Jen Spencer is vice president of sales and marketing for SmartBug Media and host of the hypertactic micro-podcast, SmartBug on Tap.
You have probably heard that the only thing we can control in life is how we react to the things we cannot control. For B2B companies deeply embedded in an economy shocked by pandemics and recessions, that feeling is more true today than ever.
In this article, we examine how businesses are responding to current normalcy and examine some strategies B2B marketers can use to navigate uncertain times.
The current normal for B2B marketers
While we don’t know when or what it will look like, we do know that normal marketing budgets are under review and some companies do not make long-term commitments or partnerships. You are likely in one of these three positions:
1. Organizations that focus on survival: These companies are not spending, but they are cutting jobs and costs wherever they can while they still can.
2. Organizations that focus on customization: These companies are finding new ways to do what they always have, such as moving in-person events online.
3. Organizations that focus on innovation: These companies have products or services that are of vital importance right now and they are capitalizing on the need to grow their business and develop innovative solutions.
Regardless of which of these three categories your company falls into, in reality the C-Suite asks more “what if” questions – especially about the bottom line. B2B marketing and sales directors should demonstrate positive results from all investments to survive in a post-crisis world. Let’s examine how B2Bs can dig deep and use these properties to stay afloat.
Six ways B2B companies can adapt
Without marketing, the sales pipeline will dry up, meaning the dollars will have to work harder now – and B2B marketers may have to do a lot more with less. Large companies that are not used to being agile may struggle, and smaller companies or companies with more flexibility built into their business operations can survive using the following strategies:
1. Get back to basics
The name of the game has always been a new and shiny strategy to accelerate growth, but crisis is the time to get back to basics. Redefine your definitions of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). Take a look at your strategic account management to ensure proper marketing and sales alignment. Assess how (or if) you are driving customer success and create centers of excellence to bring disparate teams together and avoid creating silos as you scale your business.
2. Try account-based marketing
Many companies are addicted to the demand generation model, but you may need to move away from goals that focus solely on MMS and SQL. Now is a good time to try out account-based marketing strategies (ABM) where every single prospect or customer is treated as a market of one. While ABM can seem intimidating, the strategy allows your marketing and sales teams to focus on securing the right leads rather than chasing after MMS or SQLs that may not be qualified at all.
3. Make sure your messages are on the money
You can’t dive right into the sales tactic and get marketing support later. You should start with a marketing strategy that is based on well-researched and documented buyer personalities. But you should also consider the different generations who may be part of your target audience. Millennials speak, think and work differently from Gen Xers and baby boomers. Layering a message based on buyer personality, generation expectations, and tone can be a powerful way to personalize your marketing message.
Also, make sure you communicate with empathy and create a community through value-based conversations. There is a lot of pressure to increase sales, but if you are not found helpful, you will likely be seen as selfish and people will turn you off. You may not be closing deals or generating income from your marketing efforts, but adding value to the conversation and helpfulness can pay off in the long run.
4. Maintain more stable verticals
If you are partnering with or promoting companies that are currently in survival mode, you should step back from those relationships and efforts. Instead, focus on more stable industries that are adapting and innovating – just make sure to customize your news.
5. Review your tech stack to maximize ROI
Today’s B2B marketers are expecting to deliver qualified leads for the pipeline and demonstrate marketing ROI. Why? There are more technologies than ever before that can help you keep an end-to-end lead. This is cool and exciting. However, if you don’t have a solid strategy with goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) in place, you can drown in data. Now is a good time to check out your tech stack and make sure any technology you use will help you scale when the time is right. With a firm strategy and the right technology, you can answer C-suite questions about performance and streamline marketing investments.
6. Make the story about your customers
A hybrid ABM and demand generation strategy that B2B marketers can now put into practice is to move messaging to create a story about your prospects. At a time when empathy and understanding of brand messages are paramount, make your prospects and customers the heroes of your story by asking the following questions:
• Who do you solve a problem for?
• How can you speak your language?
• How do you align your company’s story and value proposition with the needs of your prospect?
Instead of forcing prospects and customers into your narrative, recreate the narrative around them.
Take the reins and adjust to the new normal
Don’t sit back and wait for the “new normal” to knock on your door. We may not be able to go back to what things were and we do not know what the future holds. Now is the time to adopt the strategies that will allow you to do more with less. Whatever you do, keep marketing and never going dark.
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