Mid-Summer Research Updates COVID’s Impact on B2B Marketing


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Image Source:  Edelman and LinkedIn

A report recently published by Edelman and LinkedIn provides a useful update on COVID-19’s impact on B2B marketing and customer engagement. The report was based on a survey of 394 U.S.-based B2B executives in customer-facing business functions, including marketing, sales, business development, and communications. Survey respondents represented a wide range of industries and company sizes.

This survey was fielded in June, which means that responses were obtained after the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided and some early signs of economic recovery had appeared. So, the results should reflect a more balanced view of business conditions than surveys conducted in March or April, at the height of the economic lockdowns. 

Not surprisingly, the Edelman/LinkedIn survey found that COVID-19 was impacting customer buying behaviors in several ways.

  • Seventy-two percent of the survey respondents said their customers were focused on conserving cash and weren’t interested in buying non-essentials.
  • Sixty-one percent said most customers were interested in purchasing familiar products with proven reliability rather than new or more innovative products.
  • Seventy-three percent said customers were interested in buying, but were slower to evaluate and commit to specific purchases.

Even in June, however, business conditions were not one dimensional. Sixty-five percent of the survey respondents said some customers were looking for unexpected opportunities to strengthen their position, and 58% said some customers were eager to advance their pre-pandemic plans while the environment is fluid.

The Edelman/LinkedIn survey also found that most of the surveyed executives agreed on what actions they needed to take to succeed during COVID-19.

  • Eighty-four percent of the respondents said they needed to strengthen their position as a trusted thought leader who could help customers solve immediate problems.
  • Seventy-two percent believe it’s important to increase their communications with customers about their expertise in helping customers protect or grow sales.
  • Sixty-two percent believe it’s important to improve their understanding of their customers’ customers through new or intensified research or data gathering.

Unfortunately, the survey also revealed significant gaps between what the respondents identified as important and what they (or their companies) were actually doing with respect to those key actions. The following table shows the percentage of respondents who rated each action as very or extremely important, and the percentage who reported that their company was actually enabling each key action. The table also shows the percentage point difference between the belief and the follow-through.

As the table shows, the biggest gap between belief and action was in the ability of company leaders to understand the needs and circumstances of their customers’ customers. Other findings from the survey indicate why this gap might exist.

The responses suggest that many of the respondents had adopted a short-term focus in their marketing and sales efforts. For example:

  • Forty-six percent of the respondents said that marketing spending was being closely evaluated for its direct impact on sales.
  • Fifty-five percent said they were shifting their marketing efforts to focus on existing product or service offerings with immediate appeal, while only 45% said they were focusing on developing new products or services.

The short-term focus can also be seen in the sources of information the surveyed executives were using to increase their understanding of their customers’ customers. About half of the respondents said they were relying on feedback from sales teams and social media monitoring, but only between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 respondents reported using primary survey research and/or customer focus groups/interviews.

While information from sales teams and social media can provide useful insights about the immediate needs and circumstances of customers (and their customers), more structured research is required to gain deeper and more persistent insights. And, as the respondents in this survey overwhelmingly agreed, deep and persistent insights are what’s needed to successfully navigate the COVID and post-COVID business environment.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


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