As many of my blog readers know, I’ve written about B2B digital transformation for many years. The shift by many old-line industries into digital has been a slow move. For the vast majority of my clients who have made that transition, the pay-off has been well worth the investment, both in terms of budgets and the cultural shift that is often required for an organization to “think” digital.
For those companies that have been looking at digital transformation, the COVID-19 crisis will serve as a serious wakeup call. Buyers are struggling to make decisions, sellers are stressed. Manufacturers and suppliers are watching functions like customer service and sales come under extraordinary demand, causing backlogs of inquiries, orders and inventory. Buyers are trying to make sense of it all making both personal as well as business decisions to protect their colleagues, communities, end-customers and families.
As a veteran B2B marketing recruiter, it’s my job to ask the question: What does this mean for the future of B2B marketing and ecommerce hiring once this crisis is behind us? Will certain skills be more sought after, and if so, what industries will need them the most?
B2B Digital Transformation is About to Enter a New Phase
There is no question that it will impact some industries more than others. Personal protection equipment (PPE) and safety products, health & hygiene, ventilators and generators are going to remain in VERY strong demand for many, many months to come. This will inform the way these organizations craft their marketing communications.
Needs will become more important than wants.
B2B’ers must ensure that buyers receive the guidance and assistance they require when searching for mission critical products. This might require new technologies to help translate complex product specifications.
Buyers will want to feel confident that the products recommended will be tailored to meet their own unique challenges and needs. And more of this will be done on a remote basis as B2B’ers become more comfortable with idea of certain job functions being performed on a remote basis,
In short, effective and efficient communication both externally as well as internal will be key, and therefore organizations will be putting even more emphasis on those attributes in the marketers they hire.
Perhaps most importantly, this new breed of B2B marketer will be more of a problem solver, and organizations are going to have no shortage of problems to solve. They will be hired for their ability to focus on the product categories that buyers struggle with most. They will be hired for their ability to eliminate kinks customer journey, and provide the absolute best guidance and experience they can for buyers who are looking for products online. They will be hired for their ability to learn and apply new technologies that will make that happen. They will be hired for their ability to utilize email and social media as conversational tools in their marketing campaigns.
No doubt about it: In the world of B2B, the days of “selling stuff” are totally gone.
Are You Up to the Challenge?
We are living through one of the biggest peacetime economic upheavals ever known, and it is hard to argue against the notion that buyers will appreciate (and return) to vendors who make their lives easier during this crisis. Even prior to COVID-19, consumers expected more assistance and guidance when searching for products online. That need will grow. So will the need for B2B companies to finally prioritize digital transformation and meet that need head-on.
Bottom line: This will become a golden moment for companies to set themselves up to transform the customer journey forever, and equally as opportune for B2B marketing candidates to step up and make that happen.