The outbreak and spread of COVID-19 has created an ever-evolving landscape of protocols, precautions, and pandemic-related pressures for businesses to navigate.
In the B2B sector, the companies rising to the challenge most successfully are those who recognize that the best way to respond to a crisis is not simply to cease operations which may now prohibited, but to embrace a dynamic business model that allows them to adapt to the new normal, even as the factors that define “normal” continue to change.
B2B businesses that have found a way to not just cope with but thrive in these circumstances are those who have looked beyond merely implementing government-mandated measures and CDC-backed best practices to proactively evaluate and adjust their operations to meet the needs of this new market situation.
The following are five essential keys being leveraged by the most progressive B2B companies as they seek to grow their businesses in the new normal:
1. Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of current accounts.
It may seem obvious to perform a risk assessment for clients who are most in danger of financial instability, and then to develop ways to support these clients through the likely business contraction they’ll experience—and that certainly needs to be done. However, one key to thriving in the new normal is to also do due diligence in assessing the needs of companies experiencing massive growth—the kind they aren’t prepared for, and that won’t be sustained in the long-run.
Both ends of the spectrum exist, as a glance at recent articles from The New York Times can attest. Within hours of each other, the newspaper posted a feature on the challenges faced by real estate agents shuttering up brokerages and canceling walk-throughs, and another on the explosive growth in purchases from vitamin shops as people seek to boost their immune systems.
B2B companies looking to thrive in the new normal will create ways to support clients at risk for decreased profitability as well as those positioned for an unprecedented expansion in demand without the personnel, marketing, communications, and infrastructure in pace to fulfill it.
2. Recognize that the new normal has ushered in a new geographic environment.
COVID-19 is a global pandemic, but its impact is unevenly distributed, and as it reaches its peak and begins to wane in various countries, the locus of greatest impact will continually shift. We see this in China, where the initial ramp up and devastation is beginning to yield to more normalized functioning as the nation gains distance from the worst of the crisis.
These events bring to the fore a question which may otherwise have remained unasked: Would your B2B company benefit from reevaluating the geographic distribution of your business development efforts in the domestic U.S. and beyond? Perhaps you’ve concentrated your focus on certain markets and geographies which no longer support them. The era of the new normal is an ideal time to consider the merits of diversifying into new markets and geographies, both in the short term and perhaps even as a long-term strategy.
3. Don’t miss the opportunity to leverage the power of digital communication.
All B2B companies are faced with the same reality: social distancing, and the widespread closure or limitation of non-essential businesses. Some companies will respond to that reality by canceling events, postponing them, or maybe even switching to an online format that’s hastily thrown together as a stop gap measure.
And some companies will recognize the goldmine in front of them and immerse themselves in the possibilities and power of digital communication, making their interactions with their clients as tangible and dynamic as possible. They’ll ramp up blog articles, e-newsletters, and videos. They’ll host Zoom or GoToMeeting sessions and offer virtual workshops. And they’ll use video and audio not just as a fallback but as strategic tools to take communication, support, and visibility to the next level.
4. Use the time to implement greater quality control in your CRM.
Want to reach a key decision maker with an innovative (new normal-friendly) solution you’ve developed? Chances are, she’s not at her desk these days. If your CRM doesn’t contain accurate, up to date, and—this is the key—robust data about your contacts, you’re at a major disadvantage.
Take the time to go through your CRM database and build in greater quality control. Use this opportunity to clarify and optimize your understanding of the data in your system and your ability to access precisely what is needed. Make sure you’ve identified all of the key decision makers in the companies you want to serve in your target market, and that you have accurate email addresses, LinkedIn profile URL’s, and alternate means of contacting people via cell phone or texting. In the new normal, digital communication is paramount, but it’s the quality of your CRM that fuels effective communication.
5. Be proactive and creative.
In the new normal, companies that are proactive are winners. Take, for example, a brick and mortar business in a high impact zone. Simply reacting to events would have led to freezing and then folding, but the company’s owner chose to get ahead of the curve and communicate value with authenticity. By sending out an email newsletter that went beyond the “we’re washing our hands and so should you” basics with a personal message from the CEO detailing the steps they are taking to meet their customers’ needs, he actually grew rather than lost clientele.
B2B companies are thriving now by developing creative approaches to meet the needs of their target market. Can’t host an in-person event? Don’t settle for a crisis pivot to a hastily thrown together online version. Why not create an all-inclusive experience complete with an online resource library, list of attendees and their contact info, and an event-in-a-box kit with bios, logos, and swag that can be direct mailed?
While implementing these keys, there’s one other point to keep in mind. In the new normal, at least in the short term, it’s important to remember that maintaining your current level of revenue is actually growing your business. Why? Because it is going to take business growth efforts to reach the same level of revenue you attained pre-pandemic. On some level, every B2B company is going to experience loss of clientele, which means that we’ll have to take aggressive measures to replace them with new accounts, preventing loss with innovation, responsiveness, and proactive creativity as much as possible.
In the new normal, our homes are now our offices, but when COVID-19 has receded into the pages of history we won’t be the same—and neither will the way we do business. Necessity may be forcing us now to test the reality of the virtual revolution, but the revolution will outlive the virus. B2B companies that embrace this reality with digital and tangible communication will come out of this not only in one piece, but positioned for success in the long-term.
Image Credit: Nathan Smith (Flickr @ Creative Commons)