We are living in unprecedented times. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally upended every aspect of our global economy and professional careers. According to experts, this crisis will create a “new normal” and change the trajectory for many commonplace facets of our everyday lives. This shift also holds for B2B enterprises and marketing teams, and I’m ecstatic for the opportunities that lie ahead.
Winston Churchill famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Adversity — and even some chaos — serve as a powerful catalyst to challenge old assumptions, accelerate innovation and make bold changes.
Over the past decade, B2B companies across a variety of industries have been slow to universally embrace digital transformation. Specifically, when compared to their B2C counterparts, most B2B companies acknowledged their shortcomings to effectively deliver personalized and data-driven customer experiences at scale. In fact, nearly 90% of B2B marketers think their organizations need to be equally focused on customer experience as their B2C counterparts. Often the culprit can be found in data and organizational silos, technology, skillset deficiencies, and old-fashioned corporate politics and inertia.
To compound this challenge, B2B marketers have increasingly faced a ruthless, unpredictable, and non-linear sales process involving multiple decision-makers and dispersed buying groups, compared to just one person in a typical B2C context.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has left a wake of loss and misfortune, there will be some silver linings. Our new digital-only reality and “new normal” will accelerate digital transformation across every B2B enterprise. More importantly, this momentum will serve as the catalyst to resolve those vexing technology, skills and organizational challenges that have prevented marketing teams from fully delivering a rich customer experience at scale.
1. A Digital-Only World Will Shine the Spotlight on a Company’s Digital Marketing Competencies
Under the shadow of COVID-19, B2B Marketing teams must now deliver top-line growth without trusted physical channels such as events, field, and experiential marketing. As such, Marketing teams will be open to experimenting with tools that deliver rich digital experiences. This spotlight becomes a double-edged sword: a digital-only marketplace will place newfound scrutiny on the Marketing team’s digital marketing, tools, and data-driven skill sets.
2. Companies Will Double Down on Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and Personalization
For several years now, most B2B companies have espoused the virtues of Account-Based Marketing, and for a good reason: In a recent survey sponsored by Folloze, more than three-fourths (77%) of B2B Sales and Marketing professionals believe personalized marketing experiences make for better customer relationships. In addition, more than half (55%) of respondents to the national survey said Marketing Personalization leads to higher rates of sales conversions and future growth.
While almost every B2B company has dipped their toe into the ABM pool, few have successfully scaled their programs beyond a small number of accounts and delivered a seamless customer experience across multiple devices and channels. In a post-COVID-19 world, ABM and Personalization initiatives will be revitalized, creating a cascading effect across other functions in the Marketing organization.
3. Tech Stacks Are Finally Rationalized and Streamlined
The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly winnow and reduce the number of Marketing Technology vendors that contribute to an already over-bloated tech stack. At the same time, the Marketing Technology stack will no longer revolve around Marketing Automation as the center of the universe. Why?
Over a decade ago, the first wave of CMOs were fired for not embracing Marketing Automation technologies. Today, a second wave is hitting CMOs that aren’t infusing data, analytics, and AI technologies across the entire customer lifecycle. As Marketing teams focus on ABM, Personalization, and Orchestrating success across every phase of the customer lifecycle, Marketing Automation will deliver diminishing returns.
In a modern tech stack, AI and Machine Learning technologies will play a pivotal role. The Folloze survey identified a linkage between AI and Marketing Personalization competency. Specifically, fewer than 40% of respondents were using AI to personalize their Marketing efforts, and that resulted in poor outcomes. In the same way, more than a fifth (21%) of the survey group said their company does not use data on existing customers to personalize content designed to increase sales to them.
4. Marketing Teams Are Reorganized
Concurrently with a slimmed-down Marketing tech stack, B2B Marketing teams will undergo a realignment and significant reorganization. Today, most B2B Marketing teams are still organized around an antiquated demand generation and top-of-the-funnel model that is fueled by marketing automation.
To thrive and grow, Marketing teams must now reorganize around each phase of the customer lifecycle. This strategy will ensure optimal outcomes for building awareness, generating and accelerating opportunities, and customer expansion.
5. Shifting From Physical to Virtual Events
Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Over the past several weeks, Marketing teams have personified this well-known mantra by quickly transforming their canceled events into virtual environments. With 30 to 40% of a typical B2B Marketing budget focused on events, Marketing teams are pulling a rabbit out of their hat to deliver on their 2020 pipeline and top-line revenue commitments.
While we don’t know when large group events and gatherings will be permissible, many companies are planning for the long haul and extending their digital personalization and ABM strategies to virtual events and conferences to the following ends:
- Boost attendance: Ensure high attendance rates at the virtual event by deeply engaging target attendees and accounts. As part of the pre-event marketing, prospective attendees will receive pre-event personalized journeys.
- Increase engagement: When attendees actively engage with the content at the virtual event, their probability of purchase increases. During the virtual event, provide auto-personalized content by visitor journey and interaction history.
- Convert engagement to pipeline: Maximize event ROI by extending the post-event conversation and engagement. The marketing team will orchestrate sales motions by delivering auto-personalized content from the event and other relevant materials.
Read more: Routinely Mobile at Home