2020 – the scent of hand sanitizer wafts through the air, toilet roll briefly became a scarce resource and Zoom happy hour replaced your favorite bar. And it’s not over yet.

The world isn’t ending, but there’s no doubt that it’s already deeply changing. So, why isn’t your B2B marketing strategy?

But how do you adjust to ongoing uncertainty? And will what worked before continue to do so?

Let’s look at a process to audit and adapt your marketing strategy to COVID-19:

Think about how the buyers landscape has shifted

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted business expectations, both at the B2B and B2C level. The ripples of disruption are being felt across every business in every industry. Whether for good or bad, COVID-19 is having a massive impact on B2B purchasing decisions, and how budget is allocated.

With this in mind, you need to go back to the drawing board and re-assess how purchasing decisions are made. If you don’t already have one, draw up a purchasing map, using a tool like Lucidchart or Miro, or even a lo-fi whiteboard sketch (this will look cool during your Zoom call, trust me).

This purchasing map won’t be followed to the letter in any organization. Instead, it represents a hypothetical set of steps that are followed to make a purchase at the organizations you want to sell to.

Think of it as a buyer persona for getting budget approval. Buyer personas are based on a fictional composite of an ideal customer, similarly the purchasing map is based on a fictional decision-making process for approving spend on a new product, service or project.

Make sure to identify decision-makers, budget gatekeepers, and any potential blockers. If possible a loose reporting structure will help your sales team align on who they need to talk to.

Once you’ve got the purchasing map in place, ask how each role in the map will have been impacted by changes in COVID-19.

For example:

Is budget being released less easily?

Do you need to offer discounts, more lax payment terms or other incentives to potential buyers?

Does your prospect need more ammunition to justify spend to their purchasing department?

Look at the resources you offer to prospects, see if you can update one-pagers, product specs and case studies to be more compelling.

Will the budget for your product or service have been reduced?

If budget is being restricted for products/services like yours – how can you better illustrate the ROI or benefits of adoption? Always focus on next steps and empathize with your target buyer to improve your power to persuade.

By building out a map of the buyer’s journey, and re-assessing the priorities of each role involved in the process, you’ll be able to identify any gaps in your marketing channels, content, and go-to-market approach.

Talking directly to customers is a great way to check if buying decisions have changed. If possible, jump on a few calls with your best clients to get this info from actual buyers. Alternatively, you could use third-party research or ask new prospects how the year is changing decision structures.

Re-align content to offer high-value to prospects

Classic B2B lead gen tactics like webinars, white papers and cold email have reached saturation point. With trade shows and conferences off the table, many B2B marketing teams have shifted to digital channels, and it shows. Buyers are fatigued with the information on offer. Take a look at your inbox – has the volume of marketing and cold email increased since this time last year?

Instead of going with what everyone else is doing, think about how you can offer better value to prospects. Try creating assessments, consultations and gathering proprietary research or data to help your prospects adapt to a changed business landscape.

Remember the power of reciprocity – lend a helping hand and provide real value to your prospects – they might just feel compelled to give something in return, or at the very least you’ll increase goodwill. Empathize with how their business and day-to-day lives may have been impacted by COVID-19, then try to meet them with useful content that is genuinely helpful.

Focus on education first and foremost – aside from trying out new types of content, double down on informational blog posts, guides and free tools.

Check your assumptions

Think about what impact COVID-19 will have on budget decisions for your target buyer. The B2B buying journey can be notoriously long. Are the assumptions and metrics you base your sales cycle on still the same? If not, should the KPIs and metrics you use to measure marketing performance change or stay the same?

Also assess how buyer receptiveness to marketing and sales communications has changed. Previously it might have been easy to get prospects to jump on a call, or sit in on a webinar, but with a large shift to digital channels and saturated messaging – it might be harder to reach a buyer that is overwhelmed with information.

Explore new channels and test everything

Good marketers are always testing. In times of rapid change like the COVID-19 pandemic, you should be testing even more. Now is an ideal time to rapidly experiment with new channels, tactics and ideas. Make sure that you’re testing your ads, emails and landing pages thoroughly. Every small percentage lift generated by a test adds up, and these small wins compound over time.

Come up with a shortlist of ideas, and try to find tactics that offer high payback in a short timeframe. These should be the things you test first, as they allow you to build momentum by figuring out what works faster than projects with longer-term payoffs.

Meet buyers where they are

It might not be ideal for your margins, but if necessary consider offering discounts to good customers. One way to do this is to offer discounts for larger upfront payments, or encourage new customers to sign a contract for a slightly longer time period. This can offset discounts somewhat and can give more visibility into future revenue.

Conclusion

Some industries have been decimated by COVID-19 while others are thriving. If your target market is still buying, now is a good time to take stock of your existing strategy and tactics. Most companies don’t need to revise strategy from scratch, or take drastic measures to win new business. Use the simple audit outlined above to gently adapt your marketing strategy, improve your customer communication and meet buyers where they are.