Written by Adam Hartley, Head of Content, Spreckley.
It is something of an understatement to note that 2020 has been a tough one for business and technology journalists and PRs. Few of us could have foreseen the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has thrown at the industry, with many newsrooms near-decimated and countless B2B tech conferences either cancelled or shifted to ‘virtual’ events.
Yet while B2B technology marketing leaders have seen their events and accompanying PR budgets slashed, expectations for B2B tech PR agencies are in many ways higher than ever before.
To put it simply, we are being asked to do more with less, with many of us expected to hit KPIs that were set at the beginning of the year, as clients have a need for their PR and content marketing to work harder for them, in the absence of traditional physical trade conferences and networking events.
Resilience, adaptability to change and ‘customer obsession’
In a time of crisis the one constant, as the cliché goes, is change. We have changed and adapted to a WFH and virtual events culture that has tested our mettle. And, by and large, we have succeeded. B2B tech PRs were arguably slightly ahead of most, as we were already familiar with cloud-based business apps and software.
Indeed, remote-working apps such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams and many other B2B technologies have in many important ways enabled this huge shift in our daily working lives. Such products and services have effectively been beta-tested on a mass scale that their creators could have only dreamed about a year ago. And where it took many industries months (or may even still take years, in fact), B2B technology PRs were able to react to ‘the new normal’ almost immediately.
A recent Forbes report on post-pandemic enterprise tech strategies noted that the rapid acceleration of digital transformation strategies to cope with the mass WFH migration over the last seven months of lockdown means that: “If the rest of the decade is anything like 2020, tech leaders are in for quite the ride. With an overnight forced migration to all things digital and virtual, projects that previously took two years, were rolled out in two months. Or even two weeks.”
So where do we go from here? Forbes’ panel of enterprise tech experts indicate that the leading B2B tech companies of today and tomorrow are all driven by a similar focus on what they term ‘customer obsession’.
“What we heard from leading firms was a spirit of innovation, driven by pandemic-fuelled focus and enabled by prior investments in digital technology and talent,” that report explains. “Firms taking a customer-obsessed approach were able to quickly see shifting needs and reconfigure their capabilities to deliver new solutions to market. They were also quick to adjust how they funded and sourced solutions. In short, they had become not just more adaptive, but also more creative and resilient as well.”
Focus on new B2B PR tactics and strategies that work
And that is surely the message that we, as B2B tech PRs, must heed if we are to continue to creatively adapt to the new normal in the ways that our clients need and demand. Instead of telling clients what they cannot do because of COVID-19 cutbacks and changes (for example: they don’t want to constantly hear about newsroom cutbacks!) we need to focus on the tactics and strategies that they CAN now benefit from: virtual events and round-tables, webinars, podcasts, better video content and, overall, a focus on clearer and more engaging ways of telling clients’ business continuity, social responsibility and other success stories.
After all, the work is out there, make no mistake. Despite the rapid societal change and the shifts in the media landscape over the last seven months, venture capitalists are investing more money in B2B tech than ever before. Only this month, for example, a significant new Euro fund was announced from venture capitalists UVC partners, for early stage B2B tech startups in the industrial tech, B2B software and mobility sectors.
“Following the success of its first two funds, UVC Partners has launched a new fund with a volume of €150 million,” reported EU-Startups.com. “Even during the corona pandemic, the team managed to raise more than 70% of the target amount during a first closing thanks to its extensive network and established investor base. With its third fund, which seamlessly continues to invest in outstanding European B2B startups, UVC Partners keeps up its successful strategy as the leading venture capital 3.0 investor.”
Equally, in the B2B fintech sector, the latest venture capital trends show that investors are far more interested in startups that serve banks and small businesses, rather than those that serve consumers directly.Following the last seven months of lockdowns and curfews, it seems coronavirus has catalysed VCs interest in B2B fintechs, with European funding much more concentrated in B2B rather than consumer-facing fintech startups. According to sifted.eu, out of a total of €6.3bn of European fintech funding so far in 2020, €5bn has gone to B2B fintech businesses.
Learn to tell B2B stories better
The fact of the matter is clear. There are many new and fast-growing B2B tech start-ups and scale-ups out there with a clear need for resilient, engaging and creative storytellers, to get their messages out: to the media, to industry analysts and to their potential customers, investors, stakeholders and to the wider public.
Learn, for example, to better explain how your current and potential B2B tech clients are addressing the pain points of specific businesses and, on a wider level, how they are addressing some of the most important society-wide themes of business continuity, resilience and future proofing or those of employee well-being, flexibility and adaptability.
The bottom line? While our clients might not want to hear about ‘resource-challenged’ newsrooms, the reality is that, as B2B tech PRs and as corporate storytellers, we now have to do a lot more journalistic legwork to ensure that our clients’ latest product or service news or thought leadership pitches continue to cut through and hit the mark.
Which means constantly developing new story angles that are relevant, topical and engaging for B2B tech audiences. Stories that have a deep understanding of the wider business, society and human impacts of any new B2B tech product or service innovation. And then creating content and presenting data in ways that back up these stories.
Otherwise, it’s paid-for sponsored content all the way through to the inevitable end of that current client contract for you, I’m afraid…