Actionable strategies to make the most of B2B sales and marketing in 2021

You probably don’t want to hear the word “unprecedented” again, do you? We’ll say it this way: times have changed, and so have sales.

Here are five key takeaways from McKinsey Insights’ evaluation of successful B2B marketing.

  1. Customers will lean towards digital interactions (with sales representatives, or self-service) in the B2B market. This is expected to include SMBs and enterprises. 
  2. Sales are going digital, and we’re not headed back to pre-pandemic sales styles. McKinsey said only 20-30% of B2B buyers want to move back to in-person sales.
  3. The remote and digital models are favored by more than 90% of B2B leaders. On top of that, 3 in 4 B2B decision-makers find it more effective for selling to existing and prospective customers.
  4. The digital self-serve model is preferred by 99% B2B buyers, and they are comfortable spending $50K or more online.
  5. 4 out of 5 B2B buyers prefer videoconference over traditional phone connections.

If you want your B2B marketing strategy to thrive in 2021, you need to adapt. Business to business interaction has changed, like everything else, with the shifts that came because of the pandemic. Companies and consumers are now relying more and more on digital components to find what they need, be it clients, providers or connections.

There’s a new normal in sales this year, and we’re diving into it to break down how companies can successfully sell B2B in 2021.

As a B2B PR firm, we have multiple strategies in place that create meaningful connections that convert for our clients. Our work begins in the digital sphere, and unlike traditional PR agencies, we focus on creating digital experiences worthy of your audience and worthy of attentionWe take digital marketing and PR strategy and combine it with studied business objectives to create quantifiable and qualitative results in the sales pipeline.

In 2021, successful sales rely on PR and marketing that tell a clear, engaging story because at the end of the day, we know one thing to be true above all else: Mindshare = Marketshare.

Make the most of the situation and embrace virtual B2B marketing

Companies can no longer afford to wait for life to return back to a pre-pandemic sense of normal, it’s time to adapt. For B2B in marketing to be successful in 2021, companies (and their CMOs) need to get with the program and go digital.

This happens in two ways: with the client and with the company’s presence online.

Client interactions may seem like a no-brainer. If we’re interacting less in person than we used to, then something is in its place. According to McKinsey, B2B decision-makers prefer videoconferencing for communication.

Companies need to embrace this new preference and integrate it into their communications with prospective clients. 

Second, online presence is the foundation of digital communication? Why? Though it may not be the one-on-one interaction that traditional sales was founded in, it’s where first impressions are made. That’s why it’s essential for any B2B company to have a strong digital presence. 

Start with a website that converts.

OneDine, one of our clients in the hospitality and tech space, underwent a brand overhaul at the beginning of the pandemic. B2B sales for OneDine were optimized in two ways: their moment came when their technology met a need during the pandemic, and their brand conveyed simple and straightforward messaging that made it easy for customers to know what they are getting into, and to choose the product.

We created an online presence for OneDine that conveys clear uses and functions of their system, simplifying the decision-making process in a time where potential clients were likely overloaded with difficult decisions. 

Sales for OneDine were driven by its clear messaging and accessible information, and the consistent way this was portrayed across media platforms as well. In less than 60 days, our PR campaign generated over 44 media hits, garnered an online readership of 196M across media placements, and resulted in signing over 1,500 new restaurants — during the onset of a pandemic.

Social media strategy for the company included the same clear communication and consistent messaging so that those potential clients could see the company’s presence, activity and engagement from a single glance. With our campaign, OneDine received more than 1.3 million video views and more than 10K social shares.

Make your presence known: Use social media for B2B sales and B2B marketing

The necessity of a clear, cohesive digital strategy — like the ones we implement for our clients — expands beyond company websites. Social media acts as a footprint, and in the case of such unprecedented (sorry, we just had to use that word) times, it shows potential clients that you’re still active and thriving during a pandemic.

Constant social engagement, a set of digital footprints, sets you apart from competitors because it goes beyond traditional PR and marketing tactics. B2B companies are still developing their social media strategies, in contrast to B2C companies selling through such platforms. 

