Pivoting to the new norm: EI’s Go-To-Market Strategy Barometer 2020

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, marketers have been constantly challenged on many fronts, and have had to pivot quickly in redirecting their efforts around new business pressures. The uncertainty during this period combined with industry volatility meant that many marketers had to brave the storm alone.

EI decided to support its client network of senior B2B Marketers by starting an industry conversation about the state of the market, what go-to-market activations are working, and how to plan for an uncertain future.

In two recent surveys (April – May and May – August), approximately 60 B2B marketers responded to questions around the current challenges, delivering a snapshot around current strategic thinking. Here are some of the highlights.

Strategy: Medium-term recovery planning at the core of current strategy

In January, 58% of B2B marketers’ focus was on long-term strategy (2021 and beyond), with only 26% focused on medium-term recovery planning. During the first wave of the pandemic in May, medium-term recovery planning more than doubled to 55% and, in August, it grew to 71% as marketers had to become more reactive in the current landscape and find ways to pivot quickly to the new normal.

In line with this need to focus on medium-term recovery, we also saw a rise in combined focus on both current clients and new prospects, a drop in focusing solely on new prospect acquisition since January, from 11% to 2%, and a rise in engaging existing clients from January to May.

Sentiments: Marketers dip their toes in the world of third-party virtual events

The confidence in the return of physical events by the end of 2020 dropped significantly between May and August, and quite rightly so, as the second wave of Covid-19 in Autumn 2020 has shown us. While the shift to virtual events has been necessary, it has not been easy.

Among marketers’ greatest challenges of virtual events identified by the barometer, the top two are:

  1.  Selecting the right platforms and formats for proprietary activities.
  2. Networking and generating meaningful leads in virtual environments.
Go-To-Market Strategy Barometer 2020

Marketers lacked trust in virtual platforms that were not tried and tested, and, while different platforms have different functionalities, none can replicate all the features of a physical event.

EI has reacted to these challenges by building new frameworks to assess event quality, as formats have undergone change. For instance, content booths or microsites replacing physical booths, or live polling being incorporated into sessions to keep audiences engaged.

Audience engagement versus post-Covid fatigue: Innovating with content

In an age of content saturation, snackable and punchy content delivers results. Our research suggests that the power of interactive and video content has increased, as visual content is more memorable. To that end, marketers have been successfully repurposing existing content into interactive infographics to make it more accessible and using data from Q&A sessions to generate content that can be used to re-engage attendees post-event.

To overcome ‘virtual fatigue’ and increase audience engagement, you need a hook beyond great content and speakers. Incentivising audiences and increasing the human touch in virtual settings can make a world of difference. For example, leveraging mail-outs like tasting boxes and offering live virtual experiences like whiskey tastings, live fitness sessions and competitions with prizes.

Future gazing: Hybrid events on the horizon

The sentiment from our barometer respondents shows that marketing teams have predicted the shift towards hybrid event models, and the B2B businesses that will have an advantage in this environment are those that have developed a marketing strategy integrating physical and virtual engagements.

Virtual and hybrid event models are here to stay, and they offer a wealth of benefits to businesses, including higher audience retention levels, content longevity and amplified brand positioning. This has accelerated the need for marketing teams to collaborate with events teams and start to embed events into their marketing strategy. The remit of marketing teams is changing to accommodate this shift through upskilling to run and manage digital events, data and real-time analytics through martech and digital tools. Teams can plug this new digital channel into ROI measurement, as well as to integrate virtual events into wider content campaigns.

Barometer 3 sneak peek: The suppliers’ view

The final iteration of the barometer in 2020 will be incorporating the views of third-party publishers, B2B media and event suppliers to gather insights from the supplier side, as well as continuing to track B2B Marketers’ sentiment, challenges and trends. This will highlight marketers’ views of how their roles and activities are adapting over the coming months, alongside suppliers’ upcoming plans. Some questions EI is asking suppliers are as follows:

  • What are your strongest alternatives for clients looking to plug the gap created by the lack of F2F events?
  • What is your biggest challenge in providing networking opportunities at virtual events?
  • When are you planning for F2F events to return to your portfolio? Will you be considering hybrid?
  • What do you expect to be the lasting changes to your business as a result of Covid-19?

Tapping into the thinking behind strategic planning from events and media providers will help us to garner a wealth of information on how the B2B events and media industries are moving in these uncertain times, reflecting on what has worked well so far and what their next steps are. Positioning third-party views alongside B2B marketers’ views will enable us to identify if the media suppliers’ plans match current marketers’ needs, which is, ultimately, the goal in these turbulent times.

The barometer is designed to track sentiment, challenges and trends among B2B marketers as they navigate and pivot to the new normal, offering a peer group collective view of how the outlook is moving. So far, EI has run two barometer editions in 2020 (April – May and May – August) to map how sentiment changes over time. These take the form of fast-pulse surveys, with questions amended for each iteration, based on changes in the market.

Each barometer incorporated the views of approximately 60 participants across tech, consultancy and FS firms, resulting in 28 key insights in total. Here, we present some of the top insights across the two barometers: https://ei-a.turtl.co/story/ei-go-to-market-barometer-summary

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