Post-pandemic B2B marketing – where to focus your investment
Choosing your post-COVID strategy.
B2B marketing has been turned on its head as a result of the pandemic, just like many other aspects of life. Now the world is slowly opening up, how will you balance a return to face-to-face with the digital strategies you’ve developed?
What has changed since lockdowns became the new normal?
Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Obviously, we have largely been unable to meet anyone or travel. That has meant no sales meetings, events, exhibitions, live launches, demonstrations, sponsorship, outside advertising and everything you would usually do face-to-face, while people are moving around or at an event.
But for most B2B brands what has not changed is the basic purpose of marketing – changing how people feel – and doing this by understanding our market/audience, creating our message, choosing the right channels and using the relevant media.
So the impact on much B2B marketing has meant using different channels, or maybe using channels differently is a better way to say it. Not being able to meet with people or engage live has meant focusing more on the channels and media we can use.
However, it is more than just doing stuff online that we used to do face-to-face. We’ve had to change objective setting and KPIs, rethink our audience as many have been on furlough/pandemic-related leave, how we shape our message because you cannot email something in the same way you would say it, and learn new skills to properly understand and exploit non-face-to-face channels and media.
Most of us were using digital marketing of some description already, even if that was only a basic brochure-style website. Replacing a salesforce, an exhibition, live product launches and so on with new digital infrastructure in days and weeks (for some) has meant a range of good and less good decisions and a huge range of outcomes.
How has digital-only affected our efficacy and return on investment?
This blog should have ‘part 1’ in its title, because we will need to revisit this topic again and again, specifically when we have more data about the impact of the solutions we have all used during the last 15 months to replace face-to-face.
Then again when we have changed strategy in the light of what the data has told us. Then again when the world has opened up properly and some brands have mostly returned to what they did before.
So, here are three lessons so far from the Delphi and anecdotal evidence we have received:
1. Content marketing for lead generation is still highly effective. The pandemic has caused some brands to choose this strategy for the first time, and none of them would ever go back. This is not a purely pandemic-related example, but one brand we work with has let its salesforce go because the marketing qualified leads generated via marketing automation are such high quality.
2. Digital product launches are effective…up to a point. You can engage with so many more stakeholders via a digital launch than you can with a live event. That has always been the case, of course, for those B2B brands who recognised the fact. But many more B2B brands widened the invite list beyond the media and close stakeholders and have been pleasantly surprised by the extended engagement. But there is a substantial element of every audience for who the live, face-to-face, smell the fumes and networking experience cannot be replaced. How do we digitally engage with this audience if we ever can?
3. Webinars can replace conference presentations and exhibition seminars, as learning and information exchange opportunities. But they cannot replace the added-value conversations and resulting creativity that happens during post-presentation. You cannot chat with the complete stranger sat next to you in the auditorium, who turns out to be the answer to all your problems, who shares your challenges and so becomes part of your solution, especially if you adjourn to the conference cafeteria or bar afterwards (and becomes a lifelong friend!).
What is missing from digital versus face-to-face?
It seems the common threads missing are spontaneous networking, information sharing, creativity and innovation. It seems that the essentially manufactured and highly structured digital context so far cannot always replace the messy, unpredictable yet incredibly powerful physical meeting of minds.
This blog is in itself an unstructured analysis and currently lacking quantitative data, but we are seeing these themes again and again. So, to find out what happens next, make sure you follow Copestone’s LinkedIn page and our updates.
And if you would like to meet face-to-face or digitally and discuss how we can support you to overcome your marketing challenges and meet your business and marketing objectives, simply contact us.