Welcome to the Dove Direct Print and Marketing Blog. Today's post, "Can B2B Marketing Be Digital Only?" examines how B2B sales and marketing are evolving one year into COVID-19. To begin with, the surge of consumer spending slid toward a digital-first mentality throughout 2020. The migration from face-to-face to digital significantly impacted traditional B2B marketing techniques previously deemed very successful in past years. The most significant change hammered sales teams who could no longer meet customers or prospects in person, a change that continues to persist to this day. That said, a McKinsey survey consisting of 3,600 B2B decision-makers found that the majority prefer remote human interactions or digital-self service. Alternatively, most astute brands and marketers are keenly aware of the significant digital overload imposed, as face-to-face communications have fallen to precipitously low levels, and per the CDC recommendations, could very well continue well into 2021.
Nevertheless, as digital-first models are rapidly becoming ubiquitous, a couple of questions arise. Is digital marketing alone enough to move the B2B sales needle? Does the cost of having a full-bore digital omnichannel approach outweigh a more balanced approach? Can B2B marketing be digital-only?
Let's whet the appetite by stating that Google, arguably one of the world's largest iconic businesses, uses a direct mail strategy to complement its marketing mix. At one point, Google used direct mail to recruit more users for its business by incorporating direct mail. More importantly, Google is a digital company from the ground up. In other words, before the pandemic, Google found value in direct mail when folks could still meet face-to-face!
Quote of the Day: "The best kind of buyers are the ones that feel like they've come to their own decision to buy your product." — Eric Friedman
B2B Entities Continue To Demonstrate Resilience
B2B organizations have continued to exhibit a notable persistence by remaining viable in the wake of the pandemic. Insofar as describing the working relationships between sales and marketing teams, they are generally conclusively good. Statistically, B2B professionals perspective is primarily positive, as shown in their response to how well the teams are doing:
59% state that their sales and marketing organizations are performing well
8% of the total describing the situation as "excellent."
51% stating it was "good."
Fewer than one in 10 (8%) said it was "poor" or "very poor."
Virtual selling could serve as an explanation for these numbers, as illustrated in a RAIN Group report that discovered 7 in 10 or 71% of salespeople report that they are now performing approximately 50% of sales from a virtual standpoint. The translation here is that brands and marketers are presented with an expanded potential to utilize technology to leverage and facilitate sales processes in place of face-to-face sales engagements. Undoubtedly, the shift of digital interactions to the forefront infers that organizations cannot afford to ignore improving the sales-marketing alignment for the near future, as they risk losing brand mindshare and visibility to competitors that have adopted a heightened performance factor in the digital landscape.
In-Person Events Lacking Results
The high-end B2B enterprise sales focus relied heavily on face-to-face interactions at physical events, trade shows, and the like. This practice held true for most B2B enterprise-level organizations until the pandemic arrived. New data from the McKinsey survey indicates that 73% of respondents surveyed noted that canceled in-person events are a key challenge, in fact, the most significant issue above all other challenges. As a result of in-person challenges, 46% of the respondents stated fewer sales opportunities were brought to the table.
B2B organizations are shifting to virtual events as an alternative to bridge the gap due to the lack of person-to-person physical events. However, many note that virtual events can offer a much wider audience reach, including global access. Virtual events can provide long-term access via on-demand viewing capability. Further, since virtual events are digital, there is an opportunity to simulcast across regions, time zones, and languages.
It is extremely important to maintain individual data records when the brand utilizes legitimate interest to process data. Brands should also keep an individual's personal information for any events that require consent.
Digital Channels Ability to Scale
Moving to digital channels affords several benefits. One benefit is the obvious ability to target a larger audience while removing the need for business travel. That said, from the brand and marketing environment, in conjunction with 47% of respondents reporting that shifting budgets to spend more on digital has worked reasonably well, as buyer behavior has also moved.
It should come as no surprise that buyers have been consuming much more content. Several data companies have reported this change. NetLine figures state that the total demand for B2B content rose by 49.8% year-over-year in May 2020. However, this number may represent an increase in touch numbers that take place in the research stage versus a rise in total purchase numbers.
ON24's COVID Benchmarks Report further demonstrates that in April 2020, webinar consumption rose by 293% year over year. That is a huge number! Brands must review the weighting assessed to content touchpoints during customer qualifications while simultaneously adjusting messaging to match the changing environment. For the good of the B2B environment, marketers are taking this change seriously. The report also states the following numbers:
67% of marketers say changing communication style and messaging has worked well
47% have changed roles and responsibilities
13% also say they have benefited from adjusting KPIs and targets
How Direct Mail Helps Digital
Some B2B brands and marketers could argue that digital-only as a marketing strategy is a way to go forward for the near future. Other B2B brands make the case that digital costs increase due to the amount of social media and digital events necessary to capture clients' and prospects' attention. Digital marketing that gets caught in the proverbial scroll dilemma is also a factor for escalating costs. With email marketing and social media marketing at an all-time high, marketers need to implement a more efficient way to direct prospects and customers to digital destinations.
Direct mail marketing relies on a physical mailbox that does not have to compete with an overcrowded digital universe for attention. Direct mail marketing achieves the most efficient manner that directs prospects and clients to a preferred digital destination, complete with calls to action. The AMA has released quite a few surveys and reports demonstrating that direct mail marketing increases engagement and response rates for digital marketing initiatives.
B2B marketing is shifting more and more to digital considerations, a change that will continue as long as the pandemic is here and folks remain socially distant, as much as possible. Although some B2B businesses are content diving all in for digital marketing, some will find it necessary to go beyond the internet. Beyond profits and a return on investment, some organizations will find it necessary to include direct mail as part of their digital strategy. The reasons are multifarious and comprise a desire to grow the brand, maintain market share, or help customers find what they need or want. After all, Google can't be wrong with their infusion of direct mail into the marketing mix. Thanks for stopping by and taking a moment to read "Can B2B Marketing Be Digital Only?"
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