Seven strategies for B2B marketing during a slowdown
Given these macro economic trends, how should you allocate your marketing budget — and time? Here is my definitive guide to B2B marketing during a downturn:
1. Use lead management to maximize the value of each lead. In a recession, risk-adverse buyers take even longer than normal to research potential purchases. When you first identify a new prospect (regardless of whether they downloaded a whitepaper, stopped by your booth at a tradeshow, or signed up for a free trial) they are more likely than not still in the awareness or research stage and are not yet ready to engage with one of your sales reps. What this means is you need lead scoring to identify which leads are highly engaged, and lead nurturing to develop relationships with qualified prospects who are not yet ready to engage with sales. Without these capabilities, as many as 95% of qualified prospects who are not yet sales-ready never end up turning into a sales opportunity. These prospects are valuable corporate assets that you worked hard to acquire — so in a down economy you need to do everything possible to maximize value from them. Implementing even a simple automated lead nurturing program can yield a 4-fold improvement in the conversion of qualified prospects into sales opportunities over time. That’s a dramatic improvement marketing return on investment! Net-net: Companies that can do a better job of managing leads and developing early-stage prospects into sales ready leads will be in the best position to thrive in a downturn.
2. Focus on your house list. In a recession, you may have less money to spend on acquiring new customers. The solution is simple: spend more time marketing to (and building relationships with) the people you already know. Some activities that can help you get the most out of your existing relationships include lead nurturing campaigns, creating new content to offer to existing prospects, and cleaning and augmenting your marketing lead database with progressive profiling.
3. Build and optimize landing pages. When times are tough, it’s more important than ever to maximize the return on your advertising. Whether you are using Google AdWords, banners, sponsorships, or email campaigns, a dedicated landing page is the single most effective way to turn a click into a prospect. MarketingSherpa’s Landing Page Handbook shows that relevant landing page can easily double conversions versus sending clicks to the home page, and testing your pages can increase conversions by another 48% or more. Together, these tactics alone can result in 2.5X more leads for every dollar you spend, something that’s sure to look good in tough times. However, MarketingSherpa also reports that most companies are under-using this important technique: just 44% of clicks for B2B companies are directed to the home page, not a special landing page, and of B2B companies that use landing pages, 62% have six or fewer total pages. A recession is perhaps the best time to focus on some of these basics.
4. Content for later in the buying cycle. When buying slows down, you need to focus more than ever on making sure you are finding the prospects who are actually ready to buy — or even better, make sure they are finding you. One great way to do this is to focus your offers on content that will appeal to someone who’s actually looking for a solution (as opposed to thought leadership and best practices content, which can appeal to prospects who may one day have a need but are not currently looking). Examples of this kind of content can include “Top 5 Questions to Ask a Potential Vendor” whitepapers; buyers guides and checklists; analyst evaluations; and so on.
5. Appeal to the nervous buyer. A recession can mean more risk-adverse buyers, which may lead to a tendency to go with “safe” solutions. This is fine for large established companies, but it means younger companies need to do more than ever to reassure and build trust. Tactically, this means including customer references, reviews, expert opinions, awards, and other validation as part of your marketing. Strategically, a recession means fewer risk takers and visionaries, so take a lesson from Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm and use methods that appeal to mainstream pragmatists: industry-specific marketing tactics and solutions; vertical customer references; relevant partnerships and alliances; and whole product marketing.
6. Align sales and marketing. Today’s prospects start their buying process by interacting with marketing and online channels long before they ever speak with a sales representative. This means companies must integrate marketing and sales efforts to create a single revenue pipeline. The old days of functional silos and poor communication between the two departments must end. A tougher selling environment, driven by a recession, means this is more true than ever.
7. Don’t be a cost center. Most executives today think that Sales delivers revenue and Marketing is a cost center. Marketers are partly to blame for part of this mindset, since when we use metrics such as “cost per lead” we frame the discussion in terms of costs, not in terms of impact on revenue. More subtly, using language like “marketing spending” and “marketing budget” instead of “marketing investment” perpetuates these beliefs. In a recession, marketing needs more than ever to change these perceptions. This means that marketing investments must be justified with a rigorous business case and should be amortized over the entire “useful life” of the investment. And it means marketing must increase marketing accountability by demonstrating the impact of each marketing activity on pipeline and revenue. Of course, this is easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Even small steps, like reports that show the total opportunity value for each lead source or campaign, can make a big impact.
Even if we aren’t in a recession, we are in for some tough economic times — and an economic slowdown means a tendency to scale back marketing spending. However, research shows that a downturn creates opportunity to accelerate growth faster than your competitors. This means it may be the best time to step up your marketing — at least in quality if not quantity. The marketers that focus on getting the most out of every dollar spent and on demonstrating marketing’s impact on revenue and pipeline will be well positioned to come out of the slump looking like a star.
Original Post: http://blog.marketo.com/blog/2008/06/7-strategies-fo.html
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