The 3 New Rules Learned Through Covid That Are Driving Successful B2B Companies’ Research & Planning
Author: Chad Hinkle
The B2B business world that existed before COVID-19 is gone and this new world has new rules. The most successful B2B companies Proactive Worldwide works with have changed the way they are looking at themselves, their competition, and their customers to embrace these new rules. Here are three new B2B rules the most successful B2B companies have embraced to keep themselves ahead of their competition.
Rule 1: Understand that B2B customer needs are changing
Every business has been changed by COVID’s effect. Companies’ day-to-day operations have been forced to scramble and adapt due to everything from supply chain problems to managing a remote workforce. The most successful B2B companies we work with have accepted that all this change has shifted what their customers need from their B2B partners.
These companies are expanding upon what they know about their current and potential customers by doing qualitative and quantitative research to understand what their customers need today. They are using qualitative research to do regular win/loss and customer experience research and quantitative research to reevaluate customers’ purchase intent and needs, their companies’ service and product position and perceptions, and the total addressable market size.
What this research is showing is that customers’ needs and desires are changing and the market is shifting rapidly. As a result, these successful B2B companies conduct regular research (most often quarterly) to understand and incorporate these changing customer needs into everything from their marketing to their yearly strategic business plans.
Rule 2: Recognize competitors are adapting quickly
Every B2B business that is thriving in this post-COVID-19 world is moving quickly. The products and services that customers used to buy regularly have begun going through unexpected – and often unexplained – demand cycles. The result is B2B businesses are changing their strategies, products, services, and prices faster than they ever did prior to 2020.
The most successful B2B companies we work with are closely monitoring their competition using competitive intelligence research. Competitive intelligence research is a part of successful B2B companies’ research but they are now doing more of it more often than they have ever done in the past.
These successful B2B companies are using qualitative competitive intelligence research to gather market intelligence by talking with people within the industry (e.g., competitors, suppliers, distributors). They are exploring everything from the new products their competitors have in their pipeline to the turnover of leaders in the company and the corresponding impact on the company’s culture and strategy.
These companies are combining what they know about their customers and what they know about their competitors to map out new opportunity areas in their markets. These new opportunity areas are rich in potential profits but require different strategic planning than what they have done in the past.
Rule 3: Know planning must be done differently
All B2B markets will be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future.
Successful B2B companies have accepted that everything is changing so the way they make their strategic plans also needs to change. They are taking extra steps in their strategic planning to do more ideation and pressure testing of their plans before they are executed.
Two ways these successful B2B companies are doing this are 1) using qualitative research to test concepts for new products or services ideas to inform their planning and 2) using war games to ideate and pressure test their strategic plans.
The knowledge of what their customers want and what their competitors are doing is opening new areas of the market for these companies to own. The pressure of figuring out how to create products, services, marketing, and organizational support to own these areas is high.
To lower this pressure and mitigate the risk of missing a new opportunity, these B2B companies are using qualitative research earlier in the process to explore potential customer demand for conceptual product or service ideas rather than the more developed products and services these companies usually test. The results of this research are helping these companies be more agile and develop new products and services faster than they have in the past.
The way these companies are making their strategic plans has also changed. They are using war games to bring together many of their (now) remote workforce to ideate and pressure test any plans they come up with before they are executed. They are using war games to walk through their plans, ideate on how their customers and competitors will react to the actions they are planning, and refining their plans to account for the likely countermoves of their competitors. Competitive intelligence is especially helpful to them when conducting war games because it gives them solid intelligence on what their competitors are working on so these successful B2B companies’ plan will work in the future.
Every B2B business has entered a new world with new rules since the start of COVID-19. The most successful B2B companies are aware that the old ways of doing business and old processes have changed and that they need information to help change their business with the market. The more quickly they can adapt their thinking and their business strategies they better they can take advantage of the new realities and opportunities of the post-COVID-19 world. Contact Nando Scola (Nandos@proactiveworldwide.com) to partner with Proactive Worldwide to help your business seize the opportunities for your business in this new B2B world.