B2B planning must always begin with looking at the previous year. 2020 began normally with B2B companies relying on tried and true marketing and budget plans. Many B2B companies found themselves unprepared for the new paradigm of online sales and service, and the disruption in supply chains. Quickly, most companies fell into one of two camps as the coronavirus pandemic hit hard. Many paused all marketing activities to “wait out” the lockdown. Others went “all in” to try to compensate for losses.
As 2020 wrapped up, data shows that the companies that focused on customer service and a “lean in” approach to strategic initiatives have typically fared better.
So where does that leave us when it comes to marketing and budget planning for 2021?
Unfortunately, 2020 reaffirmed the adage that “Change is the only constant.” A 2021 strategic plan must be looked at with fresh eyes. It’s necessary to create steady, but flexible, strategies despite the chaos in the age of Covid.
B2B Strategies That 2020 Proved Work
2020 taught us much about what works and what doesn’t during a crisis. Below are sales and marketing strategies that worked both before and during the pandemic. Certainly, these efforts will continue to succeed after we’ve come through this crisis. Include these tips in your B2B planning.
Maintain an Intense Customer Focus
Keeping a focus on your customers’ pain points is like following a moving target. Accelerated by the pandemic, we’ve seen consumer behavior and priorities shift dramatically. Forrester reports that 80% or more of the sales cycle now takes place in remote or digital environments. Trust and social responsibility are more important than ever.
Invest in Inbound Marketing
Prospects make more decisions before reaching out to a company than ever before, and they expect your website and social channels to educate them fully. If they can’t find the information they’re looking for on your channels, they are more likely to head to your competitor’s website instead.
Double-down on Data and Personalization
This doesn’t have to mean a complete, expensive overhaul of your CRM and days upon days of mapping out detailed buyer personas. Just be sure to go further down this path. Start small and build up if you need to.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that agility under pressure is golden for a resilient, and even thriving, business.
Important For 2021
There were successes and failures in 2020 as early year pivots and reallocation of resources occurred. Be sure to take a full inventory of what worked, what didn’t, and why. Audit data, including timing, message, tactic, and effectiveness. Many lessons and best practices for 2021 can be learned as you work through the good, bad, and even the ugly of 2020.
Plan in Quarters
Many companies routinely create beautiful, full-year planning calendars. 2020 taught us not to plan too far in advance in the age of Covid is a mistake. Who knows whether fall 2021 events will be in-person or virtual? Will your target audience be as receptive to emails and webinars after a couple of more quarters of digital bombardment from all sides? Plan months in advance, yes, but don’t get married to long-term plans. Be prepared to change your plan.
This is the time to evaluate every goal, every channel, every message. Also, think big-picture: company positioning and values, competitive research, even business goals. In addition, complete a fresh audit of the media and analyst landscape in your vertical, as significant shifts took place throughout the past year.
Don’t Hesitate to Shift Budgets
Much of 2020 was a bit of an experiment for sales and marketing teams. Maybe you moved spending around already—away from in-person events and expensive prospect meetings, toward on-line ads, website, and content creation. Some companies reluctantly went that direction but are hesitant to fully commit. If you’re planning in quarters, there’s little risk; consider advertorials, creative virtual events (virtual happy hours and customer appreciation gatherings, perhaps?), and strategic lead generation tools. It’s a great time to invest in intent data, account-based marketing (ABM), search engine optimization (SEO), and other marketing technology-powered digital initiatives.
As you plan for the year ahead, expect the unexpected. If you find yourself in a crisis with limited cash flow, plan to contact Allied Financial Corporation for Accounts Receivable Financing.