As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads and global supply chains get disrupted, it’s no longer business as usual for B2B companies. Some economists are projecting huge losses to the global economy, and a global recession is likely.
What is certain is that B2B buying is down across the board, as businesses delay taking risks and making commitments in an uncertain future.
But if CMOs are challenged by a weaker sales pipeline and declining demand, what can they do to help sales achieve results? How will they be able to justify keeping their marketing budgets? How should they pivot their strategies to not only survive today’s challenging economic environment, but gain competitive share?
Many of our clients are asking the same questions. Our advice is that forward-thinking CMOs adjust to the situation by engaging their prospect and customer base in different ways with new messaging, by doubling down on demonstrating value, and remembering that relationships are central to B2B.
The following are five strategies for marketing leaders to focus on over the next critical quarters.
1. Deepen relationships with customers
Even in good times, it can cost five or six times more to attract a new customer than expand an existing one.
New customers may be risk averse to change right now, but your existing customers have seen the value you can deliver—meaning an easier conversation to have about how buying more or renewing a contract can lead to expanded value for both parties.
So whether it’s offering special deals for renewals, or producing more content that falls under retention, expansion, or advocacy stages, consider redirecting marketing activity to remind your customers they are important to you. You are there to help drive their success and support their business objectives, which is why they made a transformational investment in your brand in the first place.
To do that, mine customer data to understand which customers are likely to renew or at risk of not renewing, and which accounts offer the potential for upselling or cross-selling. At the same time, you should deepen engagement with your customers by focusing on your shared vision and the impact your company offers. If your solutions are focused on cost reduction or efficiency improvements, your customers are in greater need of that than ever before.
2. Accelerate accounts in the pipeline
Companies in the pipeline have already started the journey to learn more about your solutions. They have already shared their pains with you and are open to using your company’s products to move their businesses forward. That opportunity is still vital for both you and your prospect.
Their pains still exist—and may even be stronger now, so help your prospects make an easier decision to buy. Minimize risk barriers, help them with a business case that justifies the funding request, and guide them in making a leap ahead of their competitors with your solution. This is as much a marketing responsibility as a sales responsibility–partner together on this.
With that in mind, consider engaging prospects with account-based marketing (ABM) activities to accelerate deal closure. By leveraging customer data, ABM can identify and prioritize accounts that are continuing to engage. Then, it’s a matter of developing personalized content for different buyer personas in a prospective organization. After all, the best way to close a deal sooner is to create more trust, deepen the relationship, and help prospects visualize all the strengths of a future partnership.
3. Work closely with your partners
It’s time to start working even more closely with your partners. They are facing similar pains and uncertainty in their businesses and will be eager to collaborate on ways to identify new opportunities. Help them with go-to-market strategies and removing barriers to buy-in from your mutual prospects. Work together, as true partners do.
One of the ways of helping your partners is to work with them to ensure re-alignment of strategic brand messaging and promotional efforts with value-based content. By producing fresh marketing and sales-enablement content for them that doubles down on the economic value your solutions create, your partners can better answer prospect pain points.
4. Bring forward the Q4 budget
Your business is likely off its revenue plan. How can marketing contribute to more pipeline—now? By seizing the opportunity to jump in front of your competitors and pulling marketing budget from Q4.
Pipeline is the biggest asset that marketing can bring into the organization to help sales have a successful year. Budgets may have been allocated evenly, and our advice is that current conditions demand a change in weighting. Pipeline now is more important than pipeline in Q4, especially if you have a message to deliver about how one of your products solves a need unique to the COVID-19 situation. In other words, spend the money now to give sales the best chance of making the operating plan this year.
Since Q4 marketing generally creates pipeline in the following quarter of next year, choosing to create impact this year makes sense under the current climate. The additional budget will allow you to take advantage of the lower cost for everything from paid search keywords to other types of advertising space due to overall lower demand, making these channels more cost effective. After all, weathering the storm is not just about surviving it, but also adapting to it, finding new opportunities, and coming out stronger.
5.Reduce the cost of marketing (without cutting marketing capacity) with marketing as a service
If you are facing problems of scalability and constrained resources, we have one more nugget for you to consider: invest in transforming your operating model with marketing as a service (MaaS).
Adopting the cost-effective economics of the international MaaS model is allowing our clients to stretch their budgets further and continue to deliver marketing services while reducing the cost of marketing by 50% or more. MaaS adopters find that augmenting their marketing engine with a highly trained MaaS team is helping them rapidly scale their execution efforts, providing them the capacity and agility to outpace competitors. Contact us to learn more.