A firm handshake is an integral part of the B2B sales and marketing cycle … which is kind of tricky in a world where even elbow bumps aren’t recommended.
And so with in-person meetings and events off the table, B2B marketers are getting creative with their efforts and turning to digital at an accelerated pace.
Business (not) as usual
“Everything is digital now,” said Toni Clayton-Hine, EY's CMO for the Americas. “And because of that, we actually have more information to help us create and develop user journeys.”
EY conceived a series of virtual events with topics tailored to the times, such as tips on closing remote deals and what to do about the CARES Act. The CARES Act webcast was oversubscribed at 18,000 registrants.
“This was evidence to us that our audience was voracious for any type of guidance and information,” Clayton-Hine said.
EY also pivoted a pre-pandemic ad campaign it had been planning to run on CNBC about its work with the Royal Caribbean cruise line – no longer the best timing for that – into a content series of five-minute soundbites featuring the most-requested topic areas from clients, such as supply chain concerns, cybersecurity and how to take advantage of Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Between the CNBC site, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, EY generated 1.5 million completed video views over a three-week period. But what was even more valuable was clearly seeing how people moved from awareness and then down the funnel, eventually ending up on ey.com to download more in-depth info.
“You could almost watch people go from snackable pieces of content and then dive deeper,” Clayton-Hine said. “It’s what it must be like in the B2C world, where you can actually see the journey.”
It’s challenging driving demand when demand is soft, and B2B marketers with a long sales cycle are obsessed with efficiency, said Gabe Rogol, CEO of account-based marketing (ABM) provider Demandbase.
“But it’s a bit of a false premise to say there is no demand,” Rogol said. “You just have to be more effective at finding it.”
Going to market with a heavily sales-driven message still isn’t a great idea, said Michael Lambert, senior director of small business marketing at Dell Technologies.
Dell has a division dedicated to helping SMBs make sure they’ve got the IT infrastructure and hardware they need and also hooks small business owners up with Dell technology advisers.
“We’re focusing on the positive and on the ingenuity aspect and stories of resilience, while also keeping it timely and entertaining,” Lambert said. “That’s how you can stand out when everyone else is clamoring for the same media inventory.”
Even in the pandemic, most of the demand on the small business side at Dell is inbound.
“They’re trying to tighten the purse strings,” Lambert said, “but they also still need to find the right solutions.”
Even so, it’s still important to keep driving awareness for Dell’s SMB-focused services, he said – although the channels for doing so are different now, and reflect the changes in consumption patterns that all businesses are seeing, regardless of sector or size.
Throughout late April and into May, for example, Dell reinvested its out-of-home and terrestrial radio budgets into digital media channels where engagement was up during quarantine.
Social media and online video were the biggest beneficiaries.
“There’s been an emphatic shift in terms of our marketing and communications,” Lambert said. “We were already in these spaces to a healthy degree, but we’ve significantly increased our attention and our investment.”