Eight Sales and Marketing Tips for B2B Firms
COVID-19 Marketing advice

Eight Sales and Marketing Tips for B2B Firms

Eight Sales and Marketing Tips for B2B Firms
6 min read
Ronan Morris
Ronan Morris 15 Jun 2020

Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the health of our nation. The economic impact has been sudden and harsh. How long lasting this impact will be is the subject of much debate.

Since the crisis, many of our B2B clients have responded quickly to ensure that their businesses remained as operational as possible given the government guidance. Service delivery has adapted where possible to digital. Some of our clients have propositions that are even more in demand but the majority are suffering a severe drop off in demand.

The business development agenda has for the most part been on the back burner directors in firms are increasingly turning their minds back to the vision of business getting back to some sort of normality. Part of that vision will be trying to assess how business volumes will be affected in terms of existing client retention and new business acquisition.

As strategic advisers to many such B2B firms, we wanted to set out some of the advice we’ve been sharing.

1. Getting your board on the same page

The virus is here to stay - at least for the time being. You need to begin to think how your business can live alongside this reality. You need to keep looking forward as positively as is reasonable.

For your leadership team, this involves coming together as best you can to assess the health of your business and it’s future prospects in the short, medium and long term.

You may have conflicting viewpoints at board level. These need to be thrown out on the table and discussed in an open and transparent way. It’s pretty much a given that your pre-Covid plans are no longer valid and need to be revised.

The presence of multiple unknowns should not be used as an excuse to postpone difficult discussions on what will emerge as your most marketable value propositions.

Setting aside time to discuss your future strategy will help to get your entire team to push in the same direction - sooner rather than later. Also, this is a shared issue - for the board, the executive leadership and the wider team.

Another challenge is to keep everyone feeling appropriately positive. What this means is being as positive as is reasonable based on the current available data. Anything more, might not be a credible sell internally.

Board Meeting

2. Retention of existing customers

In a crisis, new prospects can be hard to come by so it’s never so important to look after the client relationships that you have.

Their existing revenue to your business is more crucial than ever and sales to this segment have the lowest acquisition costs.

You need to continue to deliver on existing propositions and if anything, go the extra mile to protect this business.

Look at ways to build on existing relationships such as sharing insights on how you are navigating the crisis. Relationship building doesn’t come to standstill because we can’t meet in person. Think about virtual meetup opportunities. Clients will remember who stayed in touch, shared knowledge and had their backs during this time.

Zoom Conference Call

3. Segment your client base

Connected to the above is the need to better understand your existing client bank. The two key factors you should look at are risk and opportunity.

In a crisis such as this, risk is twofold.

Firstly, the risk that, for reasons beyond your control, this client will no longer themselves exist as a business in the short to medium term. This will mean revenue loss for you and potential bad debt in worst case scenarios.

Second is the risk that they might opt to do business with a competitor firm. This could be to save money or for a perceived better overall proposition.

You need a strategy customised for each segment and in many cases a specific plan for each client, depending on their value to your business.

A crisis also creates opportunity and you need to make sure your firm is alive to these as they emerge. They might become visible at client level or at a vertical (sector) level and having formal processes around identifying these and leveraging them will be a key offensive strategy for your firm.

For the moment though, your emphasis needs to be ongoing broader and deeper with existing clients, leveraging relationships in one buying centre in order to create a bridge to others. And also as a way to grow your word of mouth referral channel.

4. Segment yourself

Another useful lens to look through as your team assesses the future is where does your business sit versus direct and indirect competitors. A typical failing in sales and marketing in B2B is to look too inwardly. B2C firms place a much higher value on competitor research.

If prospects can independently evaluate you and your competitors, then so can you, and you should do this even when there is no crisis to contend with.

Ways to compare yourself:

  • Agility - smaller firms tend to do better here. They can pivot more quickly as they are leaner

  • Financial strength to weather a storm - longer established firms with healthy cash reserves can more easily wait out the leaner years in the hope of better times ahead

  • Levels - be aware that the ‘level’ you operate at is a key evaluation criteria for prospects in B2B. In a crisis, you might find firms that are a tier below you are targeting your clients based on price.

5. Review your new business funnels - every step in the funnel

Look at the top, middle and bottom of your funnel. Look at how it used to perform, how it’s performing now and more importantly how each will perform as more normality returns. For most B2B firms, the problem often lies at the middle of the funnel; the point where prospects independently evaluate your offering - primarily this means your website.

Many firms lose out here as the middle of funnel experience for prospects is just not compelling enough. You don’t even get on the long list, let alone the short list.

In a world where there will be less leads and most of these leads will have a lower intent to buy, it is critical to maximise the number of prospects that get through to being a visible lead at the bottom of the funnel.

At the bottom of the funnel is where leads become visible but where the evaluation is more dependent. Remember that selling virtually is different to selling face-to-face. Have you adapted your processes to reflect this?

Desk

6. Review your propositions

This might be a bitter pill to swallow, but some of your propositions are no longer attractive. As a leadership team you need to look at every value proposition that you have presented to a prospect in the last year. How does it now play out? Is the buyer pain point the same? Is the value exchange still as valid? Has the competitive landscape changed? Can you help your clients work more effectively in a virtual context?

But note equally that some of your propositions may be stronger.

You also need to look closely at your margins and look for creative ways they can be adapted to attract new business.

Similarly, you may also need to look at the sectors that you are targeting. How have these verticals been affected by Covid-19? Some may be at least temporarily unattractive to target. Is there a new vertical you can target to compensate?

7. New opportunities

Are there other major or minor business pivots worthy of exploration? What new opportunities are emerging in the macro environment and is there an opportunity for your firm to benefit. Is underlying sentiment changing and how will that bubble up into your own propositions?

8. Assess your resources

Assuming you’re seeing big changes with your top of funnel marketing efforts, what impact does that have on your marketing resources? Your teams may now be over-resourced or you may have the wrong skill sets for your needs in the new environment. Do your staff have the best tools to be effective?

It may also be valid to look at the balance between what you do inhouse and what you outsource. You should also be looking at the various marketing software tools that you use to support your sales funnels? Do they still fit your needs and do they represent value for money?

Conclusion

The natural inclination in a crisis can often be to look first at the ‘top of the funnel’ and see where you can secure new leads and new business. However, for most businesses, this part of the funnel may be broken - at least temporarily. This may not be the time for quick decisions based on a hastily conceived lead generation strategy.

Instead, look at the foundations of your funnel;

  • your existing client base

  • and how your proposition(s) is independently evaluated (mainly on your website)

Give this the time that it needs and then, when the ‘top of funnel’ becomes more attractive again, you will have a funnel that will effectively convert leads

If you need help with any of this, you know where we are. We’d be happy to facilitate a session for you or help in any other way.

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