When will B2B events return? 1 yr+ is the answer.

I created a video for SoloSegment’s homepage back in April thinking that it wouldn’t age well. It was about the fact that B2B marketers, in addition to the threats of COVID, are threatened by the fact that there are no trade shows going on. A key source of leads has vanished. At the time, I expected to have to update that come May.

I watched the video this morning and I wouldn’t change a thing. Despite the fact that we’re all more comfortable with the new way of behaving–social distancing, wearing masks, staying home–the reality of this virus hasn’t changed. It’s still out there. Sickness is still rising in some places though steady or declining slowly in others. In order to maintain this stalemate with the virus, we’re going to have to continue to be careful.

So when are things going to get back to normal?

For B2B marketers, the big question is when will events come back. It’s hard to say, but a large part of that answer will be dependent upon when people are comfortable with traveling and being in crowded places.

One hint to the answer of that timing may come in a recent NY Times article where they asked 511 epidemiologists when they were going to be ready to change their behavior on a variety of activities. What’s most relevant to us as professionals is that they say they wouldn’t attend a large event in the next year. Are regular folks going to be as reluctant to travel as epidemiologists? I don’t know but I suspect the answer is more yes than no.

So what are you to do in the interim?

As I’ve discussed in several forums over the past few months, you’re going to have to improve your digital engagement game. That means your website is going to have to be more effective than ever at capturing and progressing leads. For those who have a good digital game this likely means shifting focus and spend. For those who have neglected their digital properties, the journey may be more challenging but is doable.

Where should you be investing your time and money?

The key areas that I’d focus on are:

  • Content Marketing – everything starts with the right content. Do you have messaging on your site that aligns with the pain your prospects feel? Do those messages have clear calls to action?
  • Fully Exploiting Existing Tech – many companies have what I refer to shelfware. Great technology that isn’t being fully utilized. What capabilities do you have to increase engagement with what you already have?
  • Fill The Gaps – where you’re missing a piece in your tech stack, personalization is one common area that B2B marketers struggle with, get on that. Your prospects have high expectations that you’ll at least appear to know what they want.

Personally, I doubt I’ll be attending an in-person event of any scale for the remainder of this calendar year. That’s at least six months until I’m ready, absent better testing or a long-shot vaccine, and I may be a little more of a risk taker than many others.

We’re all going to be watching how the behaviors of our prospects and customers evolve during the coming months. But if I were to bet, I would bet that some behaviors have permanently changed. If buyers get used to evaluating products via websites and zoom meetings with sales reps the heyday of large B2B events may be behind us. Digital may finally be your primary way of engaging B2B buyers, now more than ever. Data shows that personalized content delivers greater engagement and increased leads (you can learn more about how to do that in this “Six Truths About Personalization B2B Marketers Must Know” ebook). And it’s something you can do more easily than you think.

Ready to get started?

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

B2B Conferences Canceled? How to Pivot Your Company.

Woe is us, right? Trade shows, B2B conferences, summits, everything has been canceled. Gone. Seemingly over a weekend, we have watched face-to-face become shelter-in-place. More events are canceled or postponed every day. Or they are moving online, which might be even worse, because who knows if the money you paid for a booth will pay off in an online event.

And it isn’t just what is being outright canceled. What happens when the shows come back? Will anyone go? The most optimistic among us must come to grips with the idea that the great conference lead machine is dead. At least for now. If your marketing deal flow depends on in-person events, this is the time for a pivot. A digital pivot.

What can you do to drive leads?

While everyone is hunkered down at home and not attending conferences you should reach them literally where they live. B2B web traffic is up–is yours? If not, maybe you should focus on attracting traffic:

  • Can you improve your search marketing?
  • Can you buy ads?
  • Can you improve your email campaigns?

If your web traffic is up, are your web-driven leads up? If not, you should focus on driving more leads:

We have a bunch more tips to help you learn more about driving leads with personalized content in a new ebook, “The Six Personalization Truths Every B2B Marketer Needs to Know Right Now.”

