and how) of the target market.
During COVID-19, B2B businesses significantly changed. No longer can B2Bs rely on in-person engagements as the primary channel of contact. Plus, changes in products and services offered have soared on both the supplier and buyer side of the equation. B2B marketers have been set adrift with the rules of engagement no longer anchored to past practices and plans. Marketing playbooks, complete with messaging stack, content plans, and multi-tiered tactics, must stay in sync with business priorities and the customer's new reality.
The Solution For Marketers Is Back-To-Basics
Here are 6 basics trending:
Sync with people to understand their shifting day-to-day and short-term needs. Update personas with sales and service teams. Deploy rapid VOC surveys and polls. Most importantly, tune into responses on community and service channels to gain insight.
Impart empathy and transparency to set an ongoing supportive tone. Focus on their current needs, not features. Be transparent about product or service changes. Keep messages current and relatable; fatigue due to constant change is real.
Meet people where they are: online. Digital marketing leads marketing efforts with asset views up 40% since last March. Email, web, and social channels are top delivery channels with virtual events replacing in-person meetings and conferences.
Pace and prioritize communications to the tempo of doing business currently. Response rates and decision-making has slowed, while support and industry insights requests have sped up as people manage change and new demands.
Leverage each engagement by providing information of value and clear next steps (CTAs). Customize content for each stage of a buying stakeholder's journey. B2B marketers are focused on digital content for the early and late stages of the engagement funnel.
Explore legacy content and reformat content types adapted for the most active channels. Turn an industry article into "Executive Update" blog series. B2B audiences are viewing eBooks, webinars, videos, and reports the most. Podcasting is no longer an emerging channel, it's established…along with other types of audio content.
Leverage "Simple" When Shifting Course
"Instead of one plan, B2B marketing leaders will need to consider alternate scenarios and continuously reevaluate conditions to know when to shift course." —Jennifer Ross, VP, Research Director, Marketing Executive Services at Forrester.*
When change is the constant, B2B marketers must rethink the tone, timing, and tactics of brand and marketing communications content continually… and leverage the power of simple, back-to-basics strategies.
Are you leveraging the concept of "simple" in your B2B brand and marketing communications plans?
Forrester, How B2B Marketing Leaders Can Plan For The Unpredictable
BCG, Building Bionic Capabilities for B2B Marketing