How COVID Forever Changed B2B Marketing

Trenton Romph

We invited Saber Sherrard and Johnny Hansen from Bain & Company to share findings from research they did, in partnership with Twitter, about how COVID forever changed B2B marketing. They surveyed over 100 B2B marketers and around 250 B2B buyers. During June 2020 to April 2021 they sent out three surveys to provide a longitudinal view of COVID’s impact on B2B marketing. The research effort aimed to better understand what drives B2B decision making, how aligned marketers and sales were with what matters most to buyers, and they wanted to know how marketers responded and performed during the pandemic.

There are two takeaways from their research:

  1. It is more challenging than ever to be a B2B marketer
  2. How winning marketers executed successful marketing during the pandemic
  3. What learnings to apply going forward

It is more challenging than ever to be a B2B marketer

Expectations have never been higher for marketers, and there is an increase in sales targets. Of the survey respondents, 90% said they relied on marketing-driven awareness and lead generation to hit sales targets. Marketers are also facing pressure from buyers. Buyer sophistication continues to increase. As a result, there are higher expectations for marketers with fewer resources. Most firms lowered the budget for marketing during covid. Though some funding has come back, it is not to its level before the covid pandemic.

How winning marketers were different during the pandemic

Johnny Hansen shared some insights on the differences between good and bad marketers during the pandemic. He first established a definition of a good marketer, and called them ‘winning marketers.’ The way they defined ‘winning marketers’ was outcome based by whether or not their companies were growing in revenue.

Here are some of the highlights of how a winning marketer did things better during the pandemic. One key point here is that by the end of the research time period in this study (April 2021) almost all the marketers surveyed were doing these winning marketing strategies, the difference was winning marketers did them at the beginning of the pandemic too.

  • They understood their customers better and put an emphasis on community.
  • They increased collaboration with sales.
  • They pursued COVID-related messaging.
  • They focused digital channels on brand awareness.
  • They launched campaigns targeting current customers.
  • They doubled down on the winning strategies in the middle of the research study before worse performing marketers even started adopting them.

The next natural question is, did these marketers actually win during the pandemic? Yes. In both brand awareness measurement and quality lead generation they experienced an increase.

What can we do going forward?

Covid caused a dramatic impact and those changes are here to stay. Winning marketers established a playbook for success over covid and they are applying those learnings to the future to win even more. Here are the top learnings going forward that Saber and Johnny shared in this presentation.

Listen to your customers

Winning marketers used customers as their compass to develop the right response in a time of crisis.

Adjust and stay agile

Winning marketers moved faster and were more decisive, even in the face of uncertainty.

Play the long game

Winning marketers used focused priorities to protect budgets and outperform through the crisis.

Tighten alignment with sales

Winning marketers deepened their collaboration with commercial functions, especially the sales team.

You can check out the entire presentation below if you'd like to learn about everything they found.

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