4 Marketing Trends to Expect for a Post-COVID-19 World

Author: 
Kevin Allen

The disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented change and hardship in our economic systems. It can make it hard to predict what B2B marketing and sales will look like when we enter the post-COVID-19 era

Society has never experienced something of this scale when we’ve had so much global communication and commerce. That said, experts make predictions based on what has happened in smaller, less complicated situations. 

With that in mind, here are four things you can expect to occur in B2B markets as things reopen.

1. Marketing spends will be lower.

Research by Influencer Marketing Hub indicates 69% of brands expect to spend less on marketing and advertising in 2020, through the COVID-19 phase and the weeks and months immediately afterward.

That makes sense. As the pandemic continues to hamstring the economy, businesses feel the pinch. Income drops, but rents and other fixed expenses remain the same. They have to make cuts, and the marketing budget is one of the most accessible places to do it. 

Further, as businesses close due to economic hardships, it creates a vacuum in the supply chain. Unlike B2C marketing, where customers can wait for many nonessentials, companies will need what you offer before they can begin recovering alongside the economy. 

What To Do

Any B2B company that keeps its advertising budget the same (or even increases it) will reap multiple benefits. You’ll be outspending most of your competition as they lower their ad purchases and fill the holes left by the downturn’s casualties. 

Each of those extra dollars spent will count for more because the B2B landscape will have less advertising. 

Next Steps

B2B companies that save a little money now can earmark it for a marketing push when things reopen. Meanwhile, fine-tune a marketing plan that focuses on former clients of vendors that closed or are short on advertising funds. As soon as things reopen, push the button on this campaign and blitz your market while your competition is still reeling. Grab those high-value enterprise leads and make them yours.

2. Online connection will reign.

Experts, pundits, and politicians agree COVID-19 has increased the importance of online connection. With the boom in e-commerce, video conferencing, working from home, online socialization and even food delivery, we’ll likely never see things return to what we called “normal” before the pandemic. 

Even traditionally person-to-person B2B models like legal services, human resources consulting, and offsite training and team building have embraced various online options. It’s likely some will continue to do so after the pandemic has passed. 

Further, even after we open, many people likely still won’t go out for a while. This will be most important in the B2C sector, but it can impact your relationship and communication with leads and clients.

What To Do

This is an excellent time to double down on your automated content marketing. Information, reports, statistics and tutorials you used to deliver via an in-person meeting can instead be the focal points of blog posts, newsletter-delivered informational courses, video lessons and similar forms of marketing collateral.

If you do this, you’ll be able to better sell to businesses still leery of in-person meetings (especially with salespeople). You’ll also clear up time and energy for your sales staff, letting them nurture the hottest leads while your content marketing keeps prequalifying, educating and demonstrating your expertise. 

Next Steps

Consider ways you can use online business models to increase your market territory. For example, an ergonomics consultancy could install a CAD program to allow online visualization and collaboration outside their usual scope and reach. A legal firm with proper licensing could perfect their Zoom-based services and continue to practice for clients across the country. 

Get creative, and use the energy you’re putting into staying afloat during lockdown to open new income streams during recovery.

3. Conferences and conventions will be a no-go.

When a global threat makes it dangerous to congregate in large groups, it’s harmful to an industry that relies on gathering thousands of people in a single area. The $100 billion conference and convention industry has taken a serious, if predictable, hit during COVID-19. 

The lack of conferences has also meant losses and lost opportunities in the tech, retail, and gaming industries, among others. For those industries, conferences are where manufacturers build initial engagement around new products, renew and cement relationships with wholesalers and retailers, and otherwise put “fuel in the engine” of their business. 

What To Do

If your business relies on events and conventions, either directly or indirectly, invest time and energy in online alternatives. Many conferences traditionally held in person have transitioned to some kind of Web-based event. Get involved in as many as you can, even if it means spending a little money on the right camera and recording equipment.

Further, use social media, email, and video to nourish relationships with contacts you can no longer meet at conferences or even over lunch. Keep those connections strong so that when one of them needs to trim their budget, they choose to eliminate somebody who gave them less priority. 

Next Steps

Could you build a mini-conference of your own, hosted entirely online? Invite six to 12 of your business relationships — vendors, mentors, suppliers, thought leaders, even competition — and combine forces to publicize the event. You’ll reap some of the benefits of somebody else’s conference and position yourself more firmly as a leader.

4. Rooting for the home team will be important

Although government spending is at a peak during the crisis, state governments estimate a deficit that could reach a total of $30 trillion over the next two years. That means local community support will operate on a shoestring for years to come. There simply won’t be money for it. 

This comes alongside a general cultural shift COVID-19 seems to be spurring: Despite the increased importance of the internet and long-distance connection, local initiatives and community care have received a lot of attention and greater significance in this time of fear and uncertainty. 

These two factors may interconnect in exciting ways as we begin to see the coronavirus in our collective rearview mirrors. 

What to Do

If your clients rely on state funding for their business models, start your emergency planning now. Funds will dry up, and you’ll need to expand your income streams from other sources or find ways to get by on far lower revenues. It’s that simple, that stark and very likely. 

Look into ways your company might move to fill the gap left by crippled state funding. Can you offer a product previously provided by a government agency? Can you support local schools and social outreach programs, perhaps partnering with local and regional clients or leads? The publicity from actions like this can help position you as not just an industry leader, but also a community leader. You can’t buy better marketing than that. 

Next Steps

Identify a local charity that aligns well with your branding. For example, a marketing firm might choose an after-school art program, and a commercial landscaper might find an urban garden food bank. Form a partnership now, and find ways to make that partnership meaningful and public as COVID-19 fades and life returns to normal.

Although we all hope for a break from the hardship and fear that has accompanied this pandemic, some recent numbers suggest that by winter, we may still be reeling from COVID-19 issues. 

If that turns out to be the case, most of what we’ve reported here will be true whatever quarter is our first post-pandemic season. Stay safe and stay informed. 

Kevin Allen is a New York-based marketing consultant who has written several pieces for businesses looking to pivot marketing strategies during COVID-19.