When Covid-19 first became a worldwide crisis, businesses became reactionary. The focus was on keeping staff and current customers safe, so marketing and sales took a much-needed backseat. But it’s now clear that there won’t be a return to the old normal, and if B2B businesses can’t pivot their marketing strategies to adapt to the new normal, they risk going under.
But shifting your marketing budget and focus with no clear idea of what the future will look like can seem like an impossible task. How can B2Bs evolve to their customer’s new needs and what step can they take to make sure they stay relevant now and in the future post-pandemic?
In this post, you’ll learn all you need to know to navigate the new landscape of B2B marketing campaigns and how Covid-19 has brought about lasting changes.
How COVID-19 Impacted Industries Around the World
With over a year spent in a global pandemic, research is beginning to highlight the lasting impact on B2B businesses.
According to McKinsey & Company, over three-quarters of buyers now prefer digital self-service and online purchasing over in-person interactions. This was already a steadily growing trend but has now intensified due to Covid-19 worries.
When it comes to B2B businesses, Covid-19 has been somewhat of a double-edged sword. On one hand, customers are looking for more robust online tools for ordering and only 20% of B2B buyers report wanting to go back to in-person sales.
However, buyer behavior online has also changed for the better. B2B buyers are now more comfortable placing large orders online, with over 70% of buyers saying they are open to making new, remote purchases over $50,000. What’s more, around 27% would spend more than $500,000.
This opens up brand new opportunities for B2B businesses to grow their business during the pandemic and breach whole new markets.
The Biggest Challenges B2B Businesses Face
That’s not to say that B2Bs aren’t facing considerable challenges in the new climate. Let’s look at the most common issues and the possible solutions moving forward.
Challenge 1: Changing Purchasing Behavior
Specific industries are faring much better in lockdown than others. Companies in the medical, hygiene, and produce sectors are experiencing spikes in demand. Whereas luxury brands, the travel and hospitality industry face unprecedented lows in purchases.
Whatever sector your B2B business is in, you’re likely facing the challenge of changes in purchasing behavior, meaning selling strategies need to evolve.
The solution: B2B businesses are discovering the importance of personalization and ease of purchasing when maintaining growth post-pandemic. Using marketing automation tools to gain leads that can personalize your approach to keep current customers engaged while optimizing the marketing process is vital.
Challenge 2: Flexible Shipping and Returns
Even before Covid-19 brought in global restrictions, around 60% of customers said they would switch brands if they had better delivery and return options.
Now B2B customers cannot visit physical stores, they are looking for ultra-fast shipping and an easy return process to make their shopping experience more streamlined. With giants like Amazon offering same-day delivery, B2B businesses can’t afford to fall behind on this demand.
The solution: Although many B2Bs are still experiencing supply chain issues, now is the time to invest in optimizing the shipping and return process. Be transparent with stock levels, shipping timelines, and make the returns process as easy as possible.
Challenge 3: Multi-Channel Optimization
With your target audience spending more time online than ever before, B2B businesses face the growing challenge of diversifying their platforms to meet customer needs.
From optimizing multiple digital marketing channels to reach more B2B buyers, to improving the buying process for various platforms and devices, there is a need to monitor more channels to reach a broader base of B2B customers.
The solution: Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is key for multi-channel optimization. This allows you to combine inventory data, customer base data, invoices and more, making it easier to diversify marketing and selling channels.
B2B Companies That Thrived During COVID-19
Almost a quarter of all businesses closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and many of those may never reopen. Many B2B businesses failed to survive the lockdown restrictions simply because marketing and sales tactics that worked before the pandemic aren’t effective anymore.
But that’s not to say all companies experienced a slump because of lockdown restrictions. In fact, many thrived because they quickly and effectively pivoted their priorities in response to the new business landscape.
The most significant factor that helped businesses survive this uncertain time is emphasizing targeted lead generation with a personal approach. Understanding clients’ new needs and offering solutions in uncertain times meant many business models thrived.
