• Buyer behaviour is changing and businesses need to adapt accordingly
  • Embrace the new work culture – social distancing and ‘work from home’ will stay
  • Businesses need to quickly show digital dexterity
  • Customers are spending more time on digital media – Businesses should invest in Social Media; Content Marketing, SEO and Email Marketing
  • Empathize with your audience

If you’re a B2B business and you feel that you are in uncharted territory in these times due to COVID-19, you are not alone. After all, in an industry survey conducted by FICCI among member companies and associations, 81 % of those polled said they expect their business to be impacted on ‘moderate’ ‘high’ and ‘very high’ levels. The world in which we live and work is changing rapidly and there are no easy ways to go about it. However, in the ensuing melee and chaos, one thing has emerged which will stand the test of time – Brands and Companies that show flexibility and adaptability will have a better chance of overcoming the pandemic.

Traditional channels of marketing might no longer deliver the same result as the businesses adjust to a new normal. Which is a shift to digital forms of marketing instead of traditional marketing. To get to the’ Why’ of digital marketing it is important to understand the changes happening around – Change in buying behaviour of your customer; Changing dynamics of communication channels; Change in the mix of marketing budget.

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Buyer Behaviour is Changing – Adapt to Them 

Since the onset of COVID 19, few things are becoming increasingly clear. Bulk buyingMinimal contact commerce and Self-isolation are some of the behavioural changes that we can already see in consumers around us. As more consumers make financial, medical and behavioural adjustments we will get to see more drastic changes while buying on the part of consumers.

In the coming months, there will be more shifts to virtual alternatives. For example, China the epicentre of the virus saw an increase in the online car sales during the first few weeks of the crisis. Similarly, brands were quick to see the rise in people spending time online. And used the digital channels to ease the tensions by generating messages of solidarity and hope or funding people on the front-line and then promoting their efforts on social media.

Shift in communications – traditional channels of B2B lead generation are disrupted

In a survey conducted by event marketing company Bizabbo, in 2018, 84 % of leadership (Vice -President and C-Suite) believed that live events with face to face meetings are critical in the success of a company. In 2020, you might no longer have that luxury.

The business models and operations that form the base of your business might have already experienced a sea-change. For example, the sudden disappearance of all live events and conferences and face to face communication is an overnight predicament that nobody saw coming. With more than 50 industry live meeting events getting cancelled, the result has been a colossal loss of more than $1.1 billion according to an estimate from data intelligence company PredictHQ. This is excluding the amount of money that respective companies would have made from the events.

While overall ad spend is going down, digital ad spend still has positive outlook

The above point illustrates that advertising spends are going down in the traditional channels of face to face advertising but not so in case of digital where customers are spending their maximum time now. A survey conducted by influencerhubmarketing has shown that cost per impressions (CPMs) and cost per click (CPC) in digital media continue to fall flat thus improving your return on advertising spend (ROAS).

Further, eMarketer’s data shows the best use of ad spend at the moment is PPC (i.e. Pay Per Click), followed by email marketing and regional advertising. This is on similar lines to the survey conducted by influencerhubmarketing above.

What to do

Of course, not all is lost as flexible cancellation plans and insurance for larger companies would mean that they will still get some money which they can reassign as marketing budget. A survey conducted among US industrial marketers shows that 28 % want to reinvest their trade show budget into digital advertising and 14% will shift to content creation. This is a good example of adaptability.

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Fast-track digital transformation due to new work culture

Companies that have been traditionally reluctant to allow ‘Work from Home’ for its employees suddenly find themselves with no options and forced to make a change.

It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that people will be focusing their attention on home offices in the coming days to avoid physical contact and at the same time remain productive. For the agile business owner, this might be the perfect time to think of a new business model, a new product and new ways of engaging customers where obviously digital will have a more than significant role to play.

All the above points towards a scenario where more technology will increasingly come to play a role of key performer instead of silent bystander. To succeed in the future, businesses need to fast-track their digital transformation.

Let us take a look at the different facets of digital marketing that are making their presence felt during the COVID -19 crisis and how they can help to safeguard and grow your business too.

Invest in Digital Technology

 Companies such as Adobe, Google and Okta Inc. have already shifted their in-person tech conferences to digital summits that can be attended from the comfort of your home. Chances are your business is not as big as the above-mentioned companies but size was never a constraint for going virtual. Use of social media platforms such as Facebook Live and LinkedIn Live are also seeing increase. Invest in a good video conferencing tool. Get a good chat solution. Get a project management system and shift your data to the cloud. In India there has been reported increase in demand for Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and older forms of technology like webinars, video conferencing and remote access to technology.

In a survey conducted worldwide by TrustRadius, four in ten people interviewed said that they will initially spend more money to ensure that employees work from home without hiccups. 30 % of the total respondents bought more video conferencing software while 15 % bought security software such as VPNs and firewalls to safeguard company information while working remote.

Invest in Social Media

With Over the Top (OTT) platforms seeing a never before seen levels of consumption and social apps becoming more relevant in this time of social distancing, social media marketing, could play a key role here. Social media has taken over the traditional role of channels such as newspapers and also serves dual roles of information disperser and also opinion moulder with mediums such as influencer marketing.

As per a poll conducted by Hammerkopf Consumer Survey, the first week of lockdown in India saw people spend more than 4 hours on social media. This was an increase of 87 percent compared to the previous week. A survey conducted worldwide in March shows there has been a 51 % increase worldwide in watching more shows and films on streaming services.

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Continue doing SEO & Content Marketing

Organic channels are suffering because of drop in search demands but does this mean that you should stop doing SEO and content marketing?

According to a review of websites conducted by Nick LeRoy, websites whose organic performance has dropped have flat keyword rankings. Although rankings are the same, search impressions have dropped as shown on Google Search Console. This means that search volumes have dropped due to present crisis and it is not a ranking issue.

Reducing spend on SEO and content marketing at the moment will be endangering your organic rankings. If you drop your efforts now, once search demand is back, you will drive less organic traffic than before the pandemic began. Thus, it is important to maintain your SEO campaign even if you choose not to grow it.

Leverage Email Marketing

The above doesn’t translate to ‘bombard consumers with email’. Email is cheap and effective and while you might be hesitant about paid media, you can still gain back some lost ground for your business with email campaigns. This could be as simple as telling people that you’re available for them online despite other means of face to face communication being unavailable. Think of ways in which your email will help out your customer in a practical way. Your messaging has to add value and stand out from the noise.

Remember to be emphatic at all times and acknowledge the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic at all times. Gently assure your customers that you stand by them. Hard-selling or giving ‘COVID-19 deals’ are as good as committing brand suicide.

Above all, position yourself as a trustworthy and reliable source

 Nobody likes being sold to and especially during times as trying as these. Buying might be on the lower side at the moment but everyone is learning. As a B2B business, you need to be patient and realize that everyone is faced with making tough decisions. When reaching out to the B2B buyer adopt an approach of how you can solve a pain point for them instead of touting how great your product is for them. Compassion and assistance will help you reach the minds of your consumers at this time.

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