Making the best of an economic downturn: 9 recommendations for B2B Marketers

December 16, 2022 Chuck Leddy

Working as a B2B marketer has always been a tough job. No matter how convincing and targeted your messaging, B2B prospects sometimes won’t purchase. Add a possible economic recession into the equation, and the already rocky path to marketing ROI becomes even rougher to traverse. 

We asked two of our most experienced marketing leaders at Sojourn Solutions – Rebecca Le Grange (Managing Partner) and Charlotte Currie (Global Head of Customer Success) – for advice on how B2B marketers like you can navigate the challenges of a potential economic downturn. They offered the following advice:

1. Double down on strategic focus. Your overall strategy needs to inform all your decisions about who to target, how, and what investments to prioritize. You’ll need a solid business case for making every investment, especially in a recession, because resources are limited. Have rigorous, evidence-based discussions with your stakeholders about the cost of doing nothing versus the cost of making a particular investment. What are the pros and the cons, as well as the various risks involved? 

There needs to be back and forth within any marketing team about what investments get made, and which ideas get put on the back burner. Again, having strategic clarity helps in making those decisions and convincing the team to buy-in. If you're not clear on why you're funding or not funding a particular project, then you're going to make poor decisions and have pushback. – Le Grange

2. Measure and prove value. In a downturn, there needs to be more focus on justifying any investment. For our Customer Success Team, for example, we need to ensure that when we're starting a client project, we understand exactly what business outcomes we’re trying to drive and how we're measuring success. By understanding that, we ensure that we can show our clients the value created at the end, which is essential for justifying client spend.

If we can’t measure and prove value and progress on agreed-upon outcomes, then clients may get pushback from their leadership and future investments could be imperiled.  – Currie

3. Have a plan, then learn and adjust. The reason for using tools like marketing automation software is that you can get feedback on performance and adjust as you go. For example, you need to measure and take learnings from different touch points in the customer journey, and use them to optimize each touch point. These small improvements over time have a big cumulative impact.

Doing this well means using your pre-determined metrics and KPIs, plus spending time analyzing your reports.

It means using all that data and analysis to get smarter over time about which contacts you're targeting - which contacts to remove from your list - and how to prioritize actions and investments. – Le Grange

4. Drive growth through existing customers. Acquiring net new customers is expensive, especially in an economic downturn. Many of our clients are looking to their existing customers to drive as much revenue growth as possible, because those revenue-generating relationships are already in place and can be expanded. 

It starts with considering how to retain your existing customers, then moves to asking how to cross-sell and upsell.

This is where having a strong and accurate database helps you better understand and engage your customers around their particular needs. – Le Grange

5. Fine-tune lead management. Lead management is always important, but it can usually be made more efficient. That takes fine-tuning your lead management process from beginning to end in order to ensure that it's delivering more quality leads and closing them. 

When your lead management process is improved, less resources get lost through funnel leakage and more resources go back to marketing for nurture campaigns if leads aren’t ready to close.

It’s also important to increase the sharing of relevant customer information and activity across your organization, but especially between marketing and sales. That shared data fuels quality conversations about how to coordinate actions to convert leads into customers. – Currie

6. Use automation to support data quality. Database hygiene is the foundation for good customer engagement. A messy, unreliable, and incomplete database wastes resources. You can use automation to ensure that your contact data hasn’t become outdated or incomplete. Decommissioning bad contacts saves you resources and supports more focus, while standardizing your data enhances your ability to target and personalize engagement.

Every month that you don’t conduct active cleanup and standardization of your database can bring a 5% decay, where data becomes outdated and unreliable. That ongoing decay adds up over a year and costs you money. – Le Grange

7. Better understand your customers. The more data you collect and the more you understand what your customers want from you (it’s value, by the way), the more you can deepen and expand your business relationship. The 80-20 rule (Pareto Principle) says that most of your revenue comes from about 20% of existing customers, so focus your energies there. 

When customers visit your website, for example, make sure you’re categorizing the areas of interest they focus on, so you can follow up with relevant, personalized messaging.

It’s a straightforward equation: the more customer data you get, the better your analytics and segmentation/ personalization efforts will be, which leads to better outcomes. – Currie

8. Improve operational efficiency. Taking less time to do what you're already doing adds up over time to create significant value. So many of our clients are trying to become more efficient in their marketing operations processes. That means focusing on driving efficiency with the tasks they have on their to-do list each day, each week, and each month. We’ve found that leveraging more automation can help.

When it comes to campaigns, for instance, that might mean automating and orchestrating as much of your messaging as possible via your marketing automation platform. It might mean deploying artificial intelligence to optimize performance. Sometimes it means putting more thought into the various steps within a campaign, driving efficiency by mapping out those steps and carefully considering each one upfront.

Sometimes clients will say, ‘that's a lot of work upfront,’ but that work makes you much more efficient in the long-run. – Le Grange

9. Deliver value throughout the customer journey. Provide consistent value to customers, don't just come in when you need to close or during the week before a renewal date. Customers can see you haven't demonstrated value throughout their journey and you’re just looking to cash in.

You need to work on the relationship constantly, building trust and aligning internally to put the customer at the center of all you do.

When you do that, it’s easier to convert and close because customers will want to keep that value-sharing relationship going. – Currie

To learn more about, or put into effect, any of the recommendations described above, reach out to us here.

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