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90% of B2B decision-makers think sales communications have changed for good. What can you do to adapt?

The shift to digital communications during the pandemic has been a challenge for almost every manufacturing and engineering sales and marketing department and it’s not over yet. Organisations must continue to adapt to the environment as the new working landscape emerges post-COVID. Reports by McKinsey show just how seismic this shift has been. More importantly, it looks like the landscape has changed for good.

Back in March 2020, the full implications of the first lockdown were yet to be known and survival was the initial concern aired in many boardrooms. However, adaptability has been one of the key characteristics of the UK economy and adapt it did over the rest of the year. Leading the digital evolution was the move to video calls, but evidence of the impact of digital uptake shows the changes have been much deeper than anyone could have predicted.

The headlines

Headline figures from McKinsey showed the following:

  • 70% of prospect engagements are now remote or digitally self-served.
  • 80% of customer engagements are now remote or digitally self-served.
  • Over 75% of buyers and sellers now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions.
  • Only 20% of B2B buyers say they hoped to return to in-person sales where face to face selling was the norm.
  • Almost 80% of customer prefer this too.
  • 52% drop in face-to-face sales.
  • 75% of UK B2B decision-makers think these new ways of selling are effective -a figure which increased 17% during 2020.

The shift happened in such a condensed period that many businesses haven’t had the resources or skills to make all the necessary changes, but if these new ways of communicating with prospects and customers are here to stay, what can you do to adapt?

Obviously, some are easier to address than others, such as the tactical use of digital. However, for many, there needs to be a fundamental re-thinking of sales and marketing approaches. Here are our current top five highlights to help your business use digital more effectively and provide the glue that binds your marketing and sales teams.

Your website

Your website, the shop window to your business. It has probably coped with the additional traffic as prospects and customers jumped online, but is your site used to its full potential?

Typically, websites are updated every three to four years, but with prospects and customer demanding access to more information, a review of the site is probably the very least you should consider. Speed is the holy grail for SEO and if your site is slow due to lack of ongoing maintenance, you’ll lose those impatient visitors. We offer free audits to check how it’s performing, drop us a note to find out more here.

When it comes to impatient visitors, live chat has really come of age in the last 12 months. When background noises of kids, dogs and washing machines are too much, the live chat function allows for conversations to flow. Often as simple as a plug-in and easier to manage than you’d think. Add in AI functionality and then it becomes an even more efficient and powerful tool, leaving your customer service team to focus on the more complex calls, rather than use their valuable time on something that can be easily dealt with digitally.

Content

Content is king, but is only useful if people consume it. Easy access to information is now expected as the norm and sites can host vast knowledge hubs, enabling your customers to discover the information they need quickly, without swamping your phone lines.

Downloads, explainer videos, datasheets can all be hosted in a central password secure area. Even a simple additional new section, which hosts this easy to access information, will add value. Much of the content is likely to exist already in your business; it just needs migrating to the most suitable format. Set up correctly this will do wonders for your SEO performance too and by collecting data, feed your CRM and sales teams with leads.

Lead generation

Engineering and manufacturing are sectors that traditionally have packed event calendars. A few days on a trade stand would generate dozens of new leads and progress deals through the pipeline.

While the event calendar is beginning to look healthier in the second half of the year, the abrupt stop to live events has created a black hole in many lead generation strategies.

All is not lost. There is an opportunity to redeploy allocated budget from events and create virtual events, supported by video, infographics and microsites. Alongside this, additional tactical marketing campaigns can be used to target the event audience with direct and tailored messages driving traffic to your online events.

Ongoing engagement

With the use of CRM systems increasing by 60% during the last 12 months, it’s clear that digitally managing engagement is now a top priority.

There will be fewer opportunities to “drop-in” on prospects and customers, as working patterns change with increased home working and decreased business travel. Therefore, an engagement strategy led with a CRM system is a must. A CRM system not only gives you the power to track engagement, but also nurture those leads. Communication sequences can be created to build touchpoints, with relevant information delivered at appropriate times to prospects. Notifications of website visits can alert your sales teams to prospect engagement and audience segmentation allow marketing and sales to make tailored approaches.  A CRM does not need to be expensive either – there are just as good options now available as alternative CRM systems to the big players at a fraction of the cost. Ask us about what we’d recommend for your business here.

Ecommerce

Traditionally the B2B sector has steered clear of direct-to-consumer sales. With average order volumes being low, it has sometimes seemed more trouble than it’s worth to offer a product to the end consumer. Covid changed that and direct to end-user sales proved to be vital to the survival of many businesses. In particular, the hospitality sector has adapted to take advantage of this, with off-trade beer and cider sales up by 36.5%. It raises a commercial dilemma, but with ever-improving “off the shelf” e-commerce platforms available, then the financial opportunity of opening another revenue stream, to a previously untapped audience, is attractive.

2021 and beyond

It doesn’t stop there – the acceleration of digital change is as big a consideration as the change itself. Businesses of all sizes need to increase their knowledge and bring in trusted partners to meet the challenges of the new landscape. With personalisation of content AI, machine learning, a growing influence and reliance on data and business insights increasing in impact across every industry sector you cannot be left behind.

The changes pose even bigger questions; what does the marketing strategy look like, how does a customer relationship management strategy change, what are the critical touchpoints in the sales process and how does this impact our internal culture and communications?

All of this and you still have to get the product out of the door! Supporting our clients through this evolution and helping them take advantage of the available opportunities is what we’ve been doing for 20 years. If you need some guidance, drop us a note, we’d be happy to chat.



Posted on: 22 April, 2021 | UnderDigital, Events & Exhibitions, Marketing |