The Impact of COVID-19 on B2B Marketing Plans: Tech vs. Non-Tech

The abrupt shutdown of vast swaths of economy and the entire live events industry, to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, has dramatically impacted plans for B2B marketers. But, as in all economic slowdowns, not every business sector is affected in the same degree or way.

Those differences are one area explored in How COVID-19 is Impacting B2B Marketing, a research report just published by B2B Marketing Zone and Webbiquity LLC.  More than 450 B2B marketing professionals gave their input to this study. Among the findings:

  • 61% of marketers expect at least a modest reduction in their overall marketing budgets for this year, with smaller vendors expecting the biggest declines.
  • 40% of respondents anticipate that unused live events dollars simply won’t be spent (i.e., overall budgets will be cut). But roughly the same share plan to reallocate those funds to other marketing tactics.
  • The top three areas live event budgets will be reallocated to are content creation (43%): hosted webinars (40%); and search marketing (33%).

Check out the full report for all of the insights.

One fascinating breakout is how the tech sector is being impacted differently than other B2B segments, outside of healthcare (healthcare-related businesses are facing their own, unique demand impacts in response to this pandemic).

Again, every recession hits different business sectors unequally. The dot-com meltdown and recession in 2000 impacted every sector somewhat, but hit the tech industry hardest by far.

The financial crisis of 2008-9, in contrast was sparked by the bursting of a bubble in real estate values. So among the industries hardest hit, not surprisingly, were mortgage lenders, real estate agents, furniture manufacturers and retailers, lumber wholesalers, and building materials. Tech was impacted far less.

With current requirements for social distancing, this downturn has devastated the live events industry (business, entertainment, and sports) along with travel, lodging, and restaurants.

But how is COVID-19 impacting tech marketing plans in comparison to other B2B segments? A closer look at the data reveals several intriguing findings.

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NOTE: The following charts compare the responses of technology marketers (those in the software or media/Internet/telecom segments) to non-tech B2B marketers (primarily manufacturing, business/financial services, and construction) excluding healthcare.

Overall Budget Impacts

While a majority of all B2B marketers foresee at least modest budget cuts this year, tech marketers (44%) are more likely than non-tech B2B marketers (37%) to expect no change or even an increase in their total marketing budget. Non-tech marketers are more likely (63% vs. 56%) to expect budget declines.

Expected change to overall 2020 marketing budget - tech vs non-tech b2b marketers

Online Event Plans

Tech marketers are significantly more likely (80% to 60%) than non-tech B2B marketing pros to move some or all of their planned live events online.

The “other” B2B marketers, in contrast, were more than three times as likely as their peers in the tech sector to say they had no plans to replace live events with webinars or other online meetings.

B2B marketers plans to replace live events with online events

Disposition of Live Events Budgets

By roughly a 4:3 ratio, tech marketers are more likely than non-tech B2B marketers to say they will reallocate unused live events marketing dollars to other programs.

By about the same margin, non-tech marketers say they are more likely to just cut budgets than their tech marketing peers.

What B2B marketers will do with unspent live events marketing budget dollars

How Reallocated Live Event Marketing Dollars will be Spent

In terms of where they will shift unused live events marketing dollars, all B2B marketers agree on certain tactics. But tech and non-tech marketers clearly have different plans for some channels. The key takeaways:

  • The top three tactics are the same for both tech and non-tech marketers: hosted webinars, content creation, and search ads.
  • However, tech marketers are more likely to invest in online events (both sponsored and hosted) and paid social media.
  • Non-tech marketers will spend more on content development and organic social media.
  • The two groups are about equally like to allocate more budget to search advertising, SEO, and vertical website campaigns.

How B2B marketers will reallocated unspent live events marketing budgets

Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic is having horrific effects on the health and livelihood of people from all walks of life, around the world. For everyone’s sake, may this pandemic recede into history soon.

But in the meantime, life must go on (for most of us). Hopefully, understanding how your peers are reacting and responding to this crisis helps you navigate this challenging time more effectively.

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