Change agent: COVID-19’s ripple effect on BtoB marketing and sales.

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world of business (and nearly everything else), marketing and sales in the BtoB realm had already undergone some pretty big changes in recent decades.

Historically, B2B sales were primarily a matter of face-to-face, physical contact. Often, the “road warriors” of those times would spend the majority of their weeks traveling to visit with customers and prospects at their places of business, or meeting them at trade shows.

But the turn away from that traditional model began in the 1980s and 1990s with building security concerns. Then along came 9/11 …

Technology has played a big part in the evolution — and has actually helped accelerate it with e-mail, database management, digital advertising, online RFP pricing/bid systems and other innovations affecting the nature of customer engagement.

Let’s not forget social networks, too — with LinkedIn being a particularly lucrative tool assisting many sales and marketing professionals in finding and nurturing prospects.

Somewhere along the way, the functions of marketing became much more than merely branding, advertising, and lead generation. Today, BtoB marketing is involved in every stage of the customer relationship.

Along comes COVID-19 in early 2020, which seems certain to drive further change. For one thing, virtual engagement has become a necessity instead of a merely an option.

At the same time, one could posit that customer retention has taken on more importance than ever before. It’s no wonder we’re hearing the phrase “retention is the new acquisition” stated with such frequency at the moment.

Roger McDonald

International strategic business advisor Roger McDonald believes that business has come full circle, returning to Peter Drucker’s classic maxim from more than 30 years ago: “Business has only two functions: marketing and innovation. These produce revenues. All others are costs.”

In McDonald’s view:

“Perhaps we are at a tipping point, where senior management will move beyond metrics of lead generation to nurture marketing’s evolving role as an organizer of systems, IT initiatives, and salesperson engagement for both acquisition and retention.”

One thing seems quite clear as we emerge from nearly three months of mandated COVID-isolation: We won’t return to an “old normal.” Those eggs have already been broken and scrambled.

What are your thoughts on which BtoB marketing and sales fundamentals have changed in light of the coronavirus disruption? Please share your thoughts with other readers in the comment section below.

2 thoughts on “Change agent: COVID-19’s ripple effect on BtoB marketing and sales.

  1. My comment is pure nostalgia. How different office tower sales have become! In the 1960s, as a student, I sold advertising space simply by walking into buildings in NYC, taking the elevator and going from company to company. You’d ask to see someone from an appropriate department and moments later would sit down to make your pitch.

    This changed in the 1970s, when intruders from the street began stealing IBM “bouncing ball” typewriters. Now you needed to check in with a security desk. IBM “Selectrics” were light enough to be worth stealing. But you still got on the elevator and went wherever you pleased in the building.

    911, as we all know, tightened security further. Now someone had to be designated an escort, go down to the lobby and meet you for the appointment you made prior.

    And now, in COVID times? Heaven knows what death-knell to spontaneity! A meeting with a masked person to do business? What would the Lone Ranger say!

  2. I got a chuckle out of your comments. My story involves visiting a high-security office building in the 1990s and being escorted to the bathroom by one of the employees.

    There’s something quite awkward about sitting in the stall “doing your business” with a person standing right there, inside the bathroom, monitoring it all …

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