All posts tagged B2B marketing

What B2B marketers must know in the face of a potential recession

Talking about a recession isn’t always enjoyable. But it’s a situation that inevitably requires a shift in strategy and mindset to continue finding success in the face of economic headwinds.

Defined technically as a period of a significant decline in economic activity, a recession (and the looming potential for one) directly affects marketing.

In particular, B2B marketers face a unique challenge in identifying a downturn – with sales cycles expanding beyond 6, 12 or more months into the future and lacking evident shifts. Whereas, B2C and D2C marketers can feel it more quickly when complete verticals go south.

In this article, we’ll unpack how a looming recession impacts B2B marketers and the key factors to consider to successfully navigate this landscape.

What did B2B marketers do last time?
You must know the past to understand your present and future. There have been plenty of recessions – some fairly recently.

In 2007–2009, we experienced the Great Recession in which the mortgage crisis led to the collapse of the housing market bubble. While it may have ended for the U.S. in 2009, the ripple effects were felt in some European countries for years.

Countries defaulted on their national debt and had to be bailed out by the European Union, resulting in those countries enacting austerity measures to repay their debts, according to History.

Hindsight is 20/20. And when it comes to learning from past mistakes, there’s a clear connection to be made between:

Those who increase (or at least maintain) advertising budgets.
And those who cut or stop marketing efforts altogether.
When faced with a potential downturn, brands that committed to advertising and marketing efforts rebounded faster and recovered quicker than those that opted to pull back.

During the 1990-1991 recession, McDonald’s decreased its advertising and promotion budget, while Pizza Hut and Taco Bell did the complete opposite, according to Pathfind.

This allowed Pizza Hut and Taco Bell to increase sales by 61% and 40%, respectively, while McDonald’s saw 28% fewer sales.

What do B2B buyers want now?
COVID-19 is one key element that differentiates this potential recession from the others.

We just experienced a global pandemic that permanently altered the entire spectrum of consumer and business decisions.

As a result, we will need to navigate key shifts in the B2B buyer behavior and landscape.

Read more: What B2B marketers must know in the face of a potential recession

Four Things B2B Marketing Can Learn From B2C

“At the end of the day, it’s all about value delivered to the customer.” That’s how my marketing club meeting ended last month. Today, marketing goes far beyond “the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers.” That’s how it was described by the American Marketing Association in 1935.

Now, the AMA defines it as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Through the years, marketing has been divided into B2B and B2C. And there’s a reason for it. We act differently when choosing a software vendor (partner, in fact) for the next five years to support digital transformation projects than we do when choosing sneakers to support our exercise.

Anyhow, there is much more we, as B2B marketers, can learn from B2C to create special bonds with our customers and help them make their business more sustainable and efficient.

Typically B2B services are hard to communicate. There are so many services we provide and industries we serve. This leads to generalization or hard-to-understand concepts and deeply professional words. It creates barriers for customers. The harder it is to understand what we are talking about, the fewer chances we have to make a deal. So, let’s make our language simple. A good litmus test could be an elevator speech to a friend of yours who is not a part of the industry you work in.

A Frictionless Experience
A frictionless and transparent checkout process is the key to success for any consumer business today. Customers want to have full control of the process and be sure of any additional charges that may occur.

Read more: Four Things B2B Marketing Can Learn From B2C

B2B Marketing Trends to Watch for 2023

The B2B market is facing younger buying committees, shifts in buyer expectations about the purchase process, overcomplicated tech stacks, and uncertain economic conditions. These factors are changing how marketers can reach, engage, and retain business customers.

Buyers Reject Traditional B2B Experiences
Younger, digital-first buyers want experiences that mirror their B2C journeys. Millennials and Gen Zers are now dominant in B2B buying committees. These age cohorts prioritize vendors that are easy to engage with and expect to manage their journey on their own terms. As a result, marketers will need to provide interactions that meet these buyers’ high expectations.

The buying committee is bigger and more diverse. Buying experiences now have more involvement from multiple stakeholders of varying generations but still must resonate with each person.

Read more: B2B Marketing Trends to Watch for 2023

How And Why To Adapt Your B2B Sales Strategy For Future Success

We’re in the midst of a significant B2B sales and marketing revolution. The pandemic forced companies to move from traditional sales to a more hybrid experience. Gone are the days of pitch decks in a conference room and “inside” sales—the future of B2B includes more channels, more convenience, and a more personalized experience for customers. Enterprise companies need to invest in this shift if they want to see success in the future.

Companies that refuse to evolve with the changing landscape will see a decrease in revenue as they compete against competitors adopting new strategies. In McKinsey’s latest B2B Pulse survey, “more than 90 percent of enterprises plan to sustain the changes made to their sales force structure over the past year.”

Here are seven ways to update and adapt your sales strategy to be more effective and capture future sales.

  1. Solve your customers’ problems anytime, anywhere.

Your customers want a complete solution. Companies need to enable touchpoints in multiple channels to ensure you’re serving customers when and where they want to buy. An omnichannel presence is critical. And a true omnichannel experience, which looks very different from five years ago, is now at least a 10-channel strategy. McKinsey data shows that “customers want—and expect—to engage seamlessly across ten or more. And the businesses that have been quick to meet that demand have profited: 72 percent of B2B companies that sell via seven or more channels grew their market share.”

More and more B2B customers are happy learning and buying through online and digital channels, making the traditional, in-person sales pitch less necessary.

  1. Work higher in the funnel.

At any given time, about 95% of B2B buyers aren’t in the market for your product. This simple yet monumental fact changes the B2B advertising and marketing game quite a bit. It means you need to spend advertising dollars on people who aren’t going to buy right now, but need to be familiar with your brand or product when they are in the market.

