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It’s the end of the world as we know it (for B2B Marketing)

End of the world. Hyperbole? Probably. But B2B Marketing does feel a bit broken right now.

The most important tools in our arsenal require people to meet people. That’s not happening. So what now? Where should your priorities be? Website engagement is an area to focus because it’s a good bet (see your analytics data) your prospects are going digital.

No Shows. Is that a problem?

We should be in the heart of the trade show season. This week I should have been in San Jose meeting prospects, dining with customers, and taking the pulse of the market. That’s not happening for your business or mine. Instead, we’re spending what feels like the thousandth day in our home offices staring into the video camera.

The upside of all this is it has given me the opportunity to speak with folks (i.e. everyone) who are similarly situated and have all that commuting time free to have a chat.

Table of effective channels for B2B showing trades shows at #3 for engagement and #1 for conversions. from emarketer

I’m sure you, like many of the folks that I speak with, are concerned about 2Q and 3Q sales pipeline given that you’re not doing what you’d normally be doing at this time of year to fill the top of the funnel. Not only are trade shows and other events not occurring but the lead nurturing and sales efforts that normally happen face-to-face aren’t occurring.

For B2B, trade shows are virtually tied for first with email and websites for engagement of new prospects. And they’re the most frequently cited source of deals that actually close (see eMarketer data in the sidebar). Without this key tool, engagement is left to the other two principal channels, email and websites.

Plan B. A Better B2B Marketing Plan

No one knows how long we will be prevented from using face-to-face channels. And no one knows how quickly our customers will feel safe about using these channels even after they are given the ‘all clear.’ But you have other tools in your arsenal to help you get the leads you are missing.

Most companies have a strong email game. CRM and marketing automation tools have been around for years and companies are generally making good use of them to drive engagement and top-of-funnel volume. You have to continue to do that as well as you ever have.

Cartoon illustrating the Covid-19 wrecking ball about to hit a bunch of company executives in denial about the importance of digital transformation.

Where many B2B companies have struggled is to build an integrated digital game, in particular, an engaging and effective website. So many B2B companies are either stuck in website models from a decade ago—the brochureware model—or are trying to emulate engagement models built in the consumer world with limited success. Those models, while popular, don’t really fit. You feel when you look at the success rates of the technology and processes you’ve adopted from vendors who laud their B2C success.

More than ever before, your website needs to serve your prospects and customers with an excellent customer experience. It needs to allow customers to progress further in their buyer journey so that they will purchase, even while your face-to-face sales team is sitting at home.

You’ve long seen buyers shifting more to digital. It’s been hard to keep up with the change. Now that digital has been forced upon them that shift will accelerate. This crisis has forced people who not have otherwise learned the skill to operate digitally. And some of them are not going back–at least not 100% of them. The time for you to refocus your efforts and some of those event and trade show dollars on your web engagement is upon you. What do you have to lose?

You’ve said for years that you need your website to work harder to contribute more. Maybe this is the time to walk the talk. Because your customers are online now more than ever, and if your traffic isn’t up, or your deal flow isn’t up, that means that your competitors are getting an unfair share of the opportunity. It’s not the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a new world.

You’re ready. Your prospects are ready. Let’s talk.

If you’re interested in improving your website’s engagement, lead contributions, and conversions, connect with me and we’ll have a chat.

Take care and stay safe.

Author

  • Steve Zakur

    Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies. Prior to joining SoloSegment, Steve held a variety of executive positions at IBM focused on marketing, technology, and sales. Steve holds an MBA from the Stern School at New York University.