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It’s December. And are we through this pandemic? No. Not at all.
But is there optimism to be had with viable vaccines coming out? Will herd immunity be easier for us to get to than we thought? Maybe!
With all of these questions in mind, one stands out for B2B marketers: What does B2B marketing look like after COVID-19?
Let’s not jinx it. But we have every right to think about what the marketing world will look like in 2021. With that in mind, here are our six predictions for B2B marketing after we’ve beaten COVID-19 back.
(Before we get to the predictions, here’s a guarantee: “new normal” is a phrase that will be used and abused. Just say no.)
Prediction #1: Trade Shows Will Bounce Back Slowly
Even if life goes back to normal in the wider world in, let’s say, May 2021, events and conferences will still be kind of screwed. These things can take a year to put together. Basically, when one conference ends, they plan the next one a week later. So it’s not usually a two- or three-month process.
Let’s not forget the fact that trade shows are expensive, too. If you’re renting space or booking a caterer, you probably aren’t going to get that money back even if the conference doesn’t happen.
This especially affects the big events. They have six figures (or more) at risk if a trade show gets cancelled. The point is, we wouldn’t be surprised if we still don’t have quality in-person events for months after most of the population is vaccinated.
With the way things are going right now, B2B marketers shouldn’t put their money on having trade shows in the summer of 2021. And in the off chance that trade shows do pop up by then, attendance will be pretty darn low.
It’s better to be cautious with your B2B marketing after COVID-19. You’ve got to assume your events will be in a virtual space for a while.
Prediction #2: Virtual Events Will Have Their Ups and Downs
Virtual conferences have evolved a lot in the past nine. They’ve morphed from glorified Zoom calls to full-on, Capital “E” Events.
But here’s the thing: Virtual conferences programming has been inconsistent in 2020, and it will stay that way. While some industry leaders have come up with creative ways to engage remote audiences, a lot of shows continue to fall into the “virtual booth” category.
Although select virtual booth shows drive leads, the tech isn’t all the way there. And they’re still expensive – the concept just doesn’t carry through. So is your traditional “we have a booth and you’re going to see a demo” concept going to be a smash hit online? We don’t think so.
(No happy hours on the laptop.)
Instead, good virtual conferences will be much more informational and speaker-focused for B2B marketing after COVID-19. But the content had better be good, because …
Prediction #3: We Need a Break from Webinars
B2B marketers are going to take a little break from all the virtual events as COVID-19 starts to wind down. They’re done with webinars and crappy speakers. They’re done sitting in a dress shirt and sweatpants staring at their screens for hours on end. Unless the content is exceptional and focused, look for a lull coming out of the holidays.
Spring “trade show season,” however, will have people back and willing to attend actual good stuff.
We’ve noticed the best virtual lead gen coming from speaking events and informational content. If you have a topic people care about it, they’ll show up. Webinars, even if we’re all a bit sick of them, have become a more and more accepted part of the workday.
Prediction #4: Conference Tech Will Continue to Evolve
We don’t mean those virtual exhibit halls. Those still kind of suck.
We do mean the virtual conference space where you feel like you’re at a symposium.
We partner with a company, Intempio, that does this. They’ve built a robust platform on top of Microsoft’s SharePoint that creates a great virtual experience at national levels. It’s a level of experience that didn’t exist 10 months ago … and it can be deployed at a tiny fraction of the price of a traditional conference.
And platforms like that will only keep getting better.
Prediction #5: Traditional Digital Ad Platforms Will Take Time to Recover
B2B marketers in 2020 took their conference budgets and threw them at digital advertising – and destroyed it. It drove CPCs and CPMs through the roof.
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling. If you’re doing a $30 click on LinkedIn, you’re probably not making money off of that. And that’s the world we live in now.
When it comes to basic digital advertising, it’s like Yogi Berra once said: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” Budgets are through the roof.
Digital B2B marketing after COVID-19 is probably going to bounce back in early 2022. By then, you’ll be able to get inexpensive clicks on Google and LinkedIn again. It won’t happen overnight, though.
Prediction #6: WFH Is Here to Stay
We are not going back to the days of being 100% in the office … possibly ever. Folks are adapting to this new … what’s the word?
Not freakin’ normal. Anything but that.
Professionals have moved out of cities and amped up their at-home office spaces. All trends point to increasing acceptance of the WFH lifestyle.
But there still needs to be collaboration.
It’s just like trade shows – work is not going to be the same as it was before. We’re not replicating office water cooler talk. It’ll change.
Whether it’s through increases in automating processes, being able to hand work over seamlessly or even moving to the cloud, we are going to find new ways of collaborating and communicating. Good for Slack. Bad for your NAS.
tl;dr: B2B Marketing After COVID-19
We know it’s hard to believe, but there’s reason to be optimistic. We will one day start to look past COVID-19, but there’s no doubt that things have changed in an irrevocable way. Things are cemented into place and not going to be like they were even a few months ago.
So what does B2B marketing look like post-COVID-19? It’ll be all about staying flexible and adapting as things change.