How B2B Brands Can Overcome Adversity and Build Resilience

In tough times, companies can lean on data and marketing.

Man working on computer.

by Jill Steinhour

posted on 05-27-2020

The only truly dependable thing in life is change.

Businesses, perhaps, understand this most, as economies, industries, and customers continuously shift. But brands can change, too — adapting their stance to catch whatever curveball is thrown their way, and learning how to defend against similar challenges in the future.

This agility and resilience doesn’t develop by accident. Rather, it stems from having a great digital foundation that can support a business model no matter what. These days, that might mean pivoting to manufacture personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer, sharing resources with the community, or offering a new level of flexibility to customers. It might mean embracing new technology. If there’s one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to B2B enterprises, it’s that a digital strategy is a must have, and that they need to plan for business resiliency above all else.

So how do you build a brand with ongoing demand during a chaotic and unpredictable time? How do you ensure that your brand is flexible enough to serve customers online, offline, or anywhere in between? Here’s what B2B businesses need to know.

Follow your customers’ lead

Customers have become more agile in these strange new circumstances, and businesses must follow suit. This doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel — or rewriting customer journeys — completely. Rather, it’s about making quick pivots to meet and better serve them. Many annual conferences, including our very own Adobe Summit, for example, quickly shifted to digital environments and platforms as stay-at-home mandates spread throughout the United States back in March.

Step one for keeping up with customers requires a deep assessment of meaningful digital touchpoints and all engagement channels. Dig into the data to see how things have changed — and to anticipate where customers might go next. Once that’s done, brands can more effectively interact and offer support where it’s most needed and appreciated.

According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Marketing Trends report, customer engagement is the most important element of digital sales and marketing. Artificial intelligence technology can help. Letting chatbots quickly handle simple tasks, for example, allows an organization’s people to more readily step in when a situation requires a more empathetic, human touch.

Rethink the prospecting process

When circumstances quickly change, the sales funnel may take a hit. Research shows that face-to-face interactions are 34 times more effective than those made over email. So what can businesses do now that collecting and pitching ideas and solutions in person is currently not an option?

A demand-based approach requires the intelligence of both marketing and sales teams to ensure nothing falls through the cracks during these unprecedented times. There are two ways to adapt:

  1. Scale up lead generation
    COVID-19 has already affected employment and businesses dramatically, reducing the number of people who can afford products and services — and the percentage of leads in the market is likely to change again in the future. It’s time to cast a wider net with technology such as look-alike modeling and predictive audiences. These tools not only find prospects, but also identify those most likely to buy from a brand.
  2. Digitize marketing and sales supply chains
    When sales and marketing teams can see what each other are doing, there’s opportunity to more clearly prioritize and target customers. Sales insights tools can help with this, keeping communication crystal clear.

Of course, when moving internal processes online, companies must also pay attention to how it impacts the customer. Research from McKinsey shows that B2B brands with superior digital experiences are twice as likely to be chosen as primary suppliers over those that provide poor experiences. This is especially important considering that nearly all sales (90%) have shifted to web and mobile models.

Embrace moving in-person events online

The cancellation of in-person interactions, events, and networking has had a huge impact on how many B2B companies operate. Tech and services providers, for example, spend 11% of their marketing budgets on trade shows in hopes of gathering leads. While it’s possible to move events online, businesses now need to come up with new ways of measuring effectiveness and ensuring ROI.

This may just be a peek into what the future holds, as digital events may very well become commonplace after the pandemic. Thankfully, the success of an online event can be easier to manage and track than live tradeshows and conferences because of sophisticated reporting and targeting capabilities.

In addition to connecting a business with the right attendees, digital events can help a company forecast whether or not it will meet its goals. With the right digital tools in place, it’s easier to target people who have a high propensity to register — and not target those who are likely to unsubscribe.

Going online also frees up budget and time to experiment with new formats and content, such as interactive Q&A sessions and polls that encourage audience participation. A digital event offers the best of both worlds: higher engagement and fewer resources.

Turn a remote team into a resilient one

During times of uncertainty, customers aren’t the only players to consider. In addition to serving clients, B2B companies must also adapt to better serve and support their (now remote) employees. This requires new ways of communicating and distributing information for workers to engage with and learn from.

Being agile comes into play here, too. The quicker digital channels and touchpoints are established, the quicker employees can order supplies, be onboarded to new projects, and access policies — and of course, continue building relationships with customers. Some of the silver linings from the current situation include improved ability for long-distance collaborative work, as well as online marketing and business development.

Stand strong

The pandemic has taken many businesses by surprise, but it’s not the first challenge they have to face — and it won’t be the last. While it’s important to react swiftly and adapt in the face of adversity, it’s equally important to use these opportunities to build up defenses for whatever’s coming next.

If businesses are prepared, they can’t be thrown off balance. And with the right demand generation strategy and digital foundation in place — ones that help customers and workers alike thrive in ever-changing environments — brands can get through even the most unpredictable of times.

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Topics: Industry, Digital Transformation, COVID-19

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