We’re coming up on the fourth quarter of 2020, and chances are B2B sales numbers — not to mention “Marketing Trends 2020” — look different than projected at the beginning of the year. COVID-19 has imposed a “new normal,” and it’s a lot more than a buzz phrase.
B2B sales and marketing teams continue to encounter pandemic-induced barriers to success. In-person meetings are non-existent, and cold calling is out of the question. Companies are adhering to work-from-home directives, meaning offices where customers and prospects should be, stand empty. Phones go unanswered; voicemail messages unheard. Connecting remotely offers its own set of challenges. It’s an entirely different landscape, and many B2Bers are left scratching their heads.
Six months into the pandemic, it’s fair to ask: How can the business of doing business continue to thrive in an environment of uncertainty and obstacles?
We went in search of the answer, and discovered some insights about how many B2B sales and marketing teams are adapting — or should adapt — their inbound programs to absorb the ongoing impact of the pandemic:
1. Increase Online Prospecting, Lead Gen, and Sales
The sales struggle is real. As the economy continues to crawl, we’ve noticed many B2B companies reprioritizing how and when to implement an inbound program. Slow periods are generally a good time to focus on investing in the company and really nailing down next-level strategies.
The desire to “do inbound” quickly is understandable, but it must be tempered with foresight instead of hindsight. Don’t look back at what you wish you would have done sooner to be in a better position to weather the downturn forced by the pandemic. Rather, look — and think — ahead to practical ways to jumpstart inbound efforts.
Consider increasing online prospecting, lead gen, and sales through:
Pay-per-click (PPC): If you don’t have a deep content library, get the word out about your products or services using PPC. Interestingly, PPC appears to be rebounding from the constraints of COVID-19, with paid searches returning to 89% of their pre-pandemic levels.1 Given that 70% of Americans are consuming more content online these days,1 PPC is a sensible route for B2B companies.
Account-Based Marketing (ABM): Reaching in-market buyers first — specifically those that have cropped up on your site or are organically searching key terms early on in the buying journey — can help you connect with prospects before your competition has a chance. Having data around high-value prospects’ intent can help you structure a more engaging and effective ABM campaign.
2. Accelerate Connectivity Through Technology
It’s a little bit of a mind-boggling statistic, but the IBM U.S. Retail Index shows that the pandemic has sped up the shopping shift from physical stores to online by approximately 5 years.2 What might a typically retail battleground have to do with B2B inbound efforts? Quite a bit, actually, when you look at it from a connectivity perspective.
Customers, prospects, leads — they’re all more comfortable with technology, at least partially compelled by social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions. That’s a prime opportunity to leverage conversational marketing.
In general, marketers are tuned into this fact. However, sales teams are playing a little bit of catch-up in learning online tech tools. Marketing and sales alignment helps foster cross-department education. Marketers steeped in website Live Chat or intuitive 1:1 video tools like Wistia’s Soapbox or Vidyard’s GoVideo can quickly elevate sales department success in promoting personalized, virtual experiences.
Working around the pandemic has caused a surge in email marketing. Adweek reports an impressive 86% spike in email marketing revenue and a 22% jump in click-through rates.
It all points to some seriously flooded inboxes, and some stiff competition for opens.
Email optimization is crucial for B2B inbound success. Messaging that’s concise, contains a clear call to action, and uses some personalized and/or interactive video will win the day — and likely the deal.
4. Acknowledge (and Delight) Existing Customers
It’s no secret that retaining a customer is easier than getting a new one, but in this chaotic time, some existing customers may tend to get lost in the shuffle. That’s risky business, of course, but it’s also avoidable.
Inbound is an ideal way to strengthen existing relationships because the program is designed to leverage campaigns, segmentation, and other tools marketers use to drill down into opportunities for helping customers — be it education, products, or services.
Sales teams can benefit from these advantages in much the same way. Providing existing customers with content that truly addresses pain points or decision factors, for example, is selling without selling. Customers are delighted, remember the effort, and reward you with loyalty and — when the time is right — purchases.
In unprecedented times, B2B marketing and sales teams need to shift mindsets and methods to thrive. The business of doing business is, in fact, done differently — and probably will be from this point forward. Embracing new methodologies — like the inbound marketing flywheel — can bring about exciting changes that drive business forward.
Posted by Nicole Mertes As Weidert Group's lead salesperson and business development strategist, Nicole heads up the agency's new business strategy and provides sales consulting services to clients.
Prior to her role at the agency, Nicole was an advertising manager at Gannett, one of the nation's largest media companies. With 10+ years of experience in advertising sales, she understands the complex relationship between marketing and sales within organizations.