About 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and more than 100 million are fully vaccinated, according to The Washington Post. There’s still much work to be done, but we’re on the path to a post-pandemic future. People are understandably focused on what that means in their personal lives, but it’s going to have a big impact on how we do business too.
It’s time for B2B companies to strategically evaluate the changes they made during the pandemic and decide what to keep and where to reverse course. The changes will include measures taken to keep employees safe, like leaning on digital channels such as Zoom meetings and collaboration tools to execute work from home, as well as an increased focus on digital engagement to generate leads.
Going Back to the Office vs. Continuing to Work Remotely
Data from office keycard swipes and other devices indicates that April 2021 office activity levels in 10 major metropolitan areas were an average of about 26% of what they were in early March 2020. The level of activity varies by region. In Dallas, people are in the office at about 41% of the previous rate, whereas in San Francisco, activity levels are about 14% of the pre-pandemic normal.
A survey of large companies in the U.S. signals that businesses won’t go back to the former model. Ford says its office staff will move to a “flexible hybrid work model” in July, with people doing focused tasks from home and coming into the office for projects that require teamwork. IBM expects about 80% of its employees to work partly at the office and partly at home. JPMorgan Chase and PwC expect the same.
When making decisions about continued remote work, the important thing is to be intentional about what you’re keeping and what you’re changing. Do you want to keep remote as an option but feel that brainstorming sessions are more productive when everyone is in the same room? If so, consider limited office days and schedule brainstorming sessions when people will be onsite. You may decide that Zoom works well enough for routine status meetings but that project kickoffs require face-to-face interactions.
You might also decide that newer employees need to be in the office more often to learn the ropes but that senior people have the experience and discipline to handle a largely autonomous schedule at home. On the other hand, board meetings might feature richer dialog when they’re conducted in person. Some companies are considering all remote work with group meetings either once a month or once a quarter in a hotel or even a resort location. The considerations will vary from company to company, but in all cases, it will take a thoughtful approach — and employee input — to get it right.
Generating Leads via Digital vs. In-Person Events
To keep customers and employees safe, in-person events were canceled for more than a year, and marketing teams shifted focus to digital outreach. Salespeople who used to visit prospects and customers in person turned to online channels instead. Now we need to decide how much to bet on continuing digital engagement when safe face-to-face encounters are possible again.
The good news is that marketing leaders who have the right data and measurement tools won’t be flying blind. If you’ve established the company CRM as your single source of truth and consolidated your data there, you’ll have a record of what worked and what didn’t in terms of sales. You’ll be able to compare 2020 results with 2019 numbers, and while the results won’t be dispositive because buying patterns have changed drastically, the comparison can help inform decisions going forward.
One sound technique is to slowly add in-person events back in where it makes sense to do so, measure the response carefully, and use funnel metrics and campaign attribution tools to evaluate how events drive leads through the funnel and contribute to closed deals. With these tools, B2B marketers can make decisions based on data, not intuition.
We’re all looking forward to getting back to normal, but over the next several months, every business leader will have the daunting task of defining what that means for 2021 and the coming years. The key will be to approach these decisions in an intentional way and, where possible, use data to make the right choices. That’s the best way to figure out what to keep and what to change.
Defend the Spend: How to Show Marketing’s Impact on Your Business
Learn why it’s important for marketers to have access to reliable data that supports how their programs and campaigns contribute to pipeline and sales. We’ll also uncover the actual process Integrate uses to defend the marketing spend internally.