In early December 2019 the world began a new journey, the global impact of which could never have been predicted. Whether skeptic or believer, COVID-19 was about to affect every economy and every individual across the globe, and it was going to do so for the foreseeable future.
B2B industries and the professionals working within them were no exception. In a lot of Western countries, home and remote working became the norm almost overnight and the digital transformation required to support this workstyle and the ‘new normal’ approach to carrying out our daily duties was fast-tracked to the top of the agenda.
Businesses unwilling to embrace this change quickly and effectively were unlikely to survive the challenges presented by the pandemic, but for those who chose to pivot and adapt, survival and even the chance to thrive became a realistic possibility.
Now, almost 12 months on from the first discovery of human interaction with the virus there are big, unanswered questions that will affect millions globally. But for us, a proud part of the global B2B marketing community, we’re interested in finding out what we’ve learned from the pandemic so far, how it’s forever changed the B2B buyer journey and what that means for marketing and business leaders moving forward into an uncertain 2021.
The B2B buyer journey before and after COVID-19
In some respects B2B has been harder hit by the pandemic than B2C. Part of the reason B2B is playing catch up with B2C is its legacy of B2B sales largely taking place in person, with longer buying cycles for complex, relationship led products and services often at the heart of a B2B sale.
Lock-down as a result of the pandemic created an urgent need for digital transformation in B2B sales.
Simplification of the buyer journey and purchase process, easier access to sales enablement information, a reduced reliance on in-person meetings and a solid investment in digital enablement to support every aspect of the prospect journey is now critical to secure long-term engagement and sales for B2B businesses.
The shift from in-person to virtual
There’s a new reality when it comes to building and converting sales pipeline. Face to face events and conferences have been taken virtual and digital first selling has rapidly become the new norm in the absence of in-person meetings.
Traditionally face to face events and conferences are a hot-bed of sales leads with cumulative touch-points via live demos, post event drinks and knowledge sharing to nurture a sales lead towards conversion.
Without the cumulative touch-points you can create from a live event to speed up the buyer journey, businesses need to recreate the intensity of sales decision making through virtual events and digital sales processes.
A key issue when looking at ways to simplify and digitize the B2B purchasing process is pricing. Unlike B2C organizations, B2B product or service prices are not always visible and they’re open to negotiation and economies of scale in a manner unnecessary within consumer businesses.
A specific example of complex pricing can be found in professional service organizations like law firms. Price is a bespoke concept, based on time and the type of work being delivered which is often only known once a project has begun. In the wake of the pandemic, to remain competitive and accessible, all of these businesses need to find a solution to simplify pricing and take an ecommerce led approach to purchase process design.
Between the evolution of customer expectations and advancement of ecommerce technologies, taking your business online has a lower barrier to entry than ever. bigcommerce.com
The Evolution of Digital Revenue Teams
If ever there was a time to finally put the sales and marketing silo mentality to bed, it’s now. The buyer journey and customer experience are now amalgamated into one complete user journey. Human touch points will still be really important, but significantly reduced in the post COVID digitized model, streamlining and automating the whole prospect to customer experience.
This will require sales, marketing and customer success teams working together more closely than ever before as one overarching digital revenue team working towards the same North Star objective. This approach will make it easier for businesses to scale quickly for growth and will provide another level of customer experience.
Ledger Bennett’s Revenue Responsibility Model explains this shift in more detail here.
Is the future bright for B2B?
The pandemic feels like a unique time in history, and it’s driven uncertainty through every single person and economy affected. But, change drives opportunity and we’ve seen from our clients that those willing to look ahead, making agile decisions that protect the future of their business have a great chance of not only surviving, but thriving beyond the pandemic.
Simon Sinek published six minutes of a meeting with his team, which he titled, “These Are Not Unprecedented Times”. His point was that we have seen plenty of other times when “change has put many companies out of business,” such as the advent of the internet, digital photography, and Starbucks. He recognizes that COVID-19 feels more sudden and more shocking, in part because it has killed tens of thousands of people all around the world. But the important take-away is a mandate to reinvent ourselves, considering, “How will we do what we’re doing in a different world?”