The pandemic has changed the face of B2B marketing. Getting the attention of remote employees has become more difficult, and as a result, offline channels such as direct mail and telemarketing have all but gone away. As the pandemic wanes, will these channels return, or will marketing as we know it be forever changed? What new challenges will you as a digital B2B marketer need to adapt to in this brave new world?
Let’s face it, COVID has changed every aspect of business as we know it, and digital marketing is no different. Direct mail — once a mainstay of B2B marketing — has gone the way of the dodo. While the mass migration to a work-from-home mentality has been a boon to companies like Zoom, it has led to an overflowing mountain of unread mail piling up in offices everywhere.
Cold telephone outreach is also in danger of becoming a relic of the past. Phones ring unanswered on empty desks in empty offices, and the calls that do get forwarded are viewed as more of an intrusion in the context of a home office!
It’s no wonder marketers are looking to the end of the pandemic with a mix of trepidation and anticipation.
The Bad News
There’s just no sugar-coating it: Most experts agree that the world will never go back to how it was pre-COVID. The “new normal” will focus on socially-distanced interactions and a reliance on technology. For B2B marketers, this means changing the way you engage across all stages of the buyer’s journey, from raising awareness and building interest to entering the consideration set, selling, and more.
The Good News
The King is dead, long live the King! In spite of the challenges facing marketers (or, more likely, because of them), the opportunity for marketing to make an impact is arguably greater now than ever. To succeed, B2B organizations need to change their marketing strategies to optimize engagement in a post-COVID world.
Below are some key elements to focus on for post-pandemic success.
Focus on the Customer
Not focusing on customers’ needs is probably the biggest mistake I see companies make. Customers don’t buy features, they buy solutions. Your job is to understand their business, their pain points and their drivers. Once you do this, then the customer becomes the focus of your story, not your products.
This allows you to personalize your message. What problems are you solving? What changes are you helping with? Communicating these elements casts your customer as the hero of your story, which is more likely to resonate with them and lead to engagement.
Focus on the Data
As companies begin to rely more on digital marketing, the raw volume of data to sift through is growing exponentially. In order to compete with a growing list of agile competitors, B2B marketers need to up their game significantly.
- Buyer intent data can super-charge the sales process by providing detailed information about what prospects are looking for so you can personalize your outreach efforts
- Email and advertising click and conversion data can help fine-tune your message and improve the ROI of your campaigns
- Social listening data is useful for understanding and crafting content that is meaningful to your audiences
Focus on Diversification
The pandemic has accelerated the need for B2B marketers to fully embrace digital pipelines. With direct mail, telemarketing and in-person events off the table, everything is happening online. Add to that the need for an average of 8 touches to engage a prospect, and you’ve got a recipe for an omnichannel strategy.
Focus on Content
According to Hubspot, the purpose of content marketing is to “create and share relevant written, downloadable, and visual media so your target audience can learn about your brand, expertise, and products or services.” I generally simplify the goals of content to attract, engage and educate potential customers.
While any given piece of content can service each goal independently, certain pieces of content will be highly specialized toward one goal or another and targeted toward a narrow band of the customer journey. By pre-determining the goal of the content as well as the stage in the buyer’s journey being served, you will have an easier time deciding who should get your content, when they should get it, how it should be consumed and next steps/follow-ups.
Despite its bad press, email still remains one of the most important and efficient ways to connect with customers and build lasting relationships. Why the bad press then? As Ben Parker once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In the wrong hands, email can feel more like a weapon than a tool.
Effective email marketing starts with an opt-in email list, and customer-focused segmentation. This will allow you to send targeted, relevant information to your prospects, increasing the likelihood of continued engagement and a lasting relationship.
2. Social Media
Billions of people engage with social media globally. Successful marketers are expanding their reach, boosting brand awareness, and promoting their products and services through these platforms, and you can do the same.
Be on the lookout to capitalize on new trends to stand out from the crowd. One such trend that I’m watching is LinkedIn conversational ads. These ads engage with the prospects and allow B2B Marketers to nurture the potential customer before generating the lead.
Given the dearth of opportunities for gaining a live audience with your prospects, B2B marketers are increasingly turning to webinars. When creating a topic for a webinar, remember that it should be customer-focused and needs to attract, engage and/or educate.
Which of these topics do you think would drive more attendance? “10 ways ABC is better than XYZ” or “10 ways to increase ROI in a week”. My money is on the latter.
Video marketing is an effective way to appeal to and convert your target audience. A recent survey shows that 83% of video marketers reported an increase in lead generation by utilizing video. Given the video capabilities on most smartphones today, the barrier to entry is extremely low, no matter your budget.
For marketers that have historically relied on traditional lead generation tactics, 2021 presents a great opportunity to try new tools and leverage new technology. By focusing on the above elements, you’ll gain a better understanding of your customer and create more engaging, higher-converting content and processes.
That drives higher-quality leads and additional sales, creating a win for both you and your customers.