Marie Hattar is Chief Marketing Officer of Keysight Technologies
What B2B Tech Marketers Must Do Now to Succeed in a Post-pandemic World
The world has changed. Irrevocably. We lost just under 5M friends, family members, and colleagues from a health pandemic that affected all corners of the earth (as of September 23, 2021). As we initially marshalled our energies to fight this health crisis, social unrest and protest blew across the globe after the murder of George Floyd in the U.S. Simultaneously, communities halted day-to-day leisure and commercial activities. Large and small businesses shut down or closed for good. Millions of jobs were lost. Everyone’s mental health and well-being was stretched to the limit. The whole human race took monumental steps to survive, and businesses rapidly adjusted in the sectors still able to run their daily operations.
Where possible, employees became remote workers, managers became socially distant leaders, and companies, large and small stood up a digital environment in one to two weeks. For organizations already working digitally, the transition to remote business was less of a hurdle. Regardless, most organizations digitized more of their operations than was previously in place and quickly shifted to stay relevant in the marketplace.
McKinsey & Company surveyed businesses affected by Covid-19 and found that the pandemic sped up digital transformation in customer and supply chain interactions and internal operations by almost four years and accelerated portfolios of digital enabled products by seven years. Moreover, “respondents from the companies that executed successful responses to the crisis report[ed] a range of technology capabilities that others [didn’t]—most notably, filling gaps for technology talent during the crisis, the use of more advanced technologies, and speed in experimenting and innovating.”
B2B buying behaviors also changed with the onset of Covid-19. As business operations went remote, buyers streamed to online purchasing environments and over 80% of B2B buyers now prefer digital over face-to-face interactions. Those same buyers are also more ready to make larger purchases digitally, with 70% willing to spend over $50,000 and 27% willing to spend over 500,000 remotely.
What do these trends mean for B2B tech marketers in a post-pandemic world? Ken Brown, the Director of Corporate Communications at Nvidia, told VentureBeat, “After a year of fear and uncertainty, people will look to those who clearly understand how technology can fuel the recovery and deliver exciting new capabilities. Thought leadership is all the more important during these transitional times, to show the way forward.” The fuel of thought leadership and personalized content is what will make the difference in your business and mine as B2B marketing professionals engage with customers in 2021 and beyond.
Technology is the engine; humanity is the fuel. We cannot ignore our technology stacks. They enable our targeted reach, personalization, and engagement tracking. However, building authentic relationships with a human-touch supported by content that matches your customers’ current needs is what matters. Solution selling to identified B2B customers whose needs are excavated through relationships and data-driven content is how we will succeed in a post-pandemic world.
Whose perspective are you mining?
Your business has likely changed since Covid-19 hit our world. How has it changed your customers’ business? Start asking the right questions and then listen to your B2B customers’ perspective. Account-based marketing can help. It works inside out. It does not focus on what potential customers have heard about your solutions and how you can bring them closer to understanding your offerings. It asks “what are my customers struggling with right now? What problem can I help them solve?” Your technology stack better help you listen to your customers’ needs and your sales and marketing teams ought to be ready to break through legacy silos to jointly uncover B2B buyer concerns, especially with those buyers you know are more primed for new solutions.
What thought leadership content are you sharing?
B2B is all about business-to-business commerce. But that belies the fact that people make up businesses and these humans in workplaces likely have expectations for a B2B buying experience that rivals ones they have in B2C environments. Janet Balis who leads EY’s CMO practice, says it like this: you are no longer competing with your competitors; “you are competing with the last best experience your customer had.” Learn to get real comfortable and real close to your customers online. Jim Hopkins calls this “taking segmentation and personalization and putting it on steroids.” Only then, will you be able to spark the buying behavior that builds the business partnerships you seek.
How are you quantifying your engagement?
The average B2B buyers’ journey includes engagement with first and third-party content, typically at least 8 pieces from a variety of vendor channels and 5 pieces from peer or other third-party content providers. Does your technology track what is working and what is not landing well with your active customers? Are you agilely adjusting to the current market environment and customer feedback? How are your tactics and teams adapting to new information? Each of us needs to consider what levers have meaning for our business and ensure that we put in place consistent ways to track and measure our engagement progress.
EY’s Balis shares the yin and yang of technology and human enablement like this: “Human enablement involves understanding how data and technologies will be used across the organization, making sure that people have the right skills to employ [technology] effectively and that the right measurement approach is in place to motivate innovation and success. Without technology, data, human enablement and use cases in fine balance, the desired return on investment for marketing technology will not be realized.”
Thankfully, our world still has promise, and businesses are restarting and even thriving despite Covid-19. As marketing professionals, we need to reckon with this post-Covid era that has altered our marketing landscape and day-to-day practices. As we value and prioritize digital technologies and the power of human thought and connection, we can offer win-win opportunities and solutions to our customers and our companies alike.