The pandemic turned the world topsy turvy – restaurants, bars and hotels were struggling for air, while anyone with stock in Clorox wipes suddenly found themselves a fair bit richer. Some of the changes lasted as long as the pandemic did, while others are around to stay as we settle into the new, post-pandemic normal. So how were B2B companies affected by COVID-19, and how did it influence content marketing efforts?
The state of content marketing during the pandemic
A telling study was conducted during the pandemic by Finite and 93x, which surveyed its global membership base of over 600 B2B marketers. Its results showed that 35% of B2B marketers felt that producing enough content was their biggest challenge, and 70% of marketers found it challenging to keep ‘quality and quantity’ high.
Think about it – at a time when companies are dealing with decreased revenues, unprecedented uncertainties and workforces that may be scattered and reduced, it’s difficult to keep up with the content marketing calendar and campaigns you had planned pre-pandemic. Suddenly, in-person meetings, trade shows, events were a mere memory. So how did marketers handle these challenges?
Most marketers had to shift gears when it came to both marketing channels and overall messaging; agility was key. Take a look at some B2C examples – gyms and health clubs had to turn on a dime from traditional, in-person training to remote classes designed for your living room. Pharmacies moved from in-person pharmacy assistance to online consultations and prescription home delivery services. It’s actually impressive how so many industries and businesses changed their entire business model so rapidly.
As a recent article by Forbes put it, “This shift in business behavior has put more pressure on core foundational elements of how marketing reaches customers…When customers change their behavior and volumes diminish, it’s easy for management to think about reducing their marketing spend.”
Of course, as any marketer knows, this is a poor response that can have severe consequences down the line. Instead of reducing your spend on marketing and advertising efforts, you need to recognize that the rewards may take time and that it may be a good time to focus on improving other parts of your marketing that aren’t lead generation.
It’s a good time to reevaluate your brand identity, for instance, to ensure that your messaging reaches your target audience in a way that reflects the challenges of the time and is empathetic to their plight. Worldwide, for instance, people began to care about how businesses treated their employees during COVID-19, from remote working flexibility to sanitization and hygiene. As you make changes to your traditional workplace, see if highlighting them could be a way to connect with your audience.
B2B mindset transformation
The LinkedIn-Edelman collaborative survey of nearly 400 B2B U.S. executives highlights the state of decision-making and strategic opportunity in the COVID environment. Some of the highlights that show us how businesses are reacting to this new scenario are:
- 84% of B2B executives believe it is very important to lean into their position as trusted thought leaders.
- Customers are exercising greater levels of scrutiny, which means more journey touchpoints and decision-makers to win them over.
- Nearly two-thirds of executives believe it’s important to strengthen understanding of their buyers’ customers through new or intensified data gathering.
- 55% have shifted their marketing efforts to focus on existing offerings that are especially valuable to customers right now, instead of creating and marketing new offers.
- B2B companies are increasing efforts to provide consultative knowledge and resources to help customers succeed during the pandemic.
B2B resources transformation
Many B2B marketers used pandemic to turn to content marketing and provide helpful resources for other companies struggling through the pandemic.
Slack created Your guide to working remotely in Slack for managers to help them easily understand the three main building blocks of how they can work with their teams and partners to easily collaborate in a remote, work-from-home environment.
Of course, they’re hardly the only business to provide this type of resource, but as management teams grapple with new technology and workplace dynamics, this type of helpful content can prove invaluable.
SurveyMonkey launched multiple resources to help their community just as the pandemic was shutting the world down; from real-time data available to anyone on the coronavirus and economy to survey templates that were created specifically to gauge employees’ feelings as they work from home, these helped businesses worldwide by cutting down hours that would have been spent gathering pandemic-specific information.
You would be extremely hard-pressed to find an individual who didn’t use Zoom through the pandemic. It’s gone from a regular business communication tool to a crucial part of every pandemic-related relationship, allowing loved ones to share experiences like weddings and birthdays from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Of course, with such business and customer growth comes the need for additional security – which Zoom took steps to ensure as early as April 2020.
Their ‘90-Day Plan to Bolster Key Privacy and Security Initiatives’ was one step in the right direction, and a part of their larger support plan through COVID-19. From best practices to webinar training and specialized supports for education and telehealth, they really stepped up and proved that they deserved to be a household name at a time when long-distance communication was the norm.