After Walt Disney released the movie “Aladdin” in 1992, it became the highest-grossing film of the year thanks, in part, to its hit song, “A Whole New World.” A line from the song pretty much summarizes the current marketing sphere for B2B brands, “A whole new world with new horizons to pursue.”
COVID-19 and technology have changed the B2B landscape probably forever, and some astute marketers have already navigated this new horizon with much success. Here’s some of what they employed to maintain their success.
Before COVID-19, 44% of B2B buyers purchased directly from salespeople, according to a recent survey by digital consultancy firm Wunderman Thompson Commerce. That number has since dropped to 16%.
Agility is critical to survival. The sudden shift forced successful companies to become more agile. Business models have had to adapt, and some brands are even using B2C companies to assist with marketing.
This has also meant investing in more employee training and plant automation in some cases to shorten production timelines as well as for scaling tests and learning approaches. Some CMOs also began getting more innovative in gauging customer experiences by using closed-loop experience feedback on their products.
AI played a major role in brand adjustment, as well. More CMOs began employing AI for basic tasks, like helping consumers with answers to frequently asked questions and even aftermarket support while bringing in staff when necessary for more complex issues. AI use also increased for e-commerce fulfillment and was especially valuable in forecasting or anticipating future customer orders.
The demise of trade shows also led some CMOs to seek other ways to engage potential customers. Out went slide presentations, and in came conversational ads. By analyzing customer data and demographics, some brands were able to create ads tailored to potential customer needs and interests. And in using LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager, CMOs were able to gain deeper insights into this target audience.
Lines have also blurred. The difference between B2C and B2B today is almost nonexistent to some. In a recent company blog, Adobe’s Gary Specter said he estimated that 70% of companies are now a hybrid of the two. He named the combination B2E or Business to Everyone, explaining that brands ask why they can’t do both and seek technology and platforms to serve the two.
Before the pandemic, the focus of marketing was solely directed at the product and getting it sold. The supply chain was never a problem. According to Specter, that’s changed as well, so that the primary concern for many buyers today is fulfillment. Brands must consider the total journey, beginning with completing the order and then ensuring that it gets there when promised to retain customer loyalty. The same holds true for returns.
Securing and keeping customer trust is paramount. This wasn’t as much an issue for B2B companies as pricing and inventory, but today, it’s become critical. Much of this goes back to the supply chain. A brand’s B2B customer must feel confident that the products they need are in stock and that they’ll arrive as scheduled so that they, too, can maintain a high level of trust with their own clients.