Communicating through a time of change: tracking the B2B buyer’s evolving needs through a pandemic and beyond

If the past few years weren’t evidence enough, 2020 has confirmed once and for all that predicting the future is a mug’s game. Businesses from all sectors have shown incredible resilience and resourcefulness in the face of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the success of some previously unimaginable developments – such as mass home-working in many industries – surprising employers and their staff alike.

Time will tell how these changes play out in the longer term, but businesses – particularly in the B2B space – cannot afford to wait and see. They must adapt to their customers’ evolving needs, respond to the demands of the time and provide a source of stability as the situation changes from week to week and month to month.

For the companies and professionals affected, that’s a lot to keep track of and build into the sales funnel. To help provide some guidance, FleishmanHillard Fishburn – together with our TRUE Global Intelligence partners – conducted proprietary research among 500 business decision-makers in the UK to get a state-of-the-nation update across a selection of key industries.

With respondents having dealt with the initial months of Covid-19 disruption and planning for an extended period of uncertainty, the results – presented in our report, The Power of Business Communication: Navigating the Changing Landscape of B2B Buying – are essential reading for anyone looking to better influence B2B buyers, generate leads and better harness communications to support the buying journey in an economy that continues to be under the uncertain influence of a world-changing pandemic.

Rather than simply causing decision-makers to look nervously at their balance sheets, Covid-19 is changing the nature of the products and services these buyers are looking for. With 61% of respondents telling us that the pandemic has opened opportunities for their business that were not previously considered, it’s clear that there are trends for sellers to capitalise on if they move quickly. And with 67% of buyers experiencing suppliers adapting quickly to meet new demands posed by Covid-19, it’s certainly competitive out there.

How business respond during this time matters – 60% of B2B buyers told us that they’ll research and consider how a potential supplier treated their employees during Covid-19 when making a purchasing decision. It’s also an opportunity to align with their priorities – with roughly three-quarters of respondents saying that the pandemic has highlighted the potential gains to be made from both internal and external cost-savings, suppliers can gain ground by positioning themselves as able to help buyers’ act on their Covid-inspired eureka moments.

But while there’s so much change, some things stay the same. It’s more important than ever for suppliers to communicate their ability to support in a clear, engaging and authentic way. Our research shows that the views of industry analysts and expert journalists are still hugely important in this regard, with 61% of B2B buyers placing a high level of trust in information from industry-specific publications.

As one respondent, the managing director of a large hospitality organization, put it: “We’re going to move…towards a more in-depth [supplier] relationship based on trust and better communication.” Nothing cements that trust like authentic communication, and building a better alignment between PR and the sales process should be at the heart of a successful supplier’s strategy – both for the time of this pandemic and beyond.

It’s important, therefore, that B2B companies understand what targeted and compelling communications campaigns can do for their sales funnel, from awareness and interest all the way to the final purchase decision and beyond. Now, more than ever, organisations need to show their customers and prospects that they are keeping up with their evolving needs and can support them longer term as the wider picture continues to evolve.

To bring our report to life, we are hosting a webinar and Q&A session – Understanding the mindset of the B2B Buyer & the role of comms in the purchasing process – on Wednesday 9 September that brings together experts from business and academia to discuss Covid-19, the future of the purchasing process, the power of communications and much more besides. We hope to see you there!