Be on the cutting edge of B2B social media strategy to drive sales. Use it to your advantage, and post everyday. One of our eCommerce clients, Specialist ID, utilizes social media to convey a consistent brand identity, and to engage in larger conversations.

For example, the company sells ID badge holders. Want to know which people in the pandemic use badge holders? First responders and essential workers. Specialist ID optimized their place in their field by highlighting what they offer to those vital members of society during the pandemic.

The social media marketing strategy that we’ve created, and cultivated, showcases a brand that is adapting to and thriving during a pandemic. It shows that Specialist ID, as a company, is part of the shared experience of the pandemic and is adding something (like simplifying security by offering badge holders for first responders) of value in these times. Business was also driven by a successful paid ad strategy which yielded successful RoAS for the campaign.

The paid ads led to a 30% sales increase year over year, and the brand’s social went from a following of zero to reaching hundreds of thousands each month. Because of our campaign, Specialist ID has an ROAS of 4.83.

Go where the people are: Use social media to interact with potential B2B clients

Here’s a traditional sales strategy that works even when sales go online: find common interests. Sales are still personal, even if interaction isn’t face-to-face. This is where social media comes into play in terms of B2B sales strategy.

Use social media to research, analyze and interact with potential clients. Online profiles, both of companies and of their team members, provide a wealth of information to help your sales strategists identify — and then provide solutions for — the problems that potential clients are facing.

Investigate who your prospective clients are following, what posts they like, and who they interact with. Then, place yourself (or your company) in the conversation by adding value to those same conversations. 

B2B marketing in 2021 require showcasing brand relevance

At their core, successful businesses meet needs. What’s changed in 2021, though, is the heightened focus on brand relevance. The shared experience of living through a pandemic has changed the way people interact, both professionally and personally. 

Brands and businesses are like people. Customers want to know who they’re working with, what the company values, and the type of culture they can expect to encounter.

This is vital for B2B sales, or sales in general, because no one wants to work with an out-of-touch provider or product. Do you know anyone still using a Motorola flip phone (not using it to be funny)? Probably not.

Brand relevance can be communicated in many ways. Building on the foundation of solidified identity — like consistent messaging on a website, or intentional social media strategy — brands can participate in larger societal conversations. This happens on social media, whether that means putting your brand’s own spin on the most recent meme, or a more serious contribution to conversations in your industry.

Showcase your company’s work, your company’s makeup, and your company’s initiatives. You don’t want all of your interactions with potential clients to be solely a sales pitch, you need to build a recognizable presence.

Don’t sleep on digital interaction, use online communication to drive B2B sales

Most networking, marketing and industry events are still cancelled as the pandemic rages on. While unfortunate, companies can easily adapt to digital interaction to ensure that they’re able to meet B2B sales initiatives.

At the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, we helped Forbes8 pivot and make the most out of a moment of canceled events. When the popular SXSW was canceled, we helped Forbes8 bring many of those festival speakers to an online platform so they could connect and present to their communities virtually.

We turned around a marketing campaign quickly, and our hashtag for the event (#Forbes8Summit) had 4.8M impressions. Zen Media generated 14 PR pieces for the campaign, which garnered a readership of 156M people.

When the pandemic forced major events to change course, we innovated alongside our client to create an environment where companies found greater success in online events than in typical, in-person trade shows. 

This can happen on small and large scales, from events to daily social media interactions. The most important factor here is consistency: show up online and provide a place for others to connect with you.

The bottom line: You need a digital strategy if you want to achieve B2B sales and B2B marketing success in 2021.

Not quite sure how to make this work for you? Drop us a note. After all, this is what we do best.

ABOUT SHAMA HYDER

She is the founder & CEO of Zen Media. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Forbes, Businessweek, and Inc have all recognized her as one of the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in the field of marketing. Shama has built a global audience and is known for helping brands succeed in the digital age. She is a bestselling author, an international keynote speaker, and has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years in a row.

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