Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How B2B marketers can re-shape marketing strategies in line with the pandemic

By Chris Purcell, Product Strategist at Episerver 

Traditionally, the B2B buyer journey has been slow and linear, and tactics including in-person sales, phone calls and invoicing once led the way in this journey.

But the current pandemic means the landscape in which B2B marketers are operating has changed to a digital-first environment that some B2B marketers have prepared for better than others.

No organisation, role or budget is immune to the impact of COVID-19, particularly in how prospects and customers conduct business and interact with B2B brands. In light of cancelled conferences and events, slashed budgets and team reductions due to furloughing, marketers are scrambling to pivot in real-time.

Against the background of the current pandemic, B2B marketers need to adapt quickly. But  how can they ensure success both immediately and beyond the COVID-19 crisis?

Don’t change channels – change your message for maximum relevance

Now is not the right time to be spending budget on B2B marketing strategies that have yet to prove themselves effective. Many marketing departments are reluctantly having to make decisions about what to cut, and making those decisions with the filter of what existing strategies have already proven successful.

Stick with the channels that you know deliver results for the business, but ensure your messaging changes.

According to our recent survey of global B2B decision makers, paid social media is the marketing channel that reaches customers most effectively, but B2B marketers don’t have visibility over what a person is viewing when the social ad appears.

For example, if a person is reading on Twitter about how COVID-19 is having an impact on schools in their area, a promoted tweet to follow a business app is unlikely to resonate.

Remaining relevant is vital for all B2B marketing strategies, so it’s important to ensure every message and communication is hyper-timely and always in context to the wider business landscape. This can be done by pausing pre-scheduled campaigns, for example, to ensure they make sense for today’s environment.

Make the business case

While the likeliness of significant new investments at this time seem slim, many B2B organisations are actually accelerating their digital transformation efforts and investing in products and services that better serve the customer in today’s digital-first (and now digital-only) economy.

To make the business case for digital transformation, look at what B2B buyers expect and what brings in the highest return.

Personalisation, for example, can provide quick gains in reputation in revenue and satisfy the needs of today’s B2B buyer. In fact, nearly half (46%) of B2B leaders think they are getting a better experience when a B2B company personalises content based on their history, behaviours and personal information. Episerver’s data also reveals nearly all B2B leaders believe that personalising content on their website has increased their company’s revenue.

However, personalising the digital experience, along with understanding customers and content management are the top digital experience tactics that need the most improvement, according to our survey of B2B marketing decision makers — and these three factors are inextricably linked.

No company can truly provide a personalised digital experience without really understanding who their customer is or having the ability to deliver content that is relevant to them through their preferred channels.

While the adoption of AI-based personalisation is increasing, in this pandemic crisis organisations need a more instant fix to tailor campaigns. In this respect, lightly (but effectively) personalising their experience by looking at what customers are searching for on your site remains a key tactic.

While personalisation can go far beyond this to be more automated, individualised and real-time, creating content based on timely needs during this pandemic can be an ideal way to serve the majority of customers (or segments of customers) with a relevant experience.

In addition to personalisation, B2B buyers are turning to direct selling in order to change how they connect with customers during this time. In fact, nearly half of B2B leaders believe selling directly to customers online is the most significant opportunity for their business in the next year, and as such, we’ll see budgets in this area begin to increase. 

Pivot and support

The next few months will be a period that marketers will never forget. Plans made last year and even a month ago are at risk due to the current uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. Executives need every team to pivot to support customers in new ways, brought about by our new economic and cultural climate.

Being able to understand what’s already working, what customers really want and how best to support them should be the foundation of any current B2B marketing strategy, in order to stay afloat during these unprecedented times.