In 2019, the B2B sector was readying itself for an imminent recession. All the signs were there. The China-US trade war and Brexit issues were taking a toll on the global economy. Savvy enterprises were readying their 2008 Great Recession survival kits and strategies to cope with the oncoming panic. Recessions are terrible for revenue and sales.
In 2008, most businesses choked back their spending on tactical marketing and sales, to weather the economic storm. They lowered product and services prices to encourage buying and channeled their budgets towards product development. The economic climate was difficult, but it was not impossible.
Unfortunately, the long-awaited recession is here with us. This particular downturn is, however, a first of its kind is. That old B2B 2008 recession playbook will not work in a recession whose effects are exacerbated by a global pandemic.
The 2008 Recession vs. 2020 Recession Landscape For B2B Marketers
As an illustration, the most affected B2B sector in 2008 was the high tech category. It is an industry that is mostly dependent on the B2B model of selling. Most of its value lies in its intellectual property. Product development, therefore, is a great source of its value chain. Worldwide cancellations of major tech trade fairs and exhibitions have not been kind to these B2B brands.
When GSMA, the Mobile Word Congress organizers canceled the Barcelona tech show, over COVID-19 fears, a difficult blow was dealt with small tech companies. Such enterprises reveal their wares to the industry movers and shakers during such global tech events.
Here, B2B brands get free press coverage and sign hefty deals. The epidemic has frustrated much more than businesses. The city of Barcelona, for instance, relies heavily on the Mobile World Congress for an economic boost. Data shows that visitors to the city spent over $513 million during the 2019 event!
This is not 2008 for brands, marketers, or cities of the world. The coronavirus pandemic spread still spreads like a fire, delivering blow after blow of damage to the world economy. Its damage is becoming apparent as the days go by.
As an illustration, World stock markets are down 25% of their January highs. The recent Wall Street plunge is the steepest recorded in recent history. The ongoing lockdowns and restrictions have hampered all areas of industry. In 2008, the crunch was mostly a banking crisis, which left the supply side of business unaffected.
Warwick McKibbin, the eminent Australian economist estimates that the G7 nations will have an average GDP decline of 8% this year. The US will have 8%, the UK, 6% and Germany 9%. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, another prominent economist predicts that the world GDP will fall by 10% should the economic activity not resume its normal pace. In comparison, in 2009, the global GDP fell by 1.7%.
The current recession is far worse than any in recent history because the severe collapse happened in a very short span. It is therefore expected that if income is held up for a few more months, then many enterprises will become insolvent. Such an occurrence will have reverberating effects that range from bad debts to increased unemployment.
B2B Marketing Post-Coronavirus (COVID-19) Epidemic
The ongoing pandemic is a horrible human tragedy that is affecting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. It is bringing to light that humanity is interconnected with minute degrees of separation at most. The need to flatten the curve and stem the spread of the virus is every person’s responsibility.
Nevertheless, the reality on the ground is that the epidemic’s impact will be significant and will take a long time to control. The B2B marketer, therefore, needs to plan for various scenarios that will help to address the challenges ahead.
Some of the frameworks that you need to consider are that most employees today are working from home. There is less travel, and people might have to work in odd shifts to encourage social distancing. Post the epidemic, there will be fewer opportunities for personal sales meetups. As Google has done, businesses will discourage visitors from their physical locations.
B2B e-commerce will, consequently, become the only channel that drives demand and keeps the industry’s engines running. The B2B marketer’s game plan, therefore, needs to adequately address their brand’s digital commerce channels by;
Go Digital and Ensure That All Channels Have Accurate and Up To Date Information
Customer behaviors have been transformed by the ongoing tragedy. Safety has become paramount and your clients will have a heightened sensitivity to germs. The fear of spreading infections will alter the operations of many businesses. Dining, consumer travel, product preferences, and entertainment-based businesses will need to re-strategize.
Your online customers will rely on you to keep their customers and employees safe. You, accordingly, need to have accurate, relevant, and fact-based product information on your channels. Use relevant links and rich content whether you sell related products or not.
If you have out-of-stock products due to broken supply lines, ensure that they are marked as “sold-out”. This move will eliminate much customer aggravation. If the product is essential, step up and direct your clients to other suppliers that have what they need in stock. You also have a moral obligation to ensure that you have fair market prices and accurate delivery times.
As mentioned organizations have become ultra-sensitive to visitors on their sites. You need to address this challenge post the COVID-19 pandemic. Notify your buyers that you have ample packaging, products, or personnel safety precautions in place. Inform of the various delivery options in place and the level of flexibility allowed upfront.
Experiences Will Evolve
B2B businesses that have relied on huge in-person events for marketing will need to deal with the long term effects of social distancing. In the past, in-person events have been critical to company success. In 2017, this marketing channel raked over $1 trillion in revenue. Events have been popular amongst buyers because they are a condensed opportunity that holds easy to access solutions for businesses.
Vendors, on the other hand, love them for the exposure and sales prospects. Nevertheless, like newspapers were once at the mercy of internet blogs that had become a major source of curated quality content, so is the in-event sector at a crossroads.
Most businesses and event organizers have postponed, canceled, or re-imagined their events to virtual sessions. Digital advertising, webinars, and virtual conferencing have become part of the emerging virtual event sector. Businesses are bound to invest more in virtual events due to maintain social distancing.
Over time, data will reveal the digital channels that will best serve as a replacement for live events, and budgets will be devoted to such channels. The bottom-line, however, is that many businesses have witnessed the devastation that a virus can have on their major source of revenue.
They will therefore not jump back into in-person live events without investing in back up virtual solutions. It is only the events that innovate and focus on value and quality that will thrive.
A Focus On Customer Experience
Marketers need to not only instill confidence in customers but also help their customers. While it is true that many a business’s lead generation and brand-building efforts have been adversely affected by the pandemic it is important not to lose sight of the lay of the land.
Lives are at stake and the well-being of humanity must come first. Catering to the human element will be inconvenient and disruptive but a marketer must take on a world reeling from worse pain, inconvenience, and suffering.
The businesses that will adapt will shift their message from ‘look at what my offering can do’ to’ we are helping the community in solving an immediate pain’ will thrive post the pandemic. This act is a fine line, but communicating assistance and compassion in messages that do not have any click-bait hook is a genius move.
Cease becoming part of the overwhelming deluge of emails, posts, tweets, and multichannel broadcasts dominating your client’s screens. Most people today are looking for compassionate and helpful information.
Consequently, giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Reddit, LinkedIn, and YouTube are all working with governments and scientists to combat the virus, misinformation, and fraud. Your firm can also go a long way in aiding community response which eventually will enhance your customer loyalty and base.
All industries today have been affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. Businesses with stronger defense mechanisms will bounce back faster while those severely impacted will need to adopt a volatile “normal”. Besides adapting to novel and uncertain conditions of marketing, there is also a need to restructure your understanding of consumer behavior.
Agile ways of working will help outmaneuver the post-pandemic uncertainty. The unseen benefit is that will emerge winners from this trying time. The B2B marketer that leverages digital technology and adapts fast will run the emerging marketing geography.
Have you leveraged your digital marketing and e-commerce investments? Do not get caught flat-footed this season. Act now, double your e-commerce presence, and do its fast!