How B2B Marketers Can Adapt During the Coronavirus Crisis
Move Your Audience Online
Even as we move into a global Covid vaccine rollout, it’s still unsafe for customers to visit brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, the current lockdown restrictions may be the final nail in the coffin of retail stores.
Now is the time for business leaders to future-proof their business strategy and move existing customers firmly online. This means optimizing your online store, creating accounts for current customers, and ensuring the process of ordering and reordering online is as smooth as in-person processes.
Offer Additional Services
Many businesses are struggling to stay above water because of Covid-19. So B2B business owners can offer value by giving the option of personal services.
This might be as simple as offering B2B customers in worst-affected areas a discount on their regular orders or a bonus benefit such as free delivery.
Can you offer additional hygiene or health products alongside your regular offers? This is another popular way many companies have pivoted, especially in parallel industries such as hospitality.
Automate Warm Lead Generation
Online lead generation can feel overwhelming, especially if you are new to online marketing strategies. But marketing automation tools take all the guesswork out of the process, allowing you to focus on nurturing customer relationships while dozens – even hundreds of – of warm leads come in every single month.
One of the best platforms to get started with as a B2B business is Zopto. This works with LinkedIn Premium to bring in a qualified audience on autopilot.
Businesses that take advantage of automated lead generation software like Zopto have a much better chance of surviving through lockdown restrictions and can actually experience growth while competitors close their doors.
Step by Step: How to Grow Your Business During the Pandemic as a B2B Business
Refresh Your Website
Before you take any steps to allocate your marketing budget, make sure your website is optimized for conversions. Your customer base is looking for a streamlined experience so invest in clearer navigation, better features, and a clean design.
Test the buying process on your website to make sure it’s as simple as possible wherever potential customers land first.
Focus on Account-Based-Marketing
If your B2B business model relied heavily on face-to-face meetings pre-pandemic, it’s time to pivot to account-based marketing. Your customers should feel just as important even though in-person B2B marketing strategies aren’t an option.
Invest in better online meeting software and ensure your sales team focuses on personalized marketing when acquiring leads online. This top end of your funnel needs to be as smooth online as it was offline.
Implement Video Marketing
Video was already one of the most effective marketing tools before Covid-19. But it’s now grown in popularity considerably.
Not only does it give a better level of interaction, but it also gives potential customers an insight into your business that isn’t possible now during lockdown restrictions.
If you are a business leader and don’t already use video as a marketing tool, now is the time.
This might involve showing customers your product creation process, shooting video testimonials from previous clients, or even video bios for staff.
Upgrade Your Social Media
Social media is often seen as king in marketing for B2C businesses. But it’s equally important for B2Bs. When potential customers contemplate purchasing, they will head to your social channels looking for recommendations, updates, and interactions.
If your social channels are stale with few updates or incorrect information, you’re going to lose leads.
During lockdown, long-term social media B2B marketing strategies should be high priority.
Don’t Lose Sight of SEO
Although a solid social media strategy is vital for any business, SEO is king when it comes to B2B marketing campaigns. If you’re not showing up on the first page of Google searches, customers aren’t going to know what you offer.
There are no shortcuts or hacks to creating an SEO strategy. Your site and content should all be optimized for visitors, engaging, and offer value. This is a long-term commitment that will bring in customers well into the future of the covid pandemic.
What the Future Holds
The million-dollar question all B2B businesses want to know is whether the current changes needed in the face of Covid-19 will be permanent. No company wants to invest in significant changes without knowing that they will be effective in the long-term.
Although it’s still not clear what the future holds for B2B marketing campaigns and sales, it’s safe to say that there will never be a full return to the “normal” of pre-pandemic.
Business strategy has changed irreversibly and the B2B companies that thrive through this evolution are those that are willing to invest in significant changes to keep up.
Digitizing your business is one way of gaining more competitive advantage than your competitors. If you’re not sure where to begin, take a look at Zopto’s features and see how you can start bringing in warm leads instantly.