Tick tock! Tick tock! There are only just over two months until we say goodbye to 2020. For many of us, this has been one of the most unpredictable and stressful times ever.
While fingers crossed the worst is over, numerous changes have occurred over the past several months impacting businesses generally as well as those operating in a business-to-business (B2B) context. This has resulted in a new reality in which all businesses must operate.
Despite the volatility and uncertainty that still exists, there are significant opportunities within B2B markets for SMEs to be able to restart their businesses and move forward in 2021. However, this will be contingent on SMEs understanding this “new” reality in B2B and having a B2B strategy, to enable them to navigate this new uncharted territory.
The Brave “New” World of B2B
The “new” environment of business is now characterised by the following:
- High degree of volatility, uncertainty and ambiguity due to changing conditions across industries and geographic markets.
- Emphasis on safety and convenience.
- Increased levels of remote working.
- Transition of businesses operating digitally.
In addition to these pervasive changes, the dynamics of business (B2B) buying has changed and is characterised by the following:
- Longer sales cycles.
- B2B buyers seeking “Decision Maker Confidence” i.e. confidence in themselves to make decisions as well as confidence in sellers to help them achieve their objectives.
- Increased buyer self-education and research.
- Consensus decision-making.
- The increasing role of procurement in purchase decisions.
As these dynamics are here to stay, it is imperative that SMEs operating in business markets have a B2B strategy to enable them to thrive in this “new” era.
Strategic planning for B2B in the new era
Developing your B2B strategy should not be an overly long and cumbersome process.
Your strategy should tell you:
- Where the company is headed.
- How it will get there?
- Determine if you are on track.
While your B2B strategy should be forward looking, given the current environment, your forward-looking view should be no more than 18-24 months. It should be developed b y a core, cross-functional team.
Your strategy should be flexible, adaptable while responding to the behaviours and needs of the new B2B buyer.
Components of your B2B strategy
Your company B2B strategy is comprised of two core components:
- Where to focus.
- How to win.
1.Where to focus
You determine where to focus by LISTENING to:
- Your team, your company in terms of its vision, objectives, strengths and capabilities.
- Industry, economic and geographic trends, technology developments, competitor activities and strengths.
- Current customer, previous customers and prospects.
2.How to win
This is achieved by making new introductions and/or improvements to meet business customer – B2B buyer needs across three key areas:
- What to deliver e.g. products, services, advice, support.
- How to deliver e.g. channels, hours of operation, strategic alliances.
- How to promote and engage with business customers.
The X-factor to weathering future storms: regular review and reset
Your strategic planning can no longer be “set and forget”. With the rapid and at times extensive level of change occurring, it is critical that your SME is regularly scanning the external environment (e.g. industry, economic conditions, regulations, geographic markets) for emerging problems, opportunities and/or threats.
Depending on the extent of these shifts, it may be necessary to undertake further scenario analysis to understand the potential impacts so you can determine how your SME will respond and the required capabilities and resources needed to do so.
Your core planning team should then meet quarterly.
What are you waiting for? Get started now
With less than 10 weeks to go until 2021, there is no time to waste.
Get started today by doing the following:
- Mobilise your leadership team to gain alignment where the company is headed.
- Plan to have “check-in” discussions with key clients and accounts to understand their key priorities and focus.
- Gain a clear understanding of where things are at in your industry and the outlook for next 90 days.
Michael Haynes, B2B Customer Strategy Specialist and Founder, Listen Innovate Grow