The most effective way to do this is focusing messaging and advertising dollars on creating brand-positive memories for your customers so when the time comes to purchase, your company is top of mind. As LinkedIn’s B2B Business Institute accurately captures, “Advertising impressions, accumulated over time, affect our memories. So, your advertising has to be designed to create distinct impressions about your brand in people’s minds — to be activated later.”

  1. Constantly invest in your brand awareness.

Invest at least 50% of your advertising dollars in awareness. With research showing that only 16% of B2B marketers rank building brand awareness as a major marketing objective, it appears most companies, particularly large ones, are taking their awareness for granted.

Small companies see the immediate value in spending money to increase brand visibility, but bigger, more established brands sometimes skip it. What keeps the brands with the most awareness top of mind is their ongoing and deliberate dedication to weaving their brand into their customer’s thoughts and lifestyles. Never skip or skimp on your brand awareness budget.

  1. Base every conversation on value.

Regularly remind your customers—both current and future—about the value you bring to the relationship. Provide end-to-end insights about your business and industry. Suggesting ways to help your customers navigate regulatory change or demonstrating how potential customers measure up in their industry are just a couple of ways you can help increase your value to customers.

Read more: How—And Why—To Adapt Your B2B Sales Strategy For Future Success

The role of B2B marketing in sales enablement

The digital world and the proliferation of channels have created an opportunity for PR to perform more cohesively across the organisation. From internal communications, reputation management, stakeholder engagement and sales enablement, the demand for collaboration and creativity across all business outputs is only increasing.

As a result, we’re seeing a real coming of age for B2B PR. More than ever, clients want to know how this can benefit the sales function.

B2B sales don’t come overnight
It’s important to acknowledge the B2B buying process when putting together a communications strategy. According to research by Professor John Dawes of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, only 5% of B2B buyers are in-market to buy right now. That means 95% of buyers are out of market and won’t buy for months or maybe even years. The chances are they’ve already got what you are selling, so you can’t make them go in-market at will.

It therefore makes no sense to direct all your marketing budget to generating leads for the 5% of customers that are ready to buy today. Instead, make it your purpose to more effectively influence the 95% of potential future customers who will generate future cash flow.

This is where B2B communications strategy comes in. Because success in the form of sales rarely happens overnight, there is more of a requirement to think long-term. How can you do this?

1 Go where your target audience is
The digital landscape provides more platforms and channels for brands to be visible across than ever before. That responsibility can feel overwhelming at times and as the saying goes, companies are now ‘needing to do more with less’. Successful B2B PR strategies rely on a focused approach that starts with understanding where your target audience most commonly resides. This will allow you to direct more of the marketing budget to the channels that are going to be most valuable to the organisation.

2 Stand out for the right reasons
To effectively target people that aren’t actively in the market now, brand awareness is super important if they are to remember you when they are in the market. This is less about timely press releases to announce your latest product updates and more about delivering a compelling message that resonates with your audience – and doing so on a consistent basis.

Therefore, it’s not just a case of being known, your ‘why’ needs to be heard louder than ever before, especially if you operate in a crowded marketplace. Your ‘why’ is what sets you apart from the competition.

Become a thought leader on the topics that reflect your ‘why’, provide your perspective and be an authoritative voice on the issues that matter to your target audience with a consistent and targeted content marketing strategy.

3 Earn third-party validation
This is a key component for building brand awareness and trust. It can take the form of a product reviews campaign or a case study approach. Letting a third party do all the talking for you provides credibility.

This strategy is so effective for building trust that Google is also getting in on the act. It now puts the focus on useful and relevant content from third parties rather than from brands themselves. As a result, brands are finding that news articles appear top in search results rather than their own website content. This further emphasises the importance of a content marketing strategy.

4 Reflect your audience’s vision
To be relevant today, an organisation needs to demonstrate that it understands – and acts upon – the same issues and concerns as its audience.

The greatest example of this is the rise of environmental, social and governance (ESG) communications in the B2B sector, a broadening of the focus on the environment against the backdrop of the social justice movement. It centres on the belief that organisations can no longer ignore their own accountability and requires total transparency in delivering on their ESG values and vision.

As a result, ESG is increasingly becoming the centre of an organisation’s communications. Failure to be transparent and communicate creates an assumption that the organisation is failing to act at all; this can result in lost leads.

Read more: The role of B2B marketing in sales enablement

The Real Truth About B2B Marketing And The Social Media Platforms You Need

I’ve read a few articles about social media and B2B Marketing lately that have blown my mind. You won’t believe number three…OK, there is no number three. And this is not a listicle. However, I read an article recently that got me thinking, and there are a few things that need to be said about it’s validity. But in answer to your question about which platform is the best one for B2B marketing? It depends.

B2B social media platformsIt is unsatisfying, I know — but there is certainly no shortage of opinions on the matter. For example, that article I mentioned was called Facebook ranks ahead of Twitter and LinkedIn for B2B decision makers, and the title alone was enough to surprise me. It details the results of a study by United Kingdom PR agency Hotwire called The Changing Face of Influence, and there is a lot of interesting information there. The statistic that hooked me? “…when asked which one channel they’d turn to for information on a purchasing decision, 1 in 4 (24%) decision makers said Facebook would be their social channel of choice.”

Why Facebook over Twitter and LinkedIn, you may ask? “Because we use it more – our study reveals the average decision maker uses Facebook 18 days a month, compared to 13 for LinkedIn. Decision makers look to the channels they’re using as part of their daily routine – we don’t want to check whole new sources of information if we don’t have to.”

Read more: The Real Truth About B2B Marketing And The Social Media Platforms You Need

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