Changes in B2B marketing and sales due to COVID-19

With a pandemic around us, we see everything shifting. Sectors, like health and medical research, which have become more valuable. While other sectors are slowly disappearing, think of the catering and travel sector. And, what does COVID-19 mean for business services? How are we going to adapt to the “new normal”? And what exactly is this “new normal”?

What will we, B2B marketers, do differently tomorrow and the day after?

I delved into a few studies into the changes and the impact on B2B sales and marketing and came to 3 conclusions:

  1. Invest in research into customer needs right now. As a B2B company, this will help you respond better to improving the customer experience.
  2. Invest in your marketing and sales because others are no longer doing it.
  3. Implement account-based marketing to work on your long-term customer relationship.

Digital: there is no turning back

To start with, I looked at an extensive McKinsey survey of B2B businesses in 11 countries, 7 sectors and 14 spending categories. The three primary shifts they found:

Spending: In general, we see that spending is going down. At the same time, many companies continue to spend at the same- or at a higher level.

Digital: Looking towards the future, B2B companies see that their customers see digital interactions as increasingly important.

Remote: Nearly 90 percent of sales has shifted to an online model (video conferencing/phone/web), and more than half of sales professionals believe this way of selling is at least as, if not more, effective than traditional ( face-to-face) models.

Digital interactions McKinsey and Company

Shift to digital

The shift to digital is nothing new and has been a part of consumer behaviour for a while. In the search for products, consumers prefer to search digitally, via mobile apps and social media or online communities. Meanwhile, in B2B, business buyers are no longer satisfied with worse customer experiences than as a consumer, according to McKinsey:

“Results in our 2019 survey showed that those suppliers who provide outstanding digital experiences to their buyers are more than twice as likely to be chosen as a primary supplier than those who provide poor experiences, and about 70 percent more likely than those providing only fair ones. Within that context, we found that “getting it right” means delivering on the three things buyers value most: speed, transparency, and expertise.”

Conclusion 1: Invest in research into your customers and their needs right now

To properly serve the customer ‘remotely’, we need even better insight into the needs of that customer. A customer journey survey would be an excellent investment to map out that customer need.

The impact of COVID-19 on website visits

Search engine guru Neil Patel examines the effect of Corona on marketing and businesses based on web visit figures. We see a decline in organic searches in most industries worldwide. You can see that in Finance, Food, Healthcare and Media, the figures skyrocketed.

Traffic growth or decline due to Covid-19

In the same study, Patel saw that conversion rates were declining in almost all industries. The most important conclusion and tip from Patel is to make use of the recession that is to come, by seizing opportunities right now, if possible. Patel calls it “double down”:

“When you see your competitors closing down or slowing down on their marketing, the goal is to double down. You may not see the biggest return right away, but in the long term, you will.”

Conclusion 2: Invest in your marketing and sales because others are no longer doing it.

Account-based marketing

We often envy companies that successfully roll out an account-based approach . They all focus on specific target accounts, customer or potential customer. In a joint marketing and sales approach, they work on impact and engagement with the customer. Why is an ABM approach even more valuable now during the COVID-19 crisis?

  1. Sales and marketing are forced to work together, which creates synergies so that, by definition, you come out stronger.
  2. You create appreciation with the customer whether you focus on buyer enablement or customer loyalty. In both cases, it is your choice to help your buyer or your customer.
  3. You think more about consciously choosing the right content that you can offer your customer or buyer, and you take the time to personalize this as much as possible.

With ABM, you embrace every aspect of a long-term customer relationship. By expanding your network with your existing customers or your target accounts, you strengthen your relationship with them. In the long run, this will pay off in an “upsell” or a reference to another customer.

Conclusion 3: Investing in loyal customer relationships with account-based marketing, especially in times of crisis, is essential and certainly pays for itself.

I hope these insights give you some handles for the “new normal” and help you set priorities.

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