ReFocus on Buyer Changes: Your 2021 B2B Marketing Strategy

by / Nov 20, 2020

It goes without saying that a lot has changed this year — the way we shop, the way our kids learn, how we celebrate and how we communicate. We’ve all had to make sacrifices and alter our habits; this, of course, includes the buyers of your B2B product or service. Customer-centricity was always important, and we know buyers have high expectations. But you can’t assume that what you knew before about your buyers and current customers is still relevant. As you work on your 2021 B2B marketing strategy, here are some key actions that will allow you to focus on your buyers’ changing needs and behaviors:

Listen to your current customers.

  • According to Gartner research, 79% of CMOs will look to existing customers to fuel growth in a post-COVID-19 environment.
  • Find meaningful ways to listen, learn from, and engage customers through:
    • Advisory boards
    • Client all-hands meetings
    • Digital solutions to provide help, perspective and advice at scale

Don’t assume you still know your customers.

  • Acknowledge that your personas aren’t 100% relevant right now; it’s likely that 2020 factors may have impacted decision criteria, pain points, needs and content preferences.
  • Prioritize speaking with customers and refreshing buyer personas in your 2021 plan; there’s no substitute for hearing directly from customers.

Things move fast — stay informed, so that you can move faster.

  • Monitor trends and themes via social media.
  • Lean into digital marketing, social media and other approaches that are data-driven and where you can be agile.

Get targeted.

  • Now is a great time to lean into ABM. Maximize the impact of your efforts by focusing on key accounts for pipeline acceleration, retention and cross-sell / upsell opportunities.
  • Take additional COVID-related factors into account, such as industry or geographical impact.

What’s Not Likely to Change in 2021?

Digital isn’t extra. It’s tablestakes.

Digital buying expectations and behaviors were growing before the pandemic and will continue to increase. An August McKinsey study of B2B decision-makers confirmed this. Here are a four key highlights from the study that may have you thinking differently about your 2021 B2B marketing strategy, and beyond:

  • The tide has turned: digital self-service and remote rep interactions are likely to be the dominant elements of the B2B go-to-market model going forward, when selling to both SMBs and large enterprises.
  • Don’t count on returning to a pre-COVID-19 level of in-person sales coverage; only 20–30% of B2B buyers want to ever interact with reps in person, even in their ideal/post-COVID-19 model.
  • Around 90% of B2B decision makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run, and 3 in 4 believe the new model is as effective or even better than before COVID-19 (for both existing customers and prospects).
  • 97% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end, digital self-serve model, with the vast majority being very comfortable spending $50K or more online.

Website improvement is crucial.

As you develop your 2021 B2B marketing strategy, here are five things to consider improving on your website to meet the changing expectations of your buyers’ digital experience:

  1. Speed, transparency, and expertise are valued — make these elements some of your key improvement goals.
  2. Make it easy for them to find your products and content. Your navigation should be based on buyers’ needs, not your internal org chart.
  3. Don’t forget the human touch — make it easy for a buyer to contact you. Include your phone number, incorporate live chat and add an easy-to-use “find a sales rep” feature.
  4. Consider e-commerce — to do this right, you’ll need to make sure all sales channels are integrated, and I suggest you incentivize collaboration with Sales to ensure new e-commerce options are embraced rather than seen as a threat.
  5. Help customers understand the price — think about how you can add a self-serve tool, like a digital calculator.

And beyond your website, the time is now to double down on inbound and outbound content and digital marketing, because the best website in the world won’t matter if you don’t have traffic.

Embrace change.

It feels like the only thing for certain right now is that our everyday lives and work will continue to change. I’m confident that, as marketers, we can take on these changes and provide exceptional buyer experiences using new strategies and technology.

Of course, you may also need a little (or a lot of) help with your 2021 B2B marketing strategy. We have experienced B2B marketing pros at The Mx Group helping our clients meet the changes that the pandemic has brought every day — from pivoting event strategies to developing new brand messaging that strikes the right tone. If you need a partner to help you navigate the challenges ahead, I hope you’ll get in touch.

Kellie de Leon

Vice President of Marketing & Strategy, The Mx Group

Kellie joined The Mx Group in 2013. She brings over 15 years of client- and agency-side experience working in marketing across a variety of industries, including industrial products, health care, software, non-profit and professional services. Kellie leads the strategy and internal marketing functions for the agency, managing demand generation and sales enablement to propel the company’s continued growth. She holds a B.A. in communications and theatre from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.