How to Personalize B2B Marketing Through Evolving Business Cycles

May 13, 2020
Contributor: Kelly Hopping

Marketing leaders should adjust their messaging and outreach strategy to current buyer needs to remain relevant through and beyond down cycles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a potentially permanent shift in B2B consumer needs, and marketers are faced with an unclear view of how shifting pain points will affect future buyer behavior. It’s crucial for marketing leaders, with freshly cut budgets and rapidly changing priorities, to establish a proactive and personalized strategy to efficiently reach audiences along their new purchase journey.

Use data to identify current customer need

B2B marketers must develop strategies that fit their audiences' new purchasing climate and behavior. But with limited marketing budgets and evolving needs, “delivering the personalized experiences that customers expect on a finite budget is unmanageable if brands try to address all customers and all needs.” It’s more important than ever to efficiently create a marketing message that reaches your audience in their adapted purchase journey, but how can you plan outreach around uncharted behavior?

Examine your existing buyer data and emerging B2B consumer data from third-party sources to indicate the future behavior of your buyers. Use that information to identify what your current B2B customer — and their industry — needs and create an adaptive strategy that meets your buyers wherever they are in their new purchase journey. Successful marketers will find clarity from experience and win using “their knowledge of the customer and the competitive environment to stretch how the enterprise thinks, looking beyond the probable so that hard realities seem easier,” according to Gartner (full report available to Gartner clients).

Bar graph displaying sources of rapid customer information during the COVID-19 crisis. 62% are from third-party sources of consumer research.

Align messaging to new customer realities

Create genuine, personalized outreach to avoid “ringing hollow to consumers who think they’ve spotted an opportunistic ploy” by tapping into sources like sales conversations and third-party consumer research. Use that data to personalize messaging to specific pain points, whether for your target customers or their industries.

Use those insights to create helpful content resources that resonate with your customers’ current pain points and include prescriptive advice and practical support. “Across customer-facing functions, Gartner research has identified one central theme: Companies that help their customers do something or feel something — specifically, brands that prioritize “help” as a commercial strategy — are most likely to win” (full report available to Gartner clients). As this cycle progresses, continue to assess content performance and make adjustments to better assist your adapting audience.

Establish strategic segments

Across Gartner Digital Markets, we’ve seen an influx of new prospects in need of certain B2B solutions. That spike in demand can be difficult for marketers to plan for long term, especially when those buyers’ purchase journeys and needs vary from a typical target market. Segment customers acquired during this period and monitor emerging trends that are likely to be confined to this group. Develop a new content strategy based on this segment’s evolving needs, preferences and behaviors to drive repeat purchases and improve long-term customer value and loyalty.

Learn more about how to adapt sales and marketing strategy based on changing buyer behavior in our on-demand webinar, "Move Forward: Identify and Understand Critical Shifts in Software Buyer Behaviors." 

Kelly Hopping
Kelly Hopping is the Group Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Gartner Digital Markets. Kelly’s work is grounded in strategic thinking, results-driven determination and effective cross-functional management. When not at work, Kelly loves spending time with family and friends and is a mentor to rising leaders to intentionally manage their career development journey.
Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn.

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