Getting to “Yes” on Digital Dollars

But maybe it isn’t ideas that are the problem. You want to do all of these things. But when I ask you “Can you…” the answer is, “No, I can’t.” Usually, when someone tells me that they can’t do something, it’s because the decision isn’t theirs to make. They need to persuade someone higher up who is playing the role of “Dr. No.”

So, I have an idea for you that a really smart client of ours just used. He made a simple chart that showed a list of all the B2B conferences, sales conferences, and trade shows that his company attended last year, along with a count of the number of leads driven for each event. Then he added a column at the end of each row of the table that said, “CANCELED” running down the full length of the list. It was a nice long list of events that drove lots of leads last year but are driving zero leads this year.

This galvanized his boss into action. Instead of the plaintive suggestion you’ve made every month for the last two years: “Gee, shouldn’t we be shifting our B2B Sales Playbook to digital?” now you have reframed the question to “Where are we going to plug this gaping hole in leads that is about to turn into a gaping hole in revenue?”

Get going!

Now the boss is ready to act. Now the boss is ready to shift the B2B conference budget into digital. Now is when you can get to work. This is your moment. You must aggressively pivot while the money is there to do it. If you let this chance go by, the finance types will scoop up all the trade show money and you won’t have any funding to accelerate digital. Your sales digital transformation will never get funded.

This crisis has been an unspeakable tragedy for many families–maybe even yours. But it isn’t callous to hope that some good–some minor good, but good nonetheless–can come out of this horror. Can we make the confident moves to pivot to digital that solidifies our companies and saves the jobs of our team, because we will be driving the leads when competitors remain fast asleep? Let’s not compound the health crisis with our own jobs crisis, just because we didn’t act when we could have. What you do now will decide your future.

Ready to get started?

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

COVID-19 doesn’t have to ruin your B2B pipeline

The second quarter is often the peak time for you and other large enterprise B2B marketers to be out at events telling your stories to prospects. Due to COVID-19, we’re seeing many cancellations in industry events during 2Q. The few events that continue on will no doubt be sparsely attended due to travel restrictions at the very companies with which you want to connect. Does this mean the death of your pipeline for 2020 business? It doesn’t if you’re able to get a disproportionately larger output from your other sources of leads.

How Heavy Industry Marketers Deliver Relevant Customer Experiences in a GDPR World

Improving Customer Engagement for Industrial Marketers

Marketers working in machinery, chemicals and other heavy industries have long been behind the digital curve. For many companies, digital hasn’t become part of your repertoire as quickly because of the complex distribution channels and analogue ways of engaging with clients. B2B, especially industrial marketers, have been lagging.

When B2B Personalization is Too Hard to Implement

I had a conversation a while back with a large data company, discussing behavior-based personalization. The VP of Marketing heard me out for a few minutes, and then said “Woah, wait a minute. So it’s personalization? I already have that.”

So I said “Oh, how’s that going? What are you seeing?”

And he said, “Well, we haven’t turned it on yet.”

MartTech East 2019 Wrap-up

I thought I’d just capture a few thoughts on MarTech East 2019. This summary isn’t representative of the conference, it’s representative of my experience at the conference.

This was my first MarTech East. It was an excellent conference for practitioners of marketing technology arts. Kudos to Scott Brinker and the Third Door Media team. The following are my key takeaways from the conversations that I had with presenters, attendees, and vendors.

The Challenge Of B2B Personalization

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had 147 conversations with B2B marketing leaders. These aren’t sales calls. I’m not pitching anything. They’re conversations about the issues that are top of mind for these professionals. I guide these discussions with questions around areas we’re interested in, but the main goal is to get a sense of the market. It turns out that personalization is a top of mind issue.

Personalization — It’s Not Just for B2C

This past year, the demand for personalization is at an all-time high.

According to a 2019 Lytics white paper, two-thirds of customers want brands to adjust content based on their real-time context. Over 40% are annoyed if you don’t. And another two-thirds of those said they skip making a purchase out of annoyance. Successful B2C personalization has become the expectation.

That’s not just a problem for retail.