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.

#SEMPOChat: Site Search

Site search is the most underrated and underfunded part of the sales process. Up to 50 percent of customers use site search–but most companies don’t have resources dedicated to improving their search. A significant part of the problem is that many decision makers are confused by site search and don’t know where to start.

The ROI of Site Search

The ROI of Site Search

The calculation of ROI (Return on Investment) is a critical step of the business decision making process. It can also be the most intimidating step. Even those who sat through Finance 101 and understand the concepts of ROI calculation may not fully understand how to do it in practice. Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of experience in using this tool, especially in calculating the ROI of site search improvements.

B2B buyers rely upon site search

B2B Sales is changing

According to Forrester, the percentage of B2B buyers who prefer to do research online increased from 53% in 2015 to 68% in 2017. But it’s not just pre-sales research. Accenture’s research indicates that when you look at the end-to-end buying process, 94% of buyers do online research. The digital shift has completely transformed B2C buying behaviors, and while B2B has been more resistant to the shift, those changes are coming.

To take advantage of this trend, successful digital sales leaders will recalibrate where resources and management attention is focused. Sales Reps will continue to be a key part of the B2B sales process, especially during the final phases of high consideration purchases. But online capabilities, especially during the research phase, needs a better seat at your sales table.