“When marketing get back to normal…”. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that from marketers over the past several months. And to be honest, it annoys me. We all want to get back to our normal, pre-pandemic lives outside of work and the world is now opening back up enabling us to do so. That is a GREAT thing. However, business (and marketing in particular), has changed for good and that’s also a GREAT thing because it needed to change. Yes, businesses will go back to some of the things they were doing before, but they’ve realized there are better ways to work and be more efficient across the board. Here are three reasons why B2B marketing is NOT going back to ‘normal.’
B2B Buyers Have Changed Forever – your buyers prefer this new digital reality. They got used to buying and researching online during the pandemic, and they prefer it. B2C buyers have been shopping online for years, so it was just natural that B2B buyers would eventually take the same approach. A recent McKinsey study found that 70-80% of B2B decision makers prefer remote interactions and digital self-service over in-person meetings. It’s easier, costs less and is more efficient from a scheduling perspective.
Your buyers are willing to make larger purchases online as well. In that same McKinsey study, 70% of B2B buyers stated they are willing to purchase items online that cost more than $50,000. Another 27% of buyers said they feel comfortable making purchases of more than $500,000. They’ve been going further down the buyer’s journey without interacting with sales and they like it. It’s been a more efficient, seamless experience for them. With that in mind, it’s absolutely critical that businesses build quality content that matches where their targets are in their buying journey. Simply creating content to create content isn’t good enough anymore. It must be different, relevant, timely and personalized. This is essential for marketers and brands to create true competitive differentiation moving forward.
Events Have Moved into the Virtual and Hybrid World – bigger audiences, more touch points, better analytics and engagement metrics…all done at a fraction of the cost. Yeah, virtual events are here to stay. In March and April of last year when everyone was looking to replace their cancelled in-person events, virtual events were seen as a substitute. Now, after 15 months of realizing all the benefits that well executed virtual events bring to the table, marketers now look at them as an additional digital channel they must use to educate, engage and acquire new customers. They are no longer a substitute, but rather a critical piece of the modern marketing technology stack.
Now that the world is opening back up, that inevitably means that in-person events are about to return…but they’ll never be the same. Smart event marketers will be adding digital extensions to any physical events they execute moving forward, and this is where hybrid events come into play. Even though in-person events are coming back, there are many people that won’t feel comfortable travelling and attending in-person conferences for the foreseeable future. There are others that simply won’t return to physical events because they now believe virtual is the way to go. However, those same folks are still potential buyers so it is very important to have a hybrid event strategy that enables you to connect with them virtually. The key thing marketers must understand with hybrid events is that even though you now have two audiences to engage with – in-person and virtual – it should still be treated as one event with equal experiences for all. This is not easy to achieve because there are a lot of moving parts involved, but working with the right virtual/hybrid event partner can help you nail it.Event budgets are now going into three buckets – virtual, hybrid and in-person – and this isn’t going to change. Digital events have driven incredible ROI and are going to continue to see mass adoption. Interested in understanding what it takes to execute world-class virtual events? Watch our recent on-demand webinar – Decide, Plan, Execute: A Guide to Successful Virtual Events.
- B2B Customers Started Receiving B2C Customer Experiences – for the last few years B2B marketers have significantly improved the customer experience, but overall they lagged behind their B2C counterparts. The Amazons of the world have taken customer experience to another stratosphere, while B2B organizations have historically taken a more conservative approach to technologies and strategies that foster great customer experiences. The pandemic, however, forced B2B marketers to put an extra emphasis on the customer experience at a time when customer engagement was crucial to success (and staying afloat in some cases). They have shifted their focus to the following and their buyers/customers prefer it:
- Engaging their audience with not just content, but interactive content that is timely and relevant. Moving away from static formats – think case studies, whitepapers and reports – and towards interactive formats that provide better insights and more engagement data on the backend.
- Tracking customer behaviors to personalize the content experience and more effectively nurture customers through complex B2B sales cycles.
- The realization that they are marketing to human beings, not businesses. They have not only personalized their marketing approach…they’ve humanized it.
What are your thoughts on how the B2B marketing landscape has changed? We’d love to hear from you!
Jason Stegent is the Founder & President of Elastic Solutions. Email him @ firstname.lastname@example.org