Did the Pandemic Make You a Better B2B Marketer?
Ask Yourself These 5 Questions
By Renee Yeager
Over the past year, marketers have been tested. The pandemic challenged us to innovate out of necessity and rethink how we deliver value to our employers and customers. It also forced some serious introspection and choices about how we do things, why we do them, and if it matters. We asked 30 B2B marketing leaders to tell us how they changed their marketing during the pandemic. Here’s what they said improved:
Did You Change How You Talk to Customers?
Many B2B companies changed their messaging in the past year. Initially, uncertainty and compassion may have sparked the change with many companies dealing with layoffs and unknown futures. And while there is truth to that, the feedback we received indicated something different. Many companies not only changed what they said, but how they said it.
What Got Better: Empathy and compassion in messaging is always a good idea, but the pandemic pushed many companies to embrace this. They thoughtfully adjusted their voice to be more friendly and relatable — more human, less business. As much as this is appealing during a pandemic, the reality is that a new generation of buyers are looking for brands to communicate like people, not corporations.
Did You Uplevel Your Content?
The pandemic forced a priority on retaining customers. In the early months, when buying patterns and sales were very uncertain, engagement became the way to retain audiences. Over 60% of the B2B marketers we surveyed increased their thought leadership content production with an eye on adding value and educating vs. selling.
What Got Better: In addition to delivering more educational value to customers, companies also reimagined their content and delivered it with an eye on more immersive experiences including creative video treatments, podcasts, and interactive digital experiences.
Did you Rethink Social Media?
The pullback on travel and in person meetings also pushed companies to rethink and increase their communication effort. Opportunities to connect and engage on social media increased as usage grew dramatically over the past year — as much as 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels¹. B2B companies relied on LinkedIn which had record levels of growth and engagement throughout 2020.
What Got Better: Companies got creative on social media and worked to truly engage with their audiences as well as humanize their brands. Posts about employee and team successes, supported causes, and company culture during this time were promoted on company pages as well as from executives. Company leaders shared unique perspectives and creative ideas to encourage interaction from followers. According to McKinsey², between 70-80% of B2B buyers now prefer remote human interaction and digital engagement vs. in-person meetings and they don’t plan on going back.
Did You Reimagine Events?
While we couldn’t attend annual live conferences or hold in-person customer summits or training sessions, B2B marketers reimagined how they could create impactful online events. From multi-day online conferences with on-demand viewing to more intimate happy hours or specialty events such as cooking classes or concerts with celebrities, we innovated. The result was a year of high-value and joyful experiences that showcased our brands in a new light and created a different kind of customer experience.
What Got Better: Many trade shows were run for shorter sessions over multiple days and offered on-demand viewing, giving attendees the opportunity to consume the content at their own pace and schedule. Online events also opened up attendance to more people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. Now that we’ve begun to explore the possibilities, marketers will likely look to continue to incorporate interactive digital elements when live events return to enhance the overall value, accessibility, and experience of events.
Did You Spend Your Budget More Wisely?
While not all industries were severely impacted during the pandemic, of the B2B marketers we surveyed, most had budgets cut or put on hold at one point in the last year. To extend available budgets, marketers rethought how best to use available funds on tighter, more targeted efforts. As spend shifted to digital, companies prioritized customer retention and prospecting to specific customer segments with high-value content and offers that were relevant to them now.
What Got Better: Big, high-cost digital campaigns built for brand awareness and web traffic were frequently tabled in the last year. Instead, they focused on account efforts that looked to create deeper engagement quickly and accelerate time to revenue. According to Gartner’s 2020 CMO Spend Survey³, 63% of teams indicated their account-based program either became more important or absolutely critical to their business goals during the pandemic.
What’s the Impact Going Forward?
The pandemic gave us an ultimatum as marketers. It forced us to focus our efforts to create a meaningful impact and enhance how we do things to deliver greater value. In the last year we adapted to a new environment and explored innovative ways of doing things, tested our ideas, and learned as we went. Pushed outside our comfort zones, marketers got better and B2B marketing will likely be better going forward as a result.