COVID-19 had a major impact on the global business landscape. Almost overnight, thousands of businesses had to adapt and adjust the way that they operate. This article will explore four ways that COVID-19 has changed B2B marketing.
I’ll discuss some of the short-term impacts of the pandemic on businesses. I’ll also explore the ways that COVID-19 has sped up or altered the way marketing departments will operate in the coming years.
1. Customer touchpoints have changed
The ways customers interact with your brand have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital channels such as social media and search engine results pages have become increasingly important for businesses. That trend is reflected in the increased interest in digital marketing.
Many companies were forced to make an immediate transition to digital marketing to survive—for example, Mission Linen Supply. The company provides tablecloths and linen to restaurants.
The company was forced to make a major pivot to online marketing after the COVID-19 outbreak. A few weeks after the pandemic hit, it launched an ecommerce platform to help its customers make their orders online instead.
Source: Mission Linen Supply
Thousands of companies have had to make a similar transition. The change has forced people to develop new skill sets. Companies have been forced to master digital marketing channels or hire people with experience in digital marketing.
That shift in the way businesses approach marketing could be permanent. As economies slowly pick up, expect increased competition across digital channels as marketers funnel more money into various forms of online advertising.
A secondary shift we’ve seen in B2B marketing is a preference for online communication.
According to McKinsey, most B2B buyers prefer digital channels as a point of contact between them and their prospective suppliers/partners (i.e., you). That trend is unlikely to change.
Online marketing should be a key and growing channel for your business. After all, according to Dialogtech, 90 percent of B2B customers start their consumer journey with a search. B2B consumers like to compare and analyze products to get the best possible value.
So, pay attention to your social media accounts and digital marketing. Make sure you provide up-to-date information. Don’t forget about your website either. If your website loads slowly, it’s time to choose another web hosting service that delivers.
2. Virtual relationships are more important
One of the immediate outcomes of COVID-19 was a shift to the digital office and a reduction in business travel. Companies like Zoom, which were big but niche, suddenly became household names. The share price for Zoom saw a corresponding jump as demand for their services increased.
B2B marketing is now heavily reliant on virtual relationships. Overnight, consumers became less welcoming of person-to-person interactions. That had an impact on companies that relied on marketing events and face-to-face meetings with customers.
Savvy marketers have taken advantage of this shift. As a company, you should provide top-notch customer support through live chat. Explore email prospecting as a sales and marketing channel. If you are involved in sales, you should develop a digital marketing toolbox. Utilize social media, email marketing, and paid ads to drive leads. Use video calls to close contracts.
3. Remote work is increasingly accepted
The COVID-19 outbreak led to a shift to remote work for many marketing departments. That was a major change for many companies. The transition to remote work often accompanies other changes in the way businesses operated. For example, many people have experienced a shift to more flexible work hours.
Remote work provides companies with the freedom to hire people from a wider geographical area. It’s a change that has undoubtedly impacted the hiring practices of marketing departments and their employees. It’s also impacted the way businesses manage their marketing operations.
COVID-19 has probably sped up the shift towards a remote working environment for many companies. It’s unclear what will happen when the pandemic ends. Yet, there’s a strong likelihood that remote work will become an option for a larger percentage of the workforce.
4. Companies that adapted have prospered
These are emotionally tense times, and every news event, geopolitical development, or brand communication is assessed against a backdrop of the ongoing pandemic. For a B2B marketing campaign to be a success, creative professionals have had to consider the context and develop campaigns that connect with their audience.
Healthcare Source, which offers talent management and services to hospitals, understands this.
Source: Healthcare Source
At the start of the pandemic, much of the content on its blog began to center on how to help medical institutions hire medical workers in a time of crisis. Healthcare Source even organized a webinar with the same objective:
Source: Healthcare Source
Your campaigns have to stay on the cutting edge. B2B consumers want campaigns attuned to the times, not campaigns that ignore the stark reality.
COVID-19 has changed the way thousands of businesses operate. Almost overnight, companies were forced to develop or grow their digital presence if they were to survive. That shift led to an increased interest in digital marketing and reliance on various online tools to connect with leads and develop relationships with potential customers.
Coming out of the pandemic, some businesses will attempt to pivot back to offline marketing. That’s fine, offline marketing is effective. However, the importance of a digital presence is unlikely to diminish. Equally, we’re likely to see a huge drop off in business travel as companies reassess the value of face-to-face meetings for every interaction.