One major question B2B marketers are asking themselves during this hectic and uncertain time is: How will this affect my budget dollars for the rest of the year? Much like the graduating class of 2020, companies had big hopes and dreams coming out of the first half of this year. However, those dreams seem to now be put on a temporary hold until we can learn to navigate getting back to “the new normal,” a.k.a. post COVID-19.

B2B marketing leaders are facing a multifaceted business problem that we typically experience once in a generation. What adjustments must be made to brand goals and objectives in the face of the health and economic crisis this year, and how do you achieve those goals and objectives in the face of dramatic cuts that are being made to corporate marketing investments?

As mentioned in an earlier Spire blog, when looking at a B2B marketing budget, there are two main pieces of the sales funnel companies must focus on: sales activation and brand awareness. We must prioritize how these two areas will shift after the coronavirus.

Now more than ever is the time to position your brand in a strong and meaningful way. When establishing a brand, your long-term branding objectives must be focused on building an emotional connection with your audiences to create long-standing positive memories that influence purchase decisions. You want customers and potential buyers to know they can trust you and that you have a strategy for navigating these new waters.

Once customers feel comfortable with your brand and how you’re positioning yourself during a crisis, then you can initiate an increased focus on your sales activation techniques. How are your offers going to shift? Are you focused on solely bringing leads in through digital platforms or by hosting webinars? These shorter-term adjustments will be critical in driving your ROI for your marketing efforts.

Before the global pandemic struck, B2B companies were expected to spend about 42% of their marketing budget online, followed by a projected increase to 45% by 2021 according to Forrester. Video and social media were expected to take up a significant percentage of this allocation.

A recently released Deloitte CMO study believes this trend will continue for years to come as the digital marketing investment is expected to increase to 54% of total spending in the next five years. Thanks to COVID-19, these projections are rapidly increasing as audiences are mostly at home, increasingly consuming content on their phones and computer screens all day, every day.

In 2019, expenditures on trade shows comprised 40% of B2B marketing budgets (The Marketing Blender) as companies typically participated in three to 10 events annually. Moving forward, it is predicted that all trade shows previously scheduled for the remainder of 2020 will either be canceled or moved to the newest exhibition trend: virtual trade shows.

The average cost to purchase booth space at a trade show comes to roughly $60,000. This doesn’t include additional handouts, tchotchkes, sponsorship opportunities, client events/dinners, etc. In 2016 alone, B2B trade shows brought in an astounding $12.8 billion dollars (Statista). Given the fact that these in-person events will no longer be happening this year, B2B companies will have the chance to operate with reduced funding but don’t have to sacrifice brand exposure opportunities.

When doing an initial Google search of a “virtual trade show,” you will see countless booth renderings that seem both futuristic and impersonal. However, after attending a virtual art show put on by Apart, we were able to get a glimpse of what the future might look like for gallery openings and trade shows alike.

Since virtual trade shows are relatively new, the pricing is still something to be determined. However, when comparing the latest pricing, it appears companies can purchase a virtual booth for around $5,000 compared to the $60,000 booth space at an in-person exhibition. These virtual shows clearly offer a much smaller fee for companies wishing to participate, and many of them offer free admission for attendees.

There will also be a shift in how companies choose to spend their time and dollars for internal culture-building events such as team happy hours, volunteer events and yearly company outings. The dtx company, a New York-based B2B entity that builds technology ecosystems for businesses, donated their media budget to Mount Sinai Hospital and to help provide COVID-19 frontline workers with more protective gear.

How will your company reallocate budget dollars once you’re back in the office? It’s important to determine your new priorities whether it’s getting up to speed on digital marketing, running an awareness campaign about how your service offerings have changed, or simply trying to take care of your team. There’s going to be a rise in on-demand marketing and video-based content as well. We’re all navigating these new waters together and will see the success it will bring.

No matter how much has changed with your industry since the outbreak and how much your budgets are shifting, your customers still want to hear from you. Research conducted in the U.S. revealed that 84% of consumers said that how a company conducts themselves through this crisis will be an extremely important factor for them in establishing long-term brand loyalty.

It’s important for your audience to hear from you, no matter how short or simple. Prioritize a message of safety, humanity and business continuity. Share your optimism that we will get through this crisis together and eventually get B2B (Back 2 Business).