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Brand Goodwill & the Middle Funnel Positively Emerge

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has grounded, separated and at the same time, united us in 2020. The pandemic has affected when, where and most importantly to brands – how we market to prospects and engage with customers. B2B big brand efforts will be remembered best in 2020 when creative meets humanity and authentic goodwill is demonstrated. And on the other end of this spectrum, brands may lose lifelong customers with insensitive, tone-deaf approaches during a time of unparalleled loss, change and disruption.

These are unprecedented times, and the most successful B2B brands have shifted considerably to accommodate close to a year of their audiences staying at home and relying on screens for information gathering and relationship building. While B2B buyers aren’t all purchasing right now, they are learning and that provides opportunity. And while incomes and jobs have been significantly reduced, customers are in need of support from their B2B partners more than ever. Ultimately, this means purchase patterns are not what they used to be. And with this, brands and marketers alike must adapt to retain and grow.

COVID-19 Shines Spotlight on Brand Goodwill

As a brand, you are always looking for opportunities to stand out. Yet, in 2020, those that are winning may have seen huge value without seeking the biggest monetary ROI, per se. You see, building goodwill early on in the buyer’s journey is key to building trust and loyalty.

Inspirational brands that have demonstrated agility and an innate understanding of their brand, their customers and the pandemic year, are winning. They stopped hard-selling and focused on solving the unique, human challenges of their audiences: first, by protecting the well-being and financial security of employees and stakeholders; and then, by stepping up and offering products and services specifically designed to help with pandemic-related challenges.  

2020 saw unlikely big brand partnerships formed for the greater good as the pandemic continued to spread globally. These efforts are to be applauded for their ingenuity, and insight to focus on the crisis(es) at hand vs. ROI or profit margins. Some of this year’s best examples include:

  • American Express reinforced its existing commitment to small business with an unprecedented recovery initiative.
  • Medtronic gave away its patented ventilator design specs and formed a unique partnership with Tesla and others to meet product surge and demand.
  • Ford partnered with 3M and GE to manufacture healthcare equipment – a demonstration of smart American ingenuity.

Stuck in The Middle

Like Jan in The Brady Bunch, the middle child sometimes lacks attention and feels stuck. And like Jan, while not traditionally a focus for most B2B marketers, during this pandemic, the middle funnel becomes the opposite. Middle funnel management this year, remains key to keeping customers engaged and brands top-of-mind for when purchasing levels return.

The B2B buyer’s journey is complex. Gartner aptly named two middle parts of the journey, the “Solutions Exploration” and “Requirements Building” -- both invaluable, tactical parts of the buyer’s journey, that answer “what’s out there to solve our problem?” and then, “what exactly do we need the purchase to do?”.  Whether it’s opting in, accepting cookie tracking, subscribing or learning more – customers seek easy-to-navigate solutions, and a brand must continue to cultivate and engage smartly in these earlier stages.

Trust, transparency and humanity remain paramount to marketing in this next normal. If brands can capture, engage and show goodwill through the buyer’s journey as well as with existing customers, your brand may be on the way to achieving that coveted goal of obtaining a lifelong brand ambassador. And at the end of the year that was 2020, doesn’t that sound positive?   

Let’s Connect

Hear more about “Today’s Top B2B Marketing Trends” from Kara during her madconNYC panel discussion on December 2 at 5:00 PM/EST. madconNYC is a 3-day virtual, digital marketing summit from December 1-3, 2020. Admission is free; register online at https://virtual.madconnyc.com/login.

Connect with Kara directly karam@mintz-hoke.com and follow Mintz+Hoke on social -- Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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