COVID-19 and B2B Marketing: How Plans Have Changed in 30 Days

The team at B2B Marketing Zone recently published a report, How COVID-19 is Impacting B2B Marketing. The final day of data collection for that report was March 24.

On April 23, while presenting the findings on a webinar, the BMZ team ran four quick polls with the webinar audience to find out how the B2B marketing outlook and plans had changed over 30 days of lockdowns, slowdowns, and shutdowns.

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The quick polls focused on four topics:

  • Change in overall budgets.
  • Change in event plans.
  • Budget reallocation plans.
  • Outlook for returning to “normal.”

Here are the key findings.

What’s Changed

The biggest change in responses from B2B marketers between March 24 and April 23, unfortunately, was the expected decline in marketing budgets. In late March, just 28% expected their overall marketing budget to decline this year by 20% or more. By 30 days later, that figure jumped to 70%.

Expected decline in B2B marketing budgets due to COVID-19

Meanwhile, the percentage of marketers who expected their budgets to remain stable or even increase a bit, despite the pandemic, plunged from 39% in late March to 14% in late April.

Plans for replacing live events with webinars or other online events have also changed somewhat, though not nearly so dramatically.

How plans to replace live B2B events with online events have changed

B2B marketing respondents were moderately more likely to say they would replace “some” live events with virtual gathering and less inclined to replace “most” of them.

What Hasn’t

B2B marketers remain evenly split on reallocating live event dollars versus simply not spending the money.

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On March 24, 39% of respondents said they planned to reallocate the live events budget to other tactics and channels, while an identical share planned to not spend the money (i.e., to reduce their overall marketing spend).

On April 23, the split was essentially unchanged, at 41% each.

What’s Ahead

The final quick poll question wasn’t part of the original survey, but now that the U.S. is nearly two months into the coronavirus lockdown, it seemed sensible to ask:

When B2B marketers expect a return to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic“Analysts predict the re-opening of society and business will be a gradual process. None of us have a crystal ball, but what is your best sense of when things will be mostly back to ‘normal’?”

A bare majority (51%) believe conditions in business and society will begin to approach normal within three to nine months, or sometime between early August and late January.

One out of five expect a return to relatively normal times will take more than a year.

The spread of the coronavirus is inflicting severe physical, psychological, and economic pain around the globe. The world has gone through many recessions in modern economic times, but nothing quite like this. Let’s hope the most optimistic of these B2B marketers is proven right.

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