Project Description

June 2020

The New Normal

Katherine Sheen
Katherine SheenStrategy Director

Six ways B2B marketers can use digital to replace face-to-face

A typical B2B sales pipeline can be significantly driven by face-to-face dealings, especially for highly technical products or high-value services. But with the disruption to in-person interaction caused by COVID-19, trade shows, sales demos and face-to-face meetings are now probably off the table long-term. How can B2B marketers react?

Organisations’ market engagement and sales ops must equip themselves to pounce on whatever opportunities are out there. That means finding ways to maximise the richness and effectiveness of digital interactions with target audiences to make up for the lack of physical contact.

Digital innovation is needed at both ends of the sales funnel

The new normal will require retraining typical ‘road warrior’ sales teams on new models of virtual selling. How can the digital meeting environment and remote sales experiences be enhanced? It could be an opportunity for marketing and sales to come together and collaborate on a new approach.

And it’s not just the ‘bottom of funnel’ sales journey that needs to be rebuilt. Typical top-of-funnel and lead gen activities like live conferences and events are now virtual as well. With everyone getting ‘Zoom fatigue’, a superior online event experience could become a competitive advantage for B2B brands.

Six examples of digital engagement innovations that B2B marketers can learn from

We gathered together examples of how brands from all sorts of categories were using digital spaces in interesting ways – ways that could provide inspiration for B2B marketers who need to fill the face-to-face experience gap created by social distancing.

  1. Burger King reinvented Zoom backgrounds as marketing real estate

Burger King has run a promotion in the US offering buy-one-get-one-free Whopper vouchers to people when they shared photos of the brand’s billboards used as Zoom backgrounds.

Could your sales team’s backgrounds be used to land key messaging during virtual meetings?

2. Currys PC World launched the ShopLive video personal shopping service

Dixons Carphone has been forced to shut its Currys PC World bricks and mortar stores and rely on online sales. It has launched ShopLive, a personal shopping service that connects customers with Currys PC World staff via video link. Customers browsing the website are invited to chat to staff about products including laptops, fridges, washing machines and TVs. It aims to replicate the in-store experience and deliver a Dixons Carphone USP – the expertise of its staff – online.

Could you mobilise sales personnel to interact live with prospects browsing online content for on-demand informal conversations?

  1. Rolls-Royce is using VR to enable customers’ distance learning

Rolls-Royce launched a new immersive live Virtual Training service this month. It delivers technical training on business jet engines via virtual reality for customers’ technical teams and allows them to participate wherever they are in the world. Customers just need an internet connection and the required VR equipment, which will be shipped directly to their door.

Could digital technologies help your current customers get deeper under the skin of your product or service during lockdown?

  1. Alexander McQueen sets its fanbase at-home weekly creative challenges

Luxury brand Alexander McQueen is setting weekly challenges for its followers on social media to encourage creativity during social isolation. By going through its archives to find inspirational designs, patterns and content to inspire its audience, Alexander McQueen is able to showcase a broader selection than usual of its products to its housebound fans. By positioning this campaign as a weekly challenge, participants are also more likely to continue taking part.

Even if your brand doesn’t have its own ‘fanbase’ to mobilise – how could you bring audience participation into your social channels to make connections more meaningful?

  1. Reporters Without Borders build a library in Minecraft

Non-government organisation Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) created a library within the computer game Minecraft to house content that had been censored in its country of origin. The NGO sourced books, blogs and newspapers from countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam and hosted them on its own open server.

A website or landing page isn’t the only way to compile content – what unusual digital environments exist that enable you to make exploring your content more interesting and substantive?

  1. Fortnite hosted a psychedelic Travis Scott concert and 12.3M people watched

Over 12 million people tuned in live to watch Travis Scott on Fortnite, and more than 40 million have since watched the footage on other online channels too. Despite the fantasy-style execution of Travis Scott’s concert here, there is a generally increasing demand for virtual environments to feel more real. Digital marketers are looking to maximise tools like soundscapes and haptic feedback to create multi-sensory experiences. Creating more immersive online environments is a way to break down distance and impersonality between you and your potential buyer.

When you’re no longer limited by the constraints of physics in the real world, how would you design an experience of your product? How do you connect with all the senses of your target audience?

The virtual sales pipeline – experiment to see what works

There’s not going to be an easy solution to what works best for your organisation. They key is to start now and experiment until digital becomes an acceptable alternative to face-to-face interaction. It’s not going to be seamless to start with, but as Rory Sutherland put it, it’s going to take practice and commitment to get virtual meetings right: “How much time, money and mental effort have you expended on transportation in your life? Air tickets, season tickets, learning to drive, motor insurance premiums, fuel? Yet how much money and time have you spent perfecting videoconferencing? Now is the time to prove it can work.”

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