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2020 – the best and worst year in B2B tech marketing

Written by Elliot Harrison

December is the month when B2B tech Marketing professionals consolidate work throughout the year, review successes, failures and, for the PRs among us, to also pester journalists with their client predictions for the coming year. 

In December 2019 we would never have imagined, nor would have been able to predict, the vast number of changes we would face in just a handful of months to come. For many, 2020 promised to be a year of success but quickly turned into a year punctuated by trying times for us all – both professionally and personally. 

2020 has shown us the best and worst of just about everything. For B2B tech marketers, times have been certainly challenging. Even in the earliest stages of the pandemic, many companies announced redundancies, froze hiring and halted procurement while they, rightly, tried to work out what the hell was going on. However, it became clear at the very start that those weathering the storm will do so with agility and bravery. 

For marketing departments, many of the best made plans went out of the window. Budgets cut, events cancelled, increased reliance on digital media, the list went on and on. In a previous blog I wrote earlier this year, it was clear to see that many in the tech space quickly fell into a state of inaction, unclear as to how to use the pandemic as an opportunity rather than a missed one.  We’ve all learned a great deal, here are my highlights on the best and worst of years:

Striving for normality
In crisis situations, the default position for many is to sit tight, do little, weather the storm. The pandemic has taught us that in order for B2B tech marketing to survive, it needed to respond in ways it may not have previously considered. One interesting element of the pandemic was the number of tech pivots, an issue we covered in a previous blog. Yet this can’t happen without vision and kicking against the changes in business was never a smart idea. 

It was and still is important to have the vision to see the opportunity. Overnight, news agendas moved onto COVID and very quickly business, technology, economics, recruitment, SME, management, telecommunications, banking and financial services (the list is endless) media all had something to say. This was a massive opportunity for B2B tech businesses to be able to step up and add value, for those brave enough. 

Is the old agency model breaking?
Positive found itself with a number of existential questions as a result of the pandemic, we watched as larger, traditional, agencies began to quickly and publicly falter. As the ‘new normal’ dawned on us, we realised that our colleagues in the sector, too, strived for a sense of normality among the chaos. We knuckled down to add as much value as possible. In just a matter of weeks, everyone’s ‘new normal’ turned into our ‘new business as usual’ and saw us learning new ways to generate results for a new world and taking our clients on that journey, too. 

Can’t meet, won’t meet. Digital nailed it.
One of the most significant changes we’ve seen this year is in the event space. Traditionally relied on by marketing and sales teams for leads, their absence this year has been palpable and has seen event budgets diverted onto other activities. Clearly, this year has been a good one for digital events platforms, but these don’t quite stand up to those serendipitous meetings at events and being able to work and socialise in-person with colleagues. For sales teams hampered by an inability to get out there and meet people, events have been replaced with Zoom meetings and outbound digital marketing campaigns targeting buyers at named accounts – an effective way to make up for the temporary loss of events.

Marketing skills and European tech in demand
There’s talent out there. The dark side of the pandemic has seen a tsunami of fresh marketing talent now available to the market. B2B tech companies should take the opportunity to cash-in on this talent while it’s available to them. 

In times of crisis, we turn to technology and a better understanding of our situation to adapt and overcome. As mentioned in a previous blog post, some of the darkest times in history have necessitated invention. The world wars helped develop the medical advancements we have today, the first man was put on the moon during the cold war. The same will be said for COVID.  Today, all eyes are on science and technology to give us the tools to, literally, survive. 

As Europe becomes an ever present technology leader, with record investment this year and as Britain leads the development of a vaccine, it’s important B2B tech companies in the supply chains of helping overcome COVID shout loudly about their work. At the start of the pandemic, we made a promise to all of our clients that we would not ambulance chase or comment negatively on stories where individuals or organisations are trying to do their best. Instead, we saw swathes of media coverage with helpful, thoughtful advice from experts in their respective fields, adding to the conversation because this expertise is sorely needed.

What a year. How do we even come close to predicting what 2021 may bring? If 2020 has taught us anything it is to not take anything for granted and that change is, sometimes, a strong force behind things becoming better. One thing is clear, COVID is by no means over and it’s ramifications will be felt into 2021 and beyond. Our ability to react to those changes will decide whether we succeed or fail.

Long live our NHS, long live the British free press.