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Shifting dynamics – the rise of digital communications in 2020

At the back of 2019, few could have predicted how 2020 was about to unfold. The reality, of course, has been rather different. Nobody saw the pandemic coming, and even when murmurings started to surface out of China, few believed it would grip the world in the way it has.

The impact this has had on the B2B marcom industry has been fascinating to experience as it has opened up numerous opportunities for us to ‘discover our nerdy side’ and better understand our audiences and key markets. One of these changes has been the rise of online events – whether they are webinars, virtual discussions/chats or virtual events hosted by third-party event organizers. These have proven effective, so much so that half of B2B firms believe virtual events are equally as effective as their more traditional sales counterparts and three out of four exhibit attendees expect digital to play a bigger role in events when the pandemic is behind us.

With digital transformation well on its way and here to stay, we were busy through the course of 2020 advising our clients on how to hold impactful online events, and supporting them with numerous webinars from the planning and pre-promotion stages to lead gathering campaigns that also grew their audience to the production. Moving into 2021, we’ve already seen this number increase by over 150% with even more webinars and other virtual events on our calendar.

Customer engagement moving online

Another big area of growth in 2020 was social media. With in-person meetings cancelled, B2B companies turned to social media to help start, continue and build conversations. This change not only effected how the corporate social media accounts communicated with their audience, but how the sales teams and the company thought leaders, including CEOs, communicated to the industry. Messages moved from product-focused to more people-focused to keep connections strong and ideas, solutions and partnerships flowing.

For many, social media – especially LinkedIn – moved from a “nice to have tool” to an essential platform for acquiring leads and building reputations. To help our clients get comfortable with the platform, we held customized LinkedIn workshops and in the last 6 months of 2020, we trained over 800 people on how to engage with their customers and generate leads using LinkedIn. The requests for different customized workshops have continued to grow in 2021 with the start of third-party virtual and hybrid events, and we are now helping our clients use the advanced tools, master Sales Navigator and become better webinar/virtual event presenters.

Key figures

Like many of you, we also changed and expanded our knowledge in the last year. We have become more agile, all while not forgetting how important it is to remain human in our field of work. We’ve had to adapt and improvise at times to ensure our continuous support to our clients under challenging circumstances. And the fundamental shift from in-person to virtual that was prominent through 2020 is reflected in our own set of numbers for the year.

While press releases and media pickups were slightly lower than in 2019, requests for social media, webinars and virtual experiences, script-writing and SEO content were up. By Q4 2020, we already saw a pickup in the number of press release requests, which is a sure sign that the B2B industries we specialize in were on their way to recovery and ready to share their news. The results from Q1 2021 confirmed that with a 15% increase in press releases from Q1 2020 – before the pandemic hit.

The rest of 2021 looks to be heading in the same direction, and we anticipate the continued recovery of the media metrics alongside sustained growth in social media programs, lead generation campaigns, and virtual and hybrid events.

This year we are celebrating our 30th year as a consultancy specializing in industrial sectors, and with 2020 behind us, and 2021 off to a positive start with fresh ideas and fresh learnings, we believe 2021 will be a year like no other.

 

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Posted by
Nancy van Heesewijk 
on May 3, 2021

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