There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has an impact on the B2B world as companies generally reduce their marketing budgets. At the same time, many B2B companies receive or increase their marketing expenses, as we have seen with most of our customers at TopRank Marketing.
While there has generally been a shift from explicit sales / push marketing content to brand messages that are more timely and empathetic to customers, sales expectations for B2B brands still persist during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The challenge facing many B2B marketers is to understand how to manage both short-term changes in how customers work in the current environment and long-term after the crisis.
According to a McKinsey study, one of the biggest changes is the increasing importance of B2B digital over traditional customer retention methods – 200% more than before COVID-19. This switch to digital means higher expectations of B2B customers for self-service and B2B e-commerce experience. These changes in expectations are accompanied by short and long-term changes in marketing.
B2B companies not only need to reduce the loss of revenue due to the uncertainty during the pandemic, but those who want to continue to be the best solution and customer awareness when buying behavior returns have to deal with the pandemic tactics will stay after the crisis has subsided.
To get a good overview of how marketing goals can be measured in a crisis, be sure to read Birdie's post here.
How buyers think about B2B brands in the short and long term will directly contribute to which brands are most relevant when budgets open and investments in business solutions grow significantly. Some of the long-term metrics include branding goals that are measured based on social network vote share, search share, and media earned.
Can B2B marketers optimize and measure their pandemic marketing?
Content is the Kingdom . Providing customers with information and resources to survive and thrive during the pandemic that is useful from a customer perspective is a good place to start. Proof of how the solution of the B2B brand offers added value in the current environment is also important in order to create relevance and benefit for customers. Of course there is not only useful information. The switch to digital B2B brands must ensure that the digital experiences they provide are 100% available: information is easy to find, the request or order process is easy and fast, the use of online systems is error-free.
The search is even more relevant. As mentioned in the McKinsey study, self-service is an increasing expectation among B2B buyers. One way that buyers do self-service marketing is by using search engines.
An emphasis on search also helps B2B brands achieve sales goals without being "sales-oriented". This trend was picked up by experienced B2B marketers. 63% of marketers said it would be most important during the pandemic, according to a Conductor survey. This trust is also illustrated by data reported by G2 Crowd, showing that B2B technology categories saw a 200-600% increase in organic search traffic during the pandemic.
In order for search to work, B2B brands naturally need best practices for content and SEO to ensure optimal visibility for what customers are looking for. We have seen many B2B brands focus on SEO during the pandemic, which means that shoppers who no longer participate in trade shows and participate in experience or field marketing activities can use search engines to find useful information and solutions on their own terms Find.
Findability works best with credibility. Customers are still skeptical about brand marketing and are tired of ads and messaging "In these uncertain times we are there for you". While dealing with search engine optimization and advertising works well for customer loyalty, optimized content that has increased the credibility of third parties can work even better.
In our own investigation in 2020 Report on the Status of B2B Influencer Marketing 77% of B2B marketers state that their prospects are based on influencers for information. Confidence in influencer marketing is increasing for B2B marketers. 63% of respondents believe that an influencer marketing program would give them better marketing results.
Marketing in times of crisis, with SEO in the foreground to help buyers move to brand content that also includes credible content from industry experts, can really create trust and the trust of buyers to connect. For this reason, SEO and influence are essential partners for all B2B marketing efforts during and after the pandemic.
In order to measure the effects of optimized and content-activated B2B content marketing, the most relevant search terms and influencing topics for customers must be understood and then the relevance, commitment and conversion of the brand for these topics must be pursued.
The most important measures for search engine marketing include:
Report on topic visibility and sharing search for those topics
Forward traffic to content that has been optimized for the target topics
Conversions from the content of the target topic
Influencer marketing, metrics to track include:
Share of votes on topics from include
Brand affinity growth to influencers
Range of topic content in influencer networks
Engagement and conversion performance of topic content shared by influencers
Growth in affinity of topics and brand in the social field
Growth in advocacy for organic brands through influencers and their networks
Uncertainty is a dangerous condition for companies, and making no decision is often worse than making the wrong decision or failing quickly. Understanding changes in buyer behavior can help B2B brands gain confidence in the role that content marketing will play in the short and long term. Relevant content that can be found by increasingly self-serving buyers as well as credible through contributions from industry experts can offer the competitive advantage required for short-term and post-pandemic implementation.