The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sea change in the way B2B businesses operate.
Employees in all functions are working remotely, at least for the foreseeable future, and every new purchase is subject to scrutiny and, often, a large buying committee.
The pandemic has also dramatically changed the way B2B buyers and sellers do business. In-person meetings and events, once a hallmark of B2B sales, are now a thing of the past.
At the same time, marketers are under pressure to break digital overload to reach the right audiences with the right messages in the right places.
While some of these challenges are temporary, others will last longer.
In fact, some things, including remote working and digital selling, may never go back to “business as usual.” Forrester’s Mary Shea predicts that in the future, 80% or more of the sales cycle will take place in digital or remote environments.
It’s true that salespeople and marketers face challenges they’ve never faced before, but it’s still possible to engage effectively with B2B buyers. However, it forces sellers and marketers to think differently and adopt strategies that enable them to deliver the seamless experiences that B2B buyers expect.
Five such strategies are described in this article.
1. Deliver personalized relevant content to the modern buyer
Content marketing plays a vital role in the buying journey of B2B buyers. It’s not new. But today’s remote shoppers are bombarded with content everywhere they look; and because B2B buyers continue to behave more like consumers, the content shared by sellers and how it is delivered must keep pace.
Too often, buyers are faced with generic and irrelevant content. That’s bad news, because the number one reason B2B buyers are turning away from brands is irrelevant content, according to a report from the CMO consultancy.
Today’s marketers must always be ready to deliver content that is personalized and perfectly tailored to a prospect’s specific pain points.
This doesn’t mean sellers have to create materials from scratch for every transaction. It can be disastrous. Instead, it’s important to ensure sellers can access and personalize all approved branded content from one central location.
Some B2B companies also use artificial intelligence (AI) tools that suggest sales and marketing content that has proven effective in sales scenarios like the one the company is facing.
The adage that the medium is as important as the message also applies here: just as your content should be relevant, the way you deliver it and the way buyers experience it should be engaging.
2. Use video and interactivity to engage B2B buyers
Video is a great way for sellers to deliver great experiences when they’re not in the same room as their prospects. In fact, video can be an effective sales tool for different parts of the buying journey.
For starters, salespeople can use video conferencing software when in-person meetings aren’t possible. Video calls can be more appealing to buyers than traditional conference calls. Additionally, video calls allow salespeople to access verbal and non-verbal cues (think facial expressions and tone), which can help inform next steps.
Most people (90%) say watching product videos helps them make buying decisions, according to an infographic from Vidyard. Additionally, more than half (59%) of business decision makers say video is their preferred way to learn.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that zoom fatigue is real. To drive meaningful interactions and capture important insights from prospects, explore other ways to create interactive and engaging B2B content tagging experiences.
3. Track buyer interest digitally
When a seller is in the same room as a buyer, it is easier to gauge reactions to shared information and content. This is not possible when the sales experience is remote. Sometimes it can seem like sellers are throwing content and information into a black hole, hoping something sticks.
Today, successful businesses use analytics tools that allow sellers to understand what content resonates (and what doesn’t) with buyers. These tools get granular: they can track things like email opens, page-by-page content views, downloads, and shares.
This powerful information allows sellers to personalize their follow-up efforts and drive business forward.
4. Consider virtual events
Before COVID, in-person events were one of the most important things for B2B marketing teams. On average, 12% of the budget of B2B marketing teams was allocated to events,
And it seems like money well spent: the same study also tells us that nearly half (45%) of B2B buyers indicated that event materials (presentations, keynotes, booth materials, etc. ) was the second most important source of content.
Since then, marketers have been scrambling to reinvent their events digitally. Although it seemed like a downside at first, marketers quickly discovered that digital-only events, when well-executed and engaging, can be even more valuable than in-person ones.
Virtual events allow marketers to reach a wider audience. Unlike in-person events, virtual events aren’t limited to those who have the time and budget to travel to a live event location.
Additionally, B2B marketers can more easily track attendee engagement with virtual events, which can help them understand what types of events are driving sales. For example, they can see that a prospect attended a specific keynote broadcast live and then ultimately made a purchase; and if they notice patterns, they can draw conclusions accordingly.
5. Engage in social selling
Social media, especially LinkedIn, is a great tool for networking and sharing occasional industry thoughts.
LinkedIn can also be a great tool for initiating, nurturing, and even closing deals, especially now that in-person meetings are no longer possible. After all, no less than 40 million B2B decision makers use the platform.
That doesn’t mean you should send out random connection requests with the goal of diving straight into your sales pitch. Instead, focus on building a network, posting relevant content, and engaging with other users’ content.
You may also consider using some of LinkedIn’s paid services, such as Sponsored Content, InMail, or Paid Ads.
When you’re authentic and helpful to your LinkedIn audience from the start, they’ll be much more receptive to your sales messages down the road.
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The pandemic has changed the face of B2B business, perhaps forever. The most successful salespeople and marketers will be those who adapt quickly and adopt new strategies to effectively reach buyers, regardless of physical location or stage of the buyer’s journey.
More resources on sales and content marketing for B2B
What B2B sales teams need from marketing to win business
How to Overcome B2B Content Marketing Challenges During the Pandemic
B2B Content Marketing Report: Benchmarks, Budgets, Trends and COVID-19 Response