5 Disruptors in B2B Marketing and Sales for Small & Medium Sized Businesses
Embedding some B2B marketing trends in your marketing plan will not save you in 2021. This time around, your handling of key B2B marketing and sales disruptors will determine your success. Embrace a radical new approach and continuous improvement. Just paying some more attention to content marketing, marketing automation, SEO and social advertising today, may be too little too late.
To quote Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, “We saw two years of digital transformation in two months.” To thrive in 2021 and beyond, consider how to let these B2B marketing and sales disruptors work for your small or medium sized business.
- Make virtual more personal
- Integrate online marketing and virtual selling
- Rationalize marketing technology
- Benefit from practical AI services
- Manage marketing and sales remotely
Let’s dive into each of these B2B disruptors based on sources like Forbes, Harvard Business Review and McKenzie&Company
Make virtual more personal
It’s obvious that in 2020 event marketing was disrupted. Many in-person marketing efforts have gone virtual. Especially virtual events and webinars have gained momentum. And although in-person events will regain traction when Covid 19 is better under control, virtual events have proven their value and are here to stay. This B2B marketing disruption cannot be made more clear than by analyzing ‘virtal events’ in Google Trends.
As virtual events and webinars become mainstream, expectations change. ‘In the past, the expectation was a smooth, curated experience. But now you can and should be much more human and spontaneous.” says Henk Campher on Forbes. A too much ‘polished’ virtual conference or webinar risks of being boring. People like to see human emotion. Here are some pointers Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite mentions in his Forbes article that can improve the ‘personality’ of your virtual gathering:
- Integrate a feedback loop: in a real-life conference, feedback is constantly flowing between speaker and audience, in the form of body language, clapping and applause, even the occasional boo. That needs to be replicated in some form virtually
- Shorter really is sweeter: In real events you’re are locked in a room and can’t leave, but online it’s easy to skip and hard to watch an hour of content. So make it short and sweet!
- Breakout groups are critical: Organize smaller sub sessions where participants can truly interact and engage instead of just sitting back and watching.
- Build in networking and connection moments: At a virtual event it’s hard for natural networking to just happen naturally, so moderate this.
It’s not just virtual events that need to become more personal. In online marketing and sales there are many ways to automate processes, optimize targeting and boost content. Be aware not to become a robot, integrate personal interaction in chat, social media and email. Sending out LinkedIn requests to directly sell a product does not equal social selling.
Integrate online marketing and virtual selling
First marketing went online, and now sales has followed. In eight charts McKenzie&Company recently showed how B2B sales has been disrupted forever. They have found that B2B decision makers globally say that online and remote selling is as effective as in-person engagement, or even more so— and they’re not just talking about selling to warm leads. Sellers also believe digital prospecting is as effective as in-person meetings to connect with existing customers.
With salespeople and customers ready to change, Harvard Business Review states that the key is to align in-person sales channels with buying complexity and buyer uncertainty. Sales organizations will eliminate or reduce in-person visits in simpler selling situations, including:
- Straightforward buying steps (sharing information, placing orders)
- Customers who are comfortable with virtual connection
- Decision makers who already know what to buy, especially on repeat purchases
Sales organizations will return to primarily in-person selling in complex situations, including:
- Customers who have undefined needs or are unsure about a solution
- Circumstances requiring collaboration and creativity
- Buyers with many decision influencers
Another key to managing the virtualization of marketing & sales is alignment on lead generation. It’s key to hand over marketing qualified leads at the right time. And above all, marketing and sales should be on par with what to expect from each other.
Rationalize B2B marketing technology
Technology has disrupted marketing and sales, enabling optimization of commercial processes. Chief Martech now counts over 8,000 tools available to support you, many of which are very affordable. But organize before you automate. Thinking about what you really need and expect from technology can save you a lot of headaches.
An important first step is to decide whether you opt for a marketing automation system, covering a wide range of functionality in one central solution. Or that combining the marketing tools you like best into your own ‘marketing stack’ will be more effective. Marketing automation systems such as HubSpot, Pardot or Marketo provide the advantage that all their functionality is neatly integrated. But that comes with a price, as you will pay a hefty premium. In addition a choice for a marketing automation solution will make you depend on the vision and functionality of the vendor.
API’s, integration services and CDPs have made it easier and cheaper to build your own ‘marketing stack’, and can potentially save you 70% to 90% of your monthly technology costs. For example, to activate an email workflow in MailChimp based on a download on your WordPress website and to transfer the lead profile to your Pipedrive CRM system when it can be followed up by sales. Manceppo is a great and free solution to help you do cool stuff like this.
Benefit from practical AI marketing services
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are often named as the new B2B marketing and sales disruptors. And AI indeed provides opportunities to streamline and optimize B2B marketing campaigns. Think of using AI in a virtual sales assistant or chatbot for customer support. Or recognizing data patterns in your customer database for effective targeting. But can smaller B2B businesses with a corresponding smaller customer base benefit from AI as well? The answer is yes!
Many new tools make use of AI to tackle practical problems. Often these tools digest data from external sources, like social media, to make sense for you. Think of the following examples you can use in your business:
- Crystal Knows: Crystal Knows is an online tool that embeds into your browser. It uses personality AI to DiSC profile others based on their LinkedIn profile. DISC is a behaviour assessment tool which centres on four different personality traits which are currently Dominance, Influence (I), Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Crystal Knows is a great help for small businesses to define buyer personas and determine the tone of voice of your content.
- Cortex: Cortex is an AI-based platform that offers a thorough web content analysis of your competition. However, Cortex’s primary focus is on social media marketing. It helps you to create content for your own website once you have assessed your competitions’ social media efforts.
- Mention: Mention is a social media monitoring solution designed to solve this very problem by plugging directly into the social networks’ APIs, dissecting social mentions for context and sentiment, and reporting insights through a real-time dashboard.
- Gong.io: Gong is a revenue intelligence platform for B2B sales teams. It helps you close more deals by shining the light on your team’s sales conversations. It records, transcribes, and analyzes all sales calls so you can drive sales effectiveness across your entire team.
Manage Marketing and Sales remotely
More and more businesses are adapting to a remote work environment, especially the onset of COVID-19 enforced this disruption. This can prove challenging for salespeople who aren’t used to remote selling, as it varies significantly from in-person sales. And as remote working is here to stay, how can you manage your sales team remotely?
Stephen Diorio identifies five keys to managing remote sales teams in his article on Forbes:
- Speed: Accelerate the speed of communication, lead flow and response
- Tools: Arm your sales teams their basic tools to sell remotely
- Visibility: Stop flying blind and leverage customer engagement data
- Hyper-focus: Double down on pipeline and relationship building
- Run new sales plays: Create a new playbook for virtual selling
Harvard Business Review emphasizes that sales organizations can survive and thrive in the new digital world by responding to the changes digital brings to products, customers, salespeople, and sales channels. A more data-driven approach to sales decision-making will be critical for success.
Getting ready for 2021
With these disruptions your B2B marketing and sales plan 2021 will be nothing like previous plan. Now is the time to turn disruptions in opportunities.