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How Has B2B Communications Changed and How Does It Work in 2021?

November 15 2021

Communications in the B2B sector have always had its own specific features: a pronounced industry affiliation with events not intended for the public; dedicated and earmarked communication channels, including in-person meetings and leaders’ personal contacts. However, as has been the case with many other aspects of communication, the pandemic produced a rather dramatic effect: the global transition to online happened literally in one leap, and everyone, including the B2B sector, had to adjust to the new reality.

Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

 

A recent research by McKinsey found that most of 3,600 B2B leaders surveyed prefer remote communications or provide digital self-service to business partners and customers instead of the usual face-to-face interactions. According to the research, omnichannel model has become a key feature of the new reality, and firms are trying to take advantage of its benefits.

The three pillars of business success when using omnichannel strategy are speed, transparency and expertise. 

Speed means giving customers instant access to information when, how, and where they want it, including always-available video, live chat or chatbot. This also includes convenience and simplicity, such as one-click purchases and shortcuts for repeating orders. 

Transparency helps customers understand all the features and benefits of a product, its capabilities and value. Transparency can be realized by a simple online instrument such as a comparison tool or by providing customers with additional information about parts, supplies or configuration and component parts. 

Expertise involves going beyond the information presented on the website – a chat to answer technical questions from customers, regardless of the day of the week or time of day. According to McKinsey, nearly 33% of buyers mention 24/7 live chat during the decision-making phase as one of three requirements for best-in-class suppliers.

Western comms pros also list several major trends that do not directly relate to digitization but have notably influenced the development of B2B communications. 

In its 2021 B2B Marketing Trends Report: How to Augment the Marketing Organization for a Digital-First Future, ON24 says that two-thirds of the surveyed companies that work in the B2B segment are successful by changing or transforming their communications approaches.

The first aspect is an increase in confidence in a third party’s opinion of a company or product. It means that today, what a company says about the benefits of its product is no longer enough. You need to engage a third party if you want to strengthen communication and increase trust in it: ideally if your current clients talk about the experience of dealing with you and act as ambassadors or advocates for your brand. The level of confidence in this information will be several times higher compared to the information coming directly from you.

Moreover, with the growing number of various platforms, the traditional mass media are no longer the only authoritative source of information. Therefore, the importance of working with content producers on each separate platform has drastically increased, be it bloggers, vloggers, streamers, podcasters and other influencers who have managed to earn authority in a certain industry-specific environment. Their supportive expert opinion favors your company just as the positive experience of existing clients.

A company’s employees can also become its influencers and ambassadors. Today, many people combine employment with a firm with consulting services or professional blogging. Such communication will not be massive, but it will probably be even more effective, since the level of trust in the expert, who knows the company from the inside, is higher than in external people.

The second trend in B2B communications is, strange to say, the strengthening role of the company’s official websites. Today, the client, including the B2C client, first analyzes the market by simple research of search results and official websites of potential suppliers. Thus, it is important to monitor the relevance and presentation of information on your website and to ensure that search engines know about you and prioritize you in search results.

The third trend generally relates not only to the B2B sector but is particularly emphasized in connection with it. It is the need to focus communications on the problem that your product solves, rather than on the product itself. It is the ability to tell the story of your brand. And finally, it is the use of different types of content and formats of its delivery to the audience for a close emotional connection with the brand.

Russia witnesses all the above and there are certain specific features. For example, a large Russian business that interacts with numerous counterparties, or whose business is based on a B2B partnership, especially with small businesses, is characterized by communication of its own support measures during the pandemic. For example, at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Yandex announced the creation of a fund for drivers and couriers who use the company’s aggregator services. Nornickel reported the case of its subsidiary Unity LLC, which expanded its digital communication channels for mobile operators of the Norilsk region by 30% of its bandwidth free of charge.

Meanwhile, the global trend towards complete digitization of processes is also very visible in the Russian B2B sector: expanding the use of digital channels (online communications with partners and potential customers, online events, etc.), developing remote feedback sites for customers, adding chat bots, opening marketplaces, etc. One of the consequences of this trend is that during the pandemic tech companies have started selling their business adaptations. For example, Yandex.Business is expanding its offering for small businesses.

Neftetank, a leading Russian manufacturer and supplier of oil tanks, is an example of the use of a wide set of digital tools. According to the company’s Marketing Director Vitaly Zhigarev, during the pandemic the company has come to the conclusion that digitization is the only instrument to improve the efficiency of working with its clients. As a result, client relations were built on the basis of an integrated automated digital process that included the company’s website, synchronization with CallTouch call tracking; digital channels that were automatically tied to the RoiStat end-to-end analytics system and Yandex.Metrics and Google Analytics counters (with subsequent automation with Bitrix24 CRM and a sales funnel); all of this integrated with the call center. This integrated process has helped automate and link the funnel leads to the end-to-end analytics system, thereby tracking the entire customer journey and improving customer experience.

Therefore, it can be said that the trends typical for the communications market as a whole are also typical for communications in the B2B sector. These trends will probably only intensify in the coming years, as everyone has appreciated the convenience and speed of digital tools, while integrated solutions and a more personal approach to certain customer segments have shown their effectiveness in business communication.

Ekaterina Movsesyan
CEO, CROS Public Relations & Public Affairs Company
Ekaterina has been working in communications for over 17 years. She joined CROS in 2010 as a project manager. As Vice President and Deputy CEO, she was in charge of comprehensive communication projects, new accounts and practices development, and was in charge of the implementation of the company’s strategy. In the CEO role, Ekaterina carries out operational management of the agency and manages business development and development of CROS competences. Since 2020, she is a member of the expert panel of the “Silver Archer”, the most prestigious Russian PR award. She graduated from the Moscow Institute of Economics, Management and Law, also the European School of Brussels, she got EMBA program at the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and Independent Director program of the Association of Independent Directors.

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