3 Ways B2B Marketers Can Streamline Their Methods
The word that I’ve heard frequently when talking to B2B marketers lately is growth. When given constraints, the best marketers find ways to persevere and even grow. If not in top-line revenue, then in aspects of their long-term digital transformation strategy, in their flexibility and agility, and in their ability to connect with customers more effectively.
Many marketers are feeling like they are moving into the new year with a fresh perspective, new capabilities, and a stronger team. Yet, at the same time, we’re all a bit overworked and suffering from more than a little tunnel vision from the amount we’ve all had to focus on keeping everything going in the near term. After a long hard slog through 2020, it’s important to take a breath and look ahead. It’s time to assess what learnings can be applied to the “next normal” in 2021, and how.
1. Keep Team Agility Going
In 2020, many B2B marketing teams had no choice but to be agile, which often meant working longer hours to do extra work as customers shifted their behaviors, canceled events, and moved online. At the same time, teammates may have been laid off, while new communications and processes for COVID-19 needed to be created. That type of quick work while also embracing change created a new kind of muscle memory that can become a great asset if applied well in 2021.
McKinsey surveyed 25 companies to assess the value of agile teams through the pandemic and found that they were significantly more likely to do better across key factors like customer satisfaction and operational performance. These teams have agility built right in, and so unlike other companies that may think that they can just go back to normal in 2021, already agile companies will retain their flexibility and simply keep at it.
B2B marketers can also hold onto their newfound flexibility by embracing a few best practices:
- Plan near and far, rely less on the middle distance. With so much change, simply creating normal quarterly or annual plans based on years past doesn’t make sense. Now is the time to use near-term insights and act more like an engineering team, with short sprints. For example, if customers are reacting very well to emails right now, lean into emails for a month and reassess. If they are interested in more research than normal, plan to create more research quickly. Yet at the same time, check these near-term actions with long-term goals so as not to go too far off course.
- Create bite-sized projects and check in often. Creating a new website or planning an event can take months, but each project should be broken down so that people can pivot if things change. For example, segment the website into modules and tackle one at a time. Make sure teams communicate with one another frequently, share learnings, and aren’t afraid to fail. When each piece is smaller, one failure doesn’t hurt as much and people can learn faster.
- Give people cross-functional responsibility. This might have happened on its own in 2020, as resources were strained and plans changed, but now is the time to make these informal elements more official. Perhaps people can come together around themes such as a big spring product announcement, rather than stay in a lane like “email” and “social media.” This encourages cross-pollination of ideas and ensures people are more familiar with other elements of the marketing team.
- Focus on knowing the customer. According to Deloitte, having a shared view of the customer is critical to moving quickly with confidence, but aggregating so much data can be difficult. Make use of technologies that can help. Deloitte, for instance, recommends using social CRM tools and rapid prototyping so that you can learn from the customer faster and offer more relevant experiences and products.
2. Simplify Technology Configurations
In lean times, paying less for tech can free up major resources. Gartner predicts that 60 percent of marketing leaders will cut tech budgets in 2021. Of course, some of this is due to lower than expected revenue in 2020 and projected leaner times in the near future. But there is a major value to streamlining your martech stack — it will be a lot easier to use. Often many features and functions in a tech stack are either unused or that there are major overlaps that cause problems with workflow, slow down data, and create silos across channels.
Before cutting, think in terms of your desired capabilities and audit your current vendor partners. Look for technologies that offer more comprehensive capabilities that can help reduce point solutions, but also make sure to favor those partners that offer flexibility, extra customization, and open modern designs that deliver extensibility. You’ll want to see which partners can integrate best together, share workflows, and create combined customer insights and compatible reporting.
3. Amplify the Human Touch With Your Customer
KPMG recommends focusing on delivering on your values so that your customers can keep their trust in your businesses, even if things continue to change. To do this well online, it’s important to create a consistent experience across channels, using technology to amplify what you miss without in-person interaction. For example, if customer service matters most to your company, augment your site with elements like automated chats. Use AI features to prompt a chat box or call-center number for people who seem lost or confused as they are browsing.
Or if your company is about giving back, build that into your online experience. Keep blog posts up to date about programs you have going on, and send emails that remind customers of the good that you are up to, and how their business contributes.
Your customers will remember that you were there for them, and they’ll keep those partners that were most responsive and trustworthy close. The benefit of 2020 is that many marketers got better at delivering elevated service and communication through digital-only channels such as telehealth calls and virtual shopping assistants. Rather than drop digital to focus on in-person marketing when the time comes, keeping that human touch across online, too, will ensure the best outcome in 2021 and beyond.