B2B Marketing in Pandemic Times: Here’s What to Do NOW (Research)

As the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on, B2B technology buyers are adjusting to a new (hopefully temporary) type of “normal.” Though the vast majority remain optimistic about the long-term future for their enterprises, they need help getting through the current, extremely challenging times. That’s where opportunity lies for B2B marketers today.

According to the latest research from LeadMD, only one in five business buyers is pessimistic about the future success of their business. And a (small) majority are still actively buying. But B2B marketers need to shift tactics and more important, messaging, in order to earn conversations with those prospective customers.

Conditions are changing quickly, and marketers need to keep up. Articles and posts about how to work effectively from home were big for about three weeks back in March, but people have figured that out now. They also no longer need pieces on how to use remote conferencing software, and are no longer making embarrassing mistakes like forgetting to wear pants.

Buyers certainly no longer need the scripted, inauthentic “we care” messaging that sounds the same from every brand. They want sensitivity to current conditions, but also straight talk from vendors about how they can help.

Here are three more key takeaways from the study.

B2B Buyers Are Still Buying

Per the study, 53% of respondents say they are in the market for B2B products and services. Nearly one-third (31%) are “looking for new solutions since the pandemic started.”

Asked how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their business, 41% said they had stopped making large purchases, including software; which indicates that 59% are still buying.

Conditions Are Changing Quickly

Research from TrustRadius (quoted by LeadMD) found that the share of companies expecting to spend more on B2B software this year plunged from 40% on March 18 to just 15% on April 9, while the proportion planning to spend less jumped from 18% to 31%. Updated data reported here more recently show a similar shift.

Still, that leaves 59% of buyers saying either that they will spend more, they won’t spend less, or their purchasing plans won’t be impacted by the pandemic.

Marketers need to keep track of and be sensitive to these changes. Optimistic news, like the announcement of a promising vaccine on the horizon (or even Major League Baseball finding a way to play games this summer) could shift buyer demand and sentiment quickly.

Buyers Are Focused on Immediate Needs

The largest share—44% of respondents—in the study want to know how to maximize the value of their current, in-place solutions. For your customers, help them understand how to get more out of what they’ve already bought from you.

For those using a competitive or alternative system, emphasize how you have tools that will make that software more effective or add important new capabilities, rather than trying to convince them to replace it.

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Another quarter of respondents want to know “what I can purchase that will help me be more effective given the changing economic climate.” Focus on what you can implement for them quickly to help them make incremental improvements to their operations in the near term.

Given those findings, here are three vital activities to focus your efforts on now.

Don’t Go Silent

While current conditions should cause you to shift and revise your marketing efforts, whatever you do, don’t stop marketing.

First, numerous studies over the years have shown brands that continue marketing and advertising efforts during economic slowdowns lose less of their business and are best positioned to take advantage of the recovery when it occurs.

Second, per the LeadMD research, buyers don’t expect you to stop marketing. Asked if it’s appropriate for B2B vendors to be marketing their products and services right now, a whopping 81% of buyers acknowledge that business has to go on—they just want marketers to be more sensitive.

Find Your Buyers

As noted above, roughly half of companies are still making B2B technology purchases, with about a third looking for new solutions. That makes identifying and reaching your prospects who still have budget and interest more essential than ever.

One key tactic is search marketing. Investing in both organic SEO and paid search helps the buyers who are still looking to find you. Another important finding from the LeadMD study is that 42% of respondents have reduced their marketing and advertising spend. This has driven down per-click pricing, making search and online advertising more affordable for those who stick with it.

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Another valuable tactic is using buyer intent data or technology, from providers like Bombora, DiscoverOrg, TrustRadius, IntentData, EverString, or even using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to surface interested prospects.

Update Your Messaging

A core conclusion of the research was that B2B marketers need to update their messaging. Now is not the time to “toot your own horn” or disparage competitors. Here is what buyers say they want to hear from marketers now:

  • Share knowledge and information. What trends are you seeing from your customers? What helpful data can you share with your market?
  • Focus on helping. Prospective buyers want to hear about how you can help them solve their challenges; offer solutions that will help them now and into the near future; and help them get to a desired future state.
  • Help with costs. Buyers are interested in options to extend payment terms or reduced pricing.

As the study concludes, “B2B buyers want straightforward, no-BS messaging that tells them how your product or service will help them. They want you to understand their circumstances and be direct.”

This pandemic has already taken a devastating human and economic toll. It can’t be over soon enough. But in the meantime, B2B marketers and buyers alike understand that “business has to go on.” Focusing on how to help businesses get through this, and maybe even improve operations a bit, is the best path forward for everyone.

Special thanks to Andrea Lechner-Becker of LeadMD for being incredibly responsive to my request for access to their research. Nicely done.


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