B2B Marketing after COVID-19: What Changes and What Doesn’t?

We look beyond our current reality, where we wear sportswear today, watch Tiger King and spend eight hours a day on Zoom calls.

Although we don’t know exactly when “our new normal” will end, let’s take a look at B2B marketing for COVID-19: how will it change permanently and what will it be like in the previous days (February)?

Predicting the future is, at best, a foolish game; it’s like finding the next person to eliminate in Ozark. In this case, it is even more difficult when we consider the sole cause of our situation. That said, there are enough breadcrumbs from previous crises and recessions to make valid assumptions about our post-COVID B2B marketing world.

Assuming we can experience a deep recession in the next 12 months (and probably in the next 24 months), here are five realities that B2B marketers will face in the next 2-3 years.

Revenue marketing will become more important

In 2010, Harvard Business Review conducted the most comprehensive study on the impact of past recessions on business performance. He studied 4,700 companies during the three recessions before 2008. The results were alarming.

  • 17% of companies have not survived a recession.
  • 80% did not recover the pre-recession growth rate three years after the recession (40% did not even return to the same level of revenue and profit).
  • Only 9% prospered, outperforming competitors with sales and profit growth of at least 10%.

The C-suite is likely to put even more marketing focus on even more than before COVID-19 to make a significant contribution to the sales and revenue stream. Greater digital engagement, lower travel costs, and the need to recover the money spent will make CMOs even more responsible for initiating and influencing revenue.

CMOS, in turn, must really focus on filling the analytical gaps that persist in most B2B marketing organizations and stop their team from actively evaluating and optimizing pipeline performance.

Martech will suffer retraction and innovation

More than 8,000 martech suppliers have always been too much. There was a lot of grain, but also a lot of tares. The shiny object syndrome has led many organizations to purchase applications and platforms of little value (or even use).

Recessions are ideal for pressing the reset button. There will be a natural killing of the Martech herd as the capital runs out. At the same time, recessions are also big because they are the cradle of innovation.

The current situation will highlight two main trends at Martech:

  • Market leaders will buy valuable technology at low prices to expand their stack and build stronger, broader platforms.
  • The innovations that will drive the next generation of incredible marketing technologies will flourish. 

Live events will return

Much has been written about the death of live events. But I don’t think that is the case. In a digital world, our desire for personal interaction and true social affiliation will not change. We are programmed for this, mainly for marketers.

I see live events in the same way as 9/11. People then had every reason to stop traveling: concern for personal safety and the travel process was tedious due to the security measures in place. Although it took almost three years for travel to return to levels before 9/11, we have seen record growth in travel since then.

Likewise, it will take time for marketing conferences to flourish. Global vaccination will be the first important step. Sales growth and the marketing budget will also be critical. But in the end, events will come back stronger than ever.

The obstacle of the recession: young talent will fight

I started my career in the mid-1990s when the effects of that decade’s recession continued. It took me two years to find a permanent job. I was not alone. Recessions have a greater impact on who is entering the career.

B2B marketing has benefited immensely from the influx of Gen Y talent over the past decade. They brought curiosity, collaboration, technical skills, and many other notable qualities.

Both companies and young talent will face real opportunities early in their careers. My advice: in the next 2-3 years, both parties should look for contract opportunities instead of permanent employment to produce results and experience. The massive economy will come to B2B marketing.

What you sow, you reap: investment in marketing now will increase growth

There is an old saying: “In good times you have to advertise. In bad times, you have to advertise.” This is supported by a lot of research. Brands that maintain or increase their marketing spend during a recession increase sales and market share growth during and much later.

For brands with cash reserves, this is an incredible sharing opportunity. Less noise, lower media costs, and being present in the minds and hearts of your audience pays off.

CMOS should try to reduce other operating costs (look at themselves, undeveloped technology applications) and spend more dollars on content, paid media, and digital engagement.

Conclusion

The last decade was the golden age of B2B marketing. We have significantly increased our strategic position within organizations. This will not change in the next 2-3 years, but the way we navigate during that period will change dramatically. That’s why we, marketers, will need some of our best qualities more than ever: agility, flexibility, collaboration, and the ability to see the forest and not just the trees.