B2B marketers have had time to adjust to the new normal and are turning their attention to the sales pipeline. Fortunately, the news about lead generation isn't all bad.
Most B2B marketers have turned a corner when it comes to our response to the pandemic. We're feeling a little less WTF about WFH. We've cancelled upcoming live events and are actively evaluating digital alternatives. And we've had a chance to get used to the idea that "business as usual" is unlikely to return any time soon.
But it's time to get back to what we do—contributing to the sales pipeline. That's a tall order at the best of times, let alone during a recession, but the good news is that while everything is new and different right now, there are still opportunities to generate leads.
B2B Buyers Are Still Buying
There can be no doubt that COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the economy, and businesses are adjusting strategies and budgets accordingly. However, this doesn't mean that sales opportunities have dried up completely. A survey conducted by TrustRadius on April 9th found that while 31% of B2B buyers thought that they would spend less on software because of COVID-19, a roughly equal number didn't think the pandemic would impact spend, and 15% reported that they thought they would spend more. Another survey conducted by McKinsey between April 8th and 21st found that 45% of B2B businesses were maintaining or increasing their overall budget.
This doesn't diminish the significant challenges marketers face in generating demand right now (especially at a time when 65% of CMOs and marketing leaders report they are already bracing for moderate to significant budget cuts), but it does suggest that there are opportunities out there to generate viable leads with the BANT characteristics needed to move down the funnel.
The Playing Field Is Less Crowded
As businesses pull back on marketing, there is less noise and less competition for people's ears and eyes across all ad mediums. One survey of 237 brands found that 60% planned to decrease their ad spend. Another survey conducted by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) in late March found that nearly one in four ad buyers (24%) had paused all advertising until July. Not only does this provide an opportunity to attract attention, it may also make some ad options (programmatic advertising, for example) more affordable, thereby enabling marketers to stretch their budgets further.
Problems Are Waiting to Be Solved
Solving a persistent business pain is a great motivator for buyers. (For more on the topic, listen to this Revenue Rebels podcast featuring David Priemer of Cerebral Selling: "How to Turn Your Customer's Pain into Gain.") Chances are, your buyers are struggling with more business pain than usual these days as they cope with big operational changes and reduced budgets while navigating the realities of WFH life.
This is an ideal time to position your products and services as solutions to specific pain points that your ideal customers are experiencing right now. If your solutions help organizations streamline operations, gain efficiencies, save money, or become more resilient, you may find a willing audience for your solution story as businesses begin to pause, regroup, and seek out new ways to optimize and succeed in a dramatically different business environment.
(Some) Buyers Have Time to Connect
Many professionals are working overtime trying to coordinate dispersed teams and maintain productivity as key members of their teams are furloughed or laid off. Under these circumstances, they are unlikely to have time to breathe, let alone engage meaningfully with your brand. But for others, the experience is different: core activities may have been cancelled, the pace of business has slowed, and there may be more time to revisit those side-of-the-desk projects.
In these cases, there may be more appetite for exploring new ideas and researching new solutions, which creates opportunities for vendors with thought leadership to share. While these prospects may not have the budget to follow through on their research, it's worth nurturing them with top- and middle-of-funnel content so that your brand is top-of-mind when they're in a position to buy.
Brand Heroes Are Being Born
While corporate ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) have been part of the conversation for years, the pandemic has transformed the way people relate to brands. At a time when we are all at our most vulnerable, the companies that are stepping up and making a difference right now will earn brand equity that will continue to pay dividends for years.
Zoho is offering free or discounted subscriptions to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. InfuseMedia offered 100 B2B businesses 100 free leads each. Gartner is making COVID-19 research freely available. B2B businesses are finding innovative ways to give back and generate goodwill, brand exposure, and loyalty. Think about the opportunities your company has to support your community and demonstrate your value and share generously during this time.
It's not an easy time to be a marketer. But there are opportunities on the horizon for many industries, business problems in search of solutions, and new ways for companies to stand out from the competition. While the rules for lead generation Look very different today, it's still possible for marketers to find ways to contribute to the pipeline.
For ideas on getting started, tune in for part 2 of this post: 3 Tips for Generating Leads During a Downturn.
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