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It’s been a tough year for many small businesses due to the impact of the coronavirus. We hear a lot about how COVID-19 has financially devastated small retailers and restaurant owners.

But what about B2B companies? How have they fared so far in 2020—and what lies ahead for them?

In her LinkedIn blog, Alex Rynne suggests we change what the acronym SMART (as in SMART goals) means. Instead of making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, she posits changing “relevant” to “revisable” but “just for 2020.”

Because, she asks, “what if revising goals is the only way to keep our objectives relevant and attainable?”

Rynne has a point—a good one. Instead of bemoaning missing our goals, why not reset them? The new goal, she says, is to “ramp up for a big finish to a consequential year.”

But first she suggests we examine what we’ve learned so far in the tumult of 2020.

Lessons Learned

First, Rynne says, we’ve learned that positivity counts. By that she means “thinking about what’s possible rather than dwelling on what’s not.”

For B2B companies, she suggests content is in demand. But be helpful, not opportunistic she warns, adding, “The demand for helpful, difference-making content is higher than ever.”

And she notes, if you can afford it, advertising in a down market tends to get results, since so many other businesses save money by cutting their marketing budgets.

A big advantage these days though, is that you can still market without spending a fortune or almost anything if you concentrate on digital marketing on the web and in your social media channels. “Organic,” Rynne says, “will always be there for you. Regardless of budget, all marketers are empowered to build online communities that feel welcoming, and present opportunities for connection and inspiration.”

What to Do Now

While things have definitely changed—maybe not as much as you’d think. Rynne cites Research that “shows no reduction in advertising’s ability to connect with people, though…ads with certain characteristics connect better during an economic downturn.”

So she says, instead of throwing out your playbook, you just need to adjust “based on what’s in demand, team strengths, and available resources.” 

If you were planning to hold an event, taking it online, Rynne says, “can be more successful.”

We’re all aware that things are still so uncertain, it is hard to know or even predict what to expect for the rest of the year.

Rynne, who works for LinkedIn, says they’re already seeing more companies “returning to their regularly scheduled activities.” She thinks the marketing spend will start to return to normal “because advertising during a recession correlates strongly with market share growth, and partly because advertisers’ audiences are generally getting back into the swing of things.” She cites data from the Great Recession of 2008 that showed businesses that increased their media spend during that downturn had a 4.5 times the annual market share growth.

Content Counts

Rynne says customer stories and third-party validation will become even more important how, since credibility will be a bigger factor for businesses when deciding what vendors and partners to work with. The key is finding vendors with “demonstrated real-world success.”

Businesses will need content that “helps them accomplish their changing objectives, content that’s acutely focused on customer needs,” Rynne says.  

According to research from Forrester, content that is both credible and empathetic is more engaging and what customers are looking for today. And don’t forget content today comes in a variety of formats, so be sure to explore them all.

What Lies Ahead

The coronavirus situation is still so fluid it’s not possible to know how 2020 will finish up. But Rynne says “B2B marketers should prepare for the path forward by adopting a pragmatic approach to monitoring and meeting customers’ changing needs.”

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and SmallBizDaily.com.

CEO, GrowBiz Media
What’s Ahead for B2B Marketing