How to find your prospects in pandemics times
Approaching potential customers in these times of “weird” new normality – which has little to do with normality – has become a real conundrum for brands. Especially in the B2B sector, it does not seem easy to find convenient meeting places for networking, which now involves a safe distance (sometimes too much) and a mask that invariably hides our emotions.
The situation is putting the most seasoned salespeople to the test. Around-the-clock video calls have generated a digital fatigue that is difficult to measure exactly, but which ranges from weariness to exhaustion in many cases. Although the health situation is gradually improving in most Western countries, thanks to mass vaccination campaigns, there is still a long way to go before we can return to face-to-face events with old-fashioned meetings – or perhaps we never will. More than a few spokespersons are already immunised and use this as an opportunity to bond with their clients, encouraging them to return to face-to-face meetings. But there is still a long way to go before we can take our customers out to dinner or lunch at the trendy restaurant again.
It is true that event organisers are doing their utmost to get business flowing again. For example, the Mobile World Congress, which has unwittingly become the yardstick for measuring the level of prudence of the big technology companies and has found in the hybrid format the salvation plank for this year’s edition.
The same is happening with many trade fairs, which are timidly beginning to recover a certain normality, with some success certainly, as has happened with FITUR, whether because the pandemic situation allows it or because of the tremendous desire we all have to leave it behind.
In the meantime, most companies have found webinars and LinkedIn to be the battleground on which to test new connection strategies, with varying success depending on the brand and how they approach (never better said) their potential customers. Because with everyone online, you might think that it would be easier to reach your target audience and that an advertisement or editorial content in a couple of prestigious publications would be enough. But the truth is that in today’s fragmented media landscape, your audience could be on any media outlet, review site, social platform, forum, blog, podcast, etc. And you find that in order to engage with customers and potential customers spread across multiple channels, you have to invest more time, money and resources into your marketing strategy.
The problem is multiplied if we are talking about audiences in several countries. In the absence of global trade shows, content marketing campaigns can be an effective way to generate leads, but they must take into account the needs and nuances of each local market. Taking a blanket approach doesn’t work and brands that don’t take regional differences into account will struggle to run effective local campaigns. We are not discovering anything new when we say that each country requires a tailored approach to content and the channels used to promote it. For example, Facebook and Twitter are not allowed in China, so local platforms such as the mobile messaging app WeChat and Twitter-like Weibo are popular tools for B2B marketing there.
Tell me a (good) tale
To stand out from the crowd, B2B brands will need to take inspiration from B2C marketing and create more engaging, entertaining and emotive content. Last year, The Drum reported how the pandemic has accelerated the trend for B2B marketing to become more like consumer marketing, and it looks set to continue this year.
Storytelling can be a very effective way to help B2B brands distinguish themselves from their competitors, as it helps build trust and a connection with customers on a more emotional level. This gives them a reason to choose your brand over your competitors’. B2B marketers will need to resist focusing on their products and services and instead weave the narrative throughout the company in an authentic way.
It has to be good, nice and cheap
With the pandemic’s negative effect on most industries, many B2B brands have cut their marketing budgets and any spend is under scrutiny. Marketers are under pressure to achieve greater results with less budget and fewer resources. And they must demonstrate ROI on any money they spend. This requires a more strategic approach that is data-driven and research-based, and measurable at every stage of the process. Everything has to be Good, Nice and Cheap.
On the positive side, advances in marketing tools and technology driven by big data analytics, AI and machine learning can help B2B marketers better understand their audiences and the competitive market landscape. From social media analytics to customer insight platforms, there are tools that can provide marketers with data and insights on everything from the topics being discussed and channels being used, to the most powerful keywords and best performing content.
But it’s not so much the tools that matter as the ability to analyse the data and bring important insights to light. And for that you need people who understand your audience and your industry. Click.
Sales and marketing need to be closer than ever, and there are a number of questions that marketers can ask their sales teams to help them get more useful information and build a more relevant relationship with their customers. For example, “What’s keeping them awake at night?” and “Why are they buying from my competitor? As well as encouraging collaboration, these questions will provide valuable information that can be used in marketing messages.
Ultimately, 2021 may be the toughest year B2B marketers have ever faced and a major mindset shift will be needed to successfully engage audiences during this challenging time. Those who manage to turn the corner and embrace the new era of B2B marketing will be in a prime position to reap the benefits, both now and in the months ahead.
To find your customers you will have to sharpen your eyes in the style of the famous “Where’s Wally” books. And here comes the explanation for the illustration that opens this post. Made by our colleagues at Convoy, an international network of agencies to which we are very proud to belong #ConvoyPRNetwork and which has produced an interesting e-book on the challenges and keys to generating B2B leads in these turbulent times. Click here to download the ebook in Spanish.