COVID-19 has affected businesses across the globe and governments are focused on slowing its spread. As things stand now, there are no definite predictions on how long the pandemic will last. Reduced travel, low in-person engagements and cancellation of live events due to the pandemic has left B2B marketers struggling to meet their lead generation targets. The uncertainty created by Covid-19 means that B2B sales leaders and marketers have to find new ways of generating leads.
In many companies, evidence shows that sales leaders are moving with speed to navigate the pandemic. Their eyes are focused on the changes they need to make to enable their businesses survive the pandemic and prepare for recovery. In this article, we look at how B2B demand generation has changed to deal with the Covid-19 situation.
1. Focus on Digital Marketing
Digital marketing has grown significantly over the last few years. However, it has increased more significantly during Covid-19 and B2B companies have not been left behind. A survey by McKinsey & Company shows that there has been a significant shift in sales and marketing channels that B2B companies use. Currently, companies now see interactions on digital media as twice or thrice more important to customers than conventional in-person interactions as shown in the diagram below.
The shift to digital marketing is largely informed by the changing customer behavior with most customers now using online searches to find the products or services they need. Covid-19 has also left customers with no choice but to interact with sellers online through social media platforms, online communities and mobile apps.
Statistics show that people are spending 20% more time on mobile apps with global in-app spending for 2020’s first quarter standing at $23.4 billion, the highest in a single quarter. Some of the most common digital marketing tools that B2B companies can tap into to generate demand include:
A. Email Marketing
B2B companies use this lead generation strategy because of its high return on investment compared to other marketing methods. During Covid-19, email marketing provides a unique opportunity for B2B sellers to get their messages right in front of their leads. If you choose to use this digital marketing strategy:
- Inform your customers and leads of your company’s availability during the pandemic to address their uncertainty. This could mean providing details of your work hours and how they can reach your representatives.
- Let them know how your company is responding to the Covid-19 crisis
- Let your customers know what you are offering – provide unique value for them in the form of discounts, unlocked function in a current service, entertainment or service
B. Social Media Marketing
During the pandemic, people are using social media apps to stay connected, entertained and informed. In a recent report, Facebook said that it recorded a 70% rise in use of apps in the month of March. This makes social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter great spaces for B2B companies to generate leads. It also allows them to leverage influencer marketing – which is less costly and more effective in generating leads.
C. Video Marketing
Unlike the traditional content like articles, blogs, white papers and newsletters that people are accustomed to, B2B companies are increasingly embracing and integrating video content into their content marketing strategies. Companies are hosting webinars, live video sessions and live demos for their customers and high level leads to generate demand for their products or services. Considering that videos attract 66% of qualified leads in a marketing campaign, video marketing is worth your investment anytime.
2. Ad Retargeting Campaigns
B2B companies are increasingly using retargeting to boost their demand generation efforts. Retargeting involves making ads visible on every site a website visitor opens as reflected in the photo below. This enables them to target 95% of visitors who leave their sites without making a purchase or converting.
In retargeting their audiences, B2B companies are considering the changes in the needs of those audiences, the dynamics of the work-from-home requirements and pain points in order to provide relevant solutions and maximize demand generation. Add retargeting offers several benefits to B2B companies including:
- Higher brand recognition: The more people engage with their brands, the more they are able to recognize it whenever they see it online
- Gathering data from potential leads: Ad retargeting complements SEO efforts by enabling B2B companies to build an audience. This audience becomes a valuable asset that you can target in future and derive lasting value from future sales.
- Increases chances of converting leads: Ad re targeting focuses on people who have visited a company’s landing pages and websites. This means they have seen your brand and are therefore high level leads. Retargeting them with ads provides an opportunity to market to them and push them down the conversion funnel.
- Provides a chance to cross-sell or up-sell customers: Existing customers who have bought your products or services before are likely to do so Re-targeting ads therefore creates a unique opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell other products or services to them.
When creating re-targeting their audiences, B2B companies should ensure their ads are:
- Relevant to the target audience
- Carry an attractive price that makes it difficult for your audience to resist
- Communicate urgency to encourage action
3. Building Remote Sales Teams
For a long time, B2B selling has largely relied on in-person interactions. However, with Covid-19, this approach is no longer tenable and B2B companies are embracing remote selling to keep revenue flowing. According to the survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, majority – about 90% of B2B companies have shifted to remote selling models as a way of coping with the Covid-19 effects. But selling remotely is not easy – B2B companies that adopt this strategy have had to invest in the following:
A. Technology That Supports Front Line Sales Teams
Remote selling relies on technology. To enable sales teams to offer potential leads experiences that drive them down the sales funnel, B2B companies have to invest in high-tech sales enablement tools that allow them to close deals without holding in-person meetings. Some useful tech tools that you could get your sales teams include:
- Communication and collaborative tools like Asana and Slack that enable teams to work remotely
- Customer Relationship Management Software to enable sales teams manage relationships with existing customers and prospects, nurture leads, track status and retain customers
- Video conference tools that offer great audio-visual experiences to enable them to participate in meetings with different decision makers
- Live demo tools that enable them to deliver real-time product or service demonstrations and discussing product functionalities with prospects
- Screen-sharing tools to enable them deliver sales presentations to prospects
- Analytic tools to enable sales leaders measure sales progress and identify potential problems in the sales pipeline
B. Boosting the Productivity of Sales Teams
B2B teams need to be supported with routine tasks to enable them prioritize their activities so they can focus on generating leads and selling. Some practical tips for doing this include:
- Creating alignment between sales teams and marketing teams. This enables them to set customize messages for demand generation campaigns and nurture high level leads to become customers
- Create systems that enable them to schedule daily activities as opposed to being fixated on quarterly or annual goals.
- Optimize their productivity through strategy and focusing on quality messaging
- Providing administration support through automation of routine tasks to enable them focus on setting
- Gather customer data and identify new sales opportunities that can create new business for the company
4. Creating Online Stores
A 2019 study showed that B2B buyers actively look for online channels when they want to make a purchase. With Covid-19 now forcing people across the globe to reduce physical contact, B2B companies have had to create online stores and encourage customers to purchase stuff online to ensure continuity. Creating an online store boosts lead generation because customers can find your products or services online during their research. You can also identify potential leads by keeping track of visitors and retarget them with ads to boost conversion rates.
If you decide to create an online store, consider boosting customer experience by:
- Making the buying process easy
- Providing product details and customer order history
- Providing information about the inventory you have available and how long it will take to ship products
- Making an online catalog available and easy to browse and search
Prior to Covid-19 pandemic, B2B selling was centered around in-person engagements. Sales reps travelled long stretches by road and air to meet prospects and maintain relationships. But Covid-19 has changed this selling model as people have to maintain social distance to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Across the globe, B2B companies are having to rethink their demand generation strategies to stay afloat.
With customers now relying on the internet to research and buy the products they need under the current circumstances, B2B companies are leveraging technology to generate demand for their products and services. Digital marketing strategies such as email marketing, social media marketing, ads retargeting and online shops are emerging as great ways for B2B demand generation.