The year 2020 was a catalyst for digital transformation in the B2B marketing space as the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to in-person marketing strategies such as conferences, sales meetings and demos.

The spotlight quickly shifted over to virtual technologies, forcing organizations and businesses to strengthen their digital presence and use new marketing strategies and tools to continue reaching their audiences.

These trends aren’t expected to disappear once the pandemic is over. Companies will need to continue to invest in new digital strategies and tools in order to thrive in a post-pandemic world where Zoom meetings and virtual conferences will remain the norm for many.

Here at Motum B2B, we’re always planning and upskilling to make sure we stay on top of all things up-and-coming in the B2B marketing world. Steve Lendt, Motum’s Director of Engagement and Analytics and Mark Whiting, Vice President of Technology, share their thoughts on how the ups and downs of last year changed the B2B marketing landscape — and how they could affect the future.

Q: How did COVID-19 and the shift to working from home change how our agency helps B2B clients reach their audiences?

Steve Lendt: For some clients, we saw more search volume and user interactions that didn’t necessarily convert well into sales. That was the bigger challenge for our clients in 2020. That was because for many clients, the customer has to physically go to the space. For the leads they did get, they were not the same quality of leads you get when you build a relationship by meeting in person.

Mark Whiting: I was expecting our clients to be hit by the crunch that everybody else got economically, and then that would trickle down to marketing. Instead, what we saw was an interest in remaining active online. Digital tradeshows might not have been the online tool they went with, but they were interested in other digital strategies. They used new tools and got into marketing automation in campaigns, and I think most of them saw pretty good results from that.

Q: Are there any standout trends you think will be more important to focus on in 2021?

Mark: The twin punch of accessibility and privacy regulations introduced in 2020 come to mind. Accessibility is going to be a really important trend this year, largely because governments are starting to legally require it. There are new disciplines that are critical now that almost no one knew anything about a few years ago, and accessibility is one of them. Also, a lot of people suddenly realized that cookies were not going to be here forever, or they suddenly had to grapple with the idea of the California Privacy Law that hit last year and made people scramble. It’s going to flip the whole table on how the internet marketing sphere works.

Q: Are there any trends or technologies you think are more applicable to B2B marketing than B2C marketing?

Steve: In terms of strategy, it's really important to understand that B2B marketing is more about relationship building than B2C marketing, which tends to be transactional. That's a key marketing strategy. Sales cycles are longer in the B2B space, because the products people are purchasing are going to be bigger decisions. There's more money and more people involved in the decision to purchase these things, and your marketing needs to align with that.

Q: How would a marketing strategy today look different than one developed, say, a year ago?

Steve: We would approach it more from the brand perspective. That's where our biggest requests over the last three years have been; clients want to present themselves better online, and there's so much more involved in that than just redesigning the website.

Mark: Accessibility and the impending hammer of Google's algorithm change are two things that weren’t here last year at this time in the web world. I would also say there's many more options for these “mini apps” for people who want to build a tool or a small app. End-users don't need to know much about code in order to use these tools, and the technical proficiency has progressed in such a way that they’re much more accessible now.

Q: What would you say to a potential client who’s unsure about committing to increasing their online presence?

Steve: If your brand is not doing the right thing in the digital space, your brand is going to suffer because the landscape is now mostly digital. It now matters more what the salesperson can do with relationships because it's more challenging for them to see their customers. Your online presence is a powerful sales driver. I think we can make clients more comfortable by providing them with a solid marketing strategy. We also need to get more aligned with their sales teams to overcome any shyness or anxiety about their marketing department.

Q: What are Motum’s strengths as a B2B agency, and how do we contribute to this space?

Steve: Our ability to create strong relationships with B2B clients is what makes the difference for us. We definitely have more to offer in one small shop than the other players do. We've got a strong tech game and strong digital understanding, because marketing is kind of synonymous with digital these days.

Mark: If you have a realtor or a mortgage broker who's not affiliated with a bank, for example, they tend to give you better advice because they aren't beholden to always recommend certain products and services, and we do that for our clients. I also think that we spend a lot of time in sharpening our own tools internally here, picking up new skills and trying to stay ahead of the curve. Ultimately, we've got a team of really smart people who are specialist experts in B2B, and I don't think you could get that from most external shops.

Are you ready for the future of B2B marketing? Contact us, we can help.