It’s clear that B2B buying changed in 2020.
When working norms undergo such massive transformation, so do the ways that individuals consume information, communicate with their peers, and make decisions.
Change has been rapid – and it may also be permanent. Even with forecasts for the upcoming year, it seems that nobody wants to return to business as usual. Only 20% of B2B buyers are hoping for a return to direct in-person sales.
As buyers embrace new ways of doing business, now is the time to reexamine lead generation based on a few crystal clear trends that we have seen emerge.
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Virtual is the future for lead generation
In-person events and conferences have long been the foundation of B2B business. Over 85% of leaders believe in-person events are essential to sales success, and 61% of marketers feel that events are their most important marketing channel. 2020 eliminated many opportunities to speak with leads directly to better understand the pain points driving their purchasing decision.
B2B marketers have found new ways to fill the top of their sales funnel without events and conferences. A natural first step is to go digital, transforming an in-person event into a virtual one. Marketers turning to virtual events and other forms of remote selling are seeing positive results.
Revenue from video-related interactions has increased by 69% since April 2020. With this increase, video conferencing and e-commerce are now responsible for 43% of all B2B revenue. Thirty-five percent of B2B buyers have bought solutions costing over $500,000 virtually, and up to 80% of B2B decision-makers now prefer remote interactions and digital self-service transactions.
Content is still king
The changes brought about by COVID-19 led to many businesses finding themselves in unfamiliar territory and thus in need of new content to guide them forward. This increase in demand for valuable information has persisted; B2B customers and prospects are now engaging with marketing content at a much higher level.
The biggest increase is among “bingers,” people who already frequently engage with content, as they are now spending an average of almost 20 minutes per day consuming marketing content that informs their buying experience – a sevenfold increase from the previous average.
The interest in fresh content is more than just a curiosity as businesses are looking to turn these insights into action. Decision-makers are positive about the future. Most are planning to increase or maintain operating expenses in the coming years. This will lead to more companies in the market for a range of products and services.
To make the most of this opportunity, sales and marketing teams must adapt their strategies to the current environment. Here are the key areas B2B sellers should focus on when developing lead generation strategies in the post-pandemic era.
1. Prioritize intent
Lead nurturing has never been so hard. When buyers want to make purchase decisions in isolation, marketing has a responsibility to deliver sales-ready leads. Any lead generation strategy needs to start with defining intent for your business and understanding how to deliver prospects that meet that definition of intent.
If SDRs are being sent to voicemail, and sales pros can’t get in the room to work their magic, lead generation needs to start with the goal of delivering high-intent audiences.
2. Create a seamless buyer experience
Buyer enablement will continue to grow in importance as it’s in direct alignment with the new normal for B2B purchases. As buyers become accustomed to the convenience of digital engagement, companies that provide more complex buying experiences will miss out on prospects.
Buyer enablement shifts the focus from making things easier for salespeople and marketers to making the purchasing process easier for buyers. With this approach, B2B sellers focus on everything from how to make the decision-making process easier to navigate to allow customers to meet and engage on their own terms.
Buyer enablement is also a great opportunity to bring alignment between sales and marketing. By working together these teams can address buying decisions and potential obstacles more efficiently to be able to engage with more customers.
3. Syndicate content to meet increased consumption
With the increase in content consumption among B2B decision-makers, marketers that can create and distribute valuable insights stand to maximize their lead generation efforts.
Content syndication allows you to reach a much larger audience in a shorter time frame and can help you get in front of potential prospects who otherwise may have never known about your business. You can make up for missed events by gating content to capture prospect information. This will help fill your pipeline with highly targeted leads that are most likely to convert to sales.
4. Understand your buyer’s journey to provide more meaningful engagement
Every company faces a unique set of challenges and molds their buying preferences around the issues they seek to resolve. For some, the turbulent events of this year have altered their preferences indefinitely. Others have only had to adapt their current approach to get by but have not had a fundamental change in how they engage with B2B sellers.
Truly understanding the difference between temporary adjustments and permanent shifts in customer preferences is necessary to approach each buyer with the appropriate message. This requires solid research and insights.
Companies that make the effort to gain this understanding will position themselves to establish trust and form new customer relationships. This will have an even greater impact in industries where long-term customer/company relationships are common.
The new world of B2B sales is here to stay. Digital engagement and virtual selling favor the buyer and will only increase in popularity as they begin to become the standard. The key to success in this changing environment is to focus all your efforts from lead generation to closing sales on creating a truly customer-first experience.