As the pandemic continues to bite hard, and with little sign of it slowing down, the way companies communicate to both existing and potential customers has changed. While online channels have long been a focus pre-pandemic, the ability to complement these with in-person visits and elaborate trade show stands had a tangible impact on a company’s ability to drive leads and ultimately to close business. Today, however, those supporting elements have been cut off at the knees, leaving many B2B companies, in the first instance at least, with little more than their existing website content, a telephone and a question of what to do next as the majority of sales funnel activities move to digital mediums.
Crucially, what is presented and how it is conveyed has never been more important. The way in which companies operate has inevitably changed, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, therefore your messaging will need to reflect how your business itself is changing in order to continue to offer the best for your customers. For example, are you still portraying an image of global/local service that is no longer possible to deliver in the same way as before? Is the way you collaborate with customers moving into a more digital format? Have you adapted your messaging to reflect the recent renewed focus on sustainability? Portraying elements of your offering that can no longer be delivered under restrictions globally could have a negative impact on your brand reputation. This exercise in ‘review and adapt’, therefore, should always be run in parallel with any new campaigns.
Time to wake up
The pandemic has led to an inevitable increase in time spent online, meaning B2B companies in particular must up their digital game. Sadly, many are falling short of what is required to truly stand out from their competitors. The gap between the business-to- consumer and business-to-business approaches to PR and Marketing campaigns is narrowing, and those companies that fail to acknowledge the vital importance of creating an engaging, thought-provoking, interactive experience for their customers and prospects risk being left behind by those that do.
Let’s look at trade shows as an example. It will not have escaped your attention that the entire trade show industry is rapidly moving into the virtual space, but what we are seeing – initially at least – is that the experience is largely two-dimensional, uninspiring and quite frankly dull. There has been little to make potential customers sit up and take notice and many in the B2B space attend with stands that are akin to the corporate videos of 25 years ago.
A rethink is required. A kick up the corporate backside if you will. B2B customers, like consumers looking for inspiring brands, want to be wowed, they want to be given an experience, they want to be reassured that the companies they are looking to do business with are ahead of the curve in every aspect of their operations – and that, crucially, includes how they present their credentials and showcase their products to the world in the absence of in-person opportunities.
Up your digital game
One of the first things we at Dragonbridge did in the early stages of the lockdown was to look at ways of delivering just this sort of interactive and engaging experience, and those that have engaged with us have certainly reaped the benefits. Our virtual trade show experience, for example, has been incredibly successful, exactly because it enables customers to stand out in these often crowded platforms. Our dedicated virtual team devised a fully immersive, interactive stand template that can be entirely tailored to the individual company, in a way that only the real estate market seems to have achieved so far.
Visitors to a Dragonbridge virtual exhibition booth can ‘walk around’ it as if they were actually walking the floor, in an experience that is as close to in-person as it’s possible to get without the use of VR headsets. But why stop there? If a realtor can take a client on a virtual walk around a property, why can’t a B2B manufacturer take a client on a virtual walkthrough of its facility? The answer is there is no reason why not, other than the lack of knowledge of the technology’s existence, or a reluctance to invest in the possibility in the first place.
At a time when the largest management consultancies in the world are advising their clients to be bold in the face of economic uncertainty, so too are we advising ours to do the same. The offering is there to make an impact, and virtual reality is just the tip of the iceberg. It is one thing to have a potential customer click-through to your virtual stand, but it still needs to be populated with engaging and impactful content – and fit within your wider brand and marketing mix. Here there is another balance to be struck, but the possibilities are endless. Visitors could walk up to a TV screen virtually and engage with a video, then why not have a Q&A with a virtual individual? Webinars and presentations could be taking place elsewhere, and for those that want the nitty gritty, a balance of brochures, technical data sheets and whitepapers can also be made available via a virtual magazine rack.
Ultimately, as B2B professionals we need to think further and further outside of the box if we are to remain successful as the world changes around us. Reject the change and carry on regardless and the chances are you will be left behind wondering what happened. Move and influence these changes and those companies that require products or services such as yours will stand up and take notice.