Many are ready to classify 2020 as “Annus horribilis” and pretend it never happened. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not about to proclaim that it’s been a banner year. There are plenty of things that should go (like having to say “you’re on mute” a dozen times a day), but the events of 2020 evoked some positive B2B marketing practices that should definitely stay. Here are some that rise to the top of my list:
- A new type of leadership. The events of this year fundamentally changed the way all executives act and lead. They made it acceptable for their team leaders to be comfortable saying the words “I don’t know,” and they have shown their humanity and been more willing to listen. This change is supporting the culture of experimentation that is ultimately driving innovation, and that is something essential for marketing that should definitely stay.
- Resilience. Marketing leaders had to quickly pivot to recast their plans to deal with change, revisiting initial decisions and looking at them through the lens of a changing environment. Resilience is an ability; it isn’t something that happens on its own. Organizations had to take actions to build up their “resilience muscle.” This muscle is one that marketers should continue to exercise.
- A new planning routine. This year’s climate demanded the consideration of shifts in the market and a perspective on what has worked and what hasn’t for other organizations. 2020 made it impossible to simply fall back on last year’s tactics, so B2B marketers are finally off the tactics treadmill. Don’t fall back into old routines — incorporate the same careful evaluation into your standard planning processes.
- A culture of experimentation. Once just an aspiration for many B2B organizations, creating a culture of experimentation has gained momentum in 2020. The events of the year have forced marketers to embrace the unknown and become more innovative. To successfully innovate, companies needed to make experimentation an integral part of everyday routines — and that’s a good thing.
- The art of prioritization. Companies had to reassess their targeted industries. Those that were targeting the hardest-hit industries, such as travel and transportation, were forced to revisit and reprioritize their market segments. That required the collection of data and insights to identify which segments are poised to do well over the coming years. That practice should stay. Marketers must continue to play a critical role in seeking and identifying new growth opportunities for the business.
- A stronger focus on retaining customers. This year, marketers were more keenly aware that what their organizations were doing today could impact how customers would support them when the market bounces back. That meant understanding what their customers needed now and identifying what their organization were uniquely positioned to provide.
- The identification of transferable skills. No live events? Now what? The inability to continue with planned in-person events triggered more than just tactical shifts. It prompted marketing leaders to consider how to make use of their live-event-focused resources. They found ways to transfer skills like project management, negotiation, and problem solving to other marketing disciplines. Now that’s a great example of an adaptive marketing organization, and adaptability is going to continue to be as critical for success in the future as it is today.
- Crisis preparedness. Prior to the global health crisis, our research showed that 50% of B2B organizations did not feel they had an adequate crisis communication plan. Many had no plan at all. Now they do, and those plans should stay. In fact, each year, marketing leaders should evaluate the relevance of the plan’s scenarios within the new context and make necessary adjustments so they don’t get caught unprepared again.
It’s clear the events of 2020 are going to have a lasting impact. What are some of the B2B marketing practices you hope will stay?