Even as we begin to chart a path back to normalcy, it’s important to acknowledge that some things have changed permanently. “My mom won’t go to a grocery store, likely, because she found this new way of buying her groceries off her iPad,” says Chief Outsiders managing partner Karen Hayward.

Karen shared her insights for B2B marketing in a rapidly changing environment during one of Leadtail’s Spirited Conversation online events.

Businesses need to come to terms with the ways the pandemic has affected buyer habits and preferences. Many of the things that we took for granted two years ago are no longer true.

An April 2020 McKinsey study found that, during the pandemic, digital-enabled sales interactions became twice as important to customers as traditional methods. What was once an evolution towards digital has only accelerated as COVID has made rapid, deep, and lasting changes in buyer behavior. The impact on sales and marketing is only just beginning to be felt.

“Marketing used to, you know, really be top of the funnel,” Karen says. “Now we really have to go down and even do some of the sales. I say, ‘Your website is your first sales call.’”

Remember the Fundamentals

Changes to the buyer’s journey have digital implications. Digital advertising, social media, email marketing, and other digital touchpoints all have to adapt to the changing buyer profile. 

To get it right, you have to start with “the right market insights, that drive the right strategy that drive the right execution,” Karen says. “So if you want to have really great execution, in 2021, it’s going to be because you’ve adjusted your strategy to understand your markets, your offering, and how you’re going to position them against competitors.”

As different as the marketing landscape may look today, the fundamentals still apply. The same principles marketers have been talking about for years apply in the post-pandemic, digital-first world. The market-based framework is still the best way to position a business for success in the years to come.

Make the “First Sales Call” Count

Buyers now overwhelmingly prefer self-service, digital experiences for making buying decisions. 

This means your website, or “first sales call” as Karen describes it, is more important than ever. 

A whopping 93% of potential customers do a web search before making a purchase decision. 

And buyers are making key evaluations from the moment your website begins to load:

  • 40% will leave if it takes longer than three seconds for a website to load.
  • 75% judge the credibility of a business based on its web presence.
  • 38% leave a website if it’s unattractive.
  • 94% will base their impression of the brand and the product on the website design.

Given the importance of web presence, if you want to succeed in the post-COVID marketplace “you really have to think about your digital communication,” Karen says. She recommends that every business review six key areas of digital communication: web traffic, search engine optimization, digital advertising, social media, web structure, and web content.

Karen says an audit like this “allows you to look at what’s working for you and your competitors.” 

Reviewing these areas for both your business and a few key competitors is an opportunity to discover wins that might otherwise be overlooked. 

The days of “good enough” on digital are gone. “Lots of people have really taken time to build sites, but they’re just online information brochures, and they’re not supporting the buyer as they should.”

Align Sales and Marketing for Success

Getting sales and marketing to align behind a common goal is a growing edge Karen sees in most of the businesses she works with. 

“I regularly see a five to 15% opportunity, if you can just get these two organizations on the same page. And when I talk about, you know, how do we get on the same page? Let’s get agreement on the funnel metrics. Let’s get agreement on what is a marketing qualified lead–in black and white.”

When sales and marketing aren’t aligned, marketing capital gets expended with little return, and the sales organization spends a huge amount of time and energy trying to chase down low quality leads. 

Getting sales and marketing to agree on terms at the outset creates alignment that offers benefits throughout the sales process.

Pivoting Toward the Future

There are three things businesses should keep in mind when preparing for “the new normal.”

  1. Fundamentals matter. Start with market insights, engage in win-loss analysis, gather data on competitors. Use these insights to form your marketing plan.
  2. Study your buyer’s journey, and check every digital touchpoint a buyer might encounter. Refine the messaging and provide a supportive purchasing experience.
  3. Align sales and marketing so that both organizations understand and agree upon goals, metrics, and outcomes.

Businesses that are able to implement these practices will be in a better position to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the post-pandemic world.

Watch Karen’s full presentation here. If you’d like to attend the next Spirited Conversations virtual event, keep an eye on LinkedIn.

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