Supply chain disruptions. Pandemics. Stock market crashes. Inflation. There’s a lot that can disrupt the flow of your business. But it’s how you handle the situation that determines whether you’ll survive or thrive.
While it’s impossible to predict the future, there are methods you can use to avoid stalling out. For many organizations, the go-to strategy is cutting unnecessary budgets—particularly in sales and marketing.
But is this the right move?
There’s an ongoing debate about whether maintaining or even increasing sales and marketing budgets is the best decision during times of uncertainty.
They may be onto something. In the end, there will be two groups in uncertain environments: those who freeze like a deer caught in headlights, and then emerge afterwards needing to figure out what’s next; and those who come out ahead of the game because they didn’t let off the gas.
You, of course, want to be the latter. To do so, you need an airtight go-to-market strategy that’s proactive instead of reactive, withstanding any conditions.
How Your Business Can Thrive in Uncertainty
Financial upheavals mean that every partnership is under a microscope, contracts are cut short, and sales cycles slow down. When this happens, businesses typically knee-jerk react by slashing marketing budgets.
However, remember that your competitors are also experiencing these setbacks; the differentiator is how you respond. It can be tempting to take the “deer in headlights” approach, cut costs and hunker down. However, innovative businesses will seize this as an opportunity to assess and streamline operations to keep you ahead long after the economic uncertainty subsides.
Historically, the companies that have bounced back most in the aftermath of a recession did not reduce marketing expenditures, with many actually increasing it. During the pandemic, high-performing companies devoted more resources than lower-performing counterparts to setting strategy, empowering cross-functional teams, uplifting employees, and investing in collaboration technologies, according to findings published by McKinsey.
In strategic organizations focused on growth, marketing isn’t an expense – it’s an investment. And in turbulent times, the best course of action may be to make bold moves instead of erring on the side of caution.
McKinsey research finds there are two types of leaders: one that takes a cautious, wait-and-see approach in a challenging climate; and one that adopts defensive measures but still leans into the storm.
The researchers arrive at this conclusion: “The best leaders and companies are ambidextrous: prudent about managing the downside while aggressively pursuing the upside…These leaders, who are both prudent and bold, are honing three types of edge to create ‘alpha’ in organizational performance: in insights, in commitment, and in execution.”
If you want to thrive in tough market conditions, you can’t just embrace the status quo or make reactionary budget cuts. Instead, you need to make smart investments, giving your company an edge. The first step is creating a proactive go-to-market strategy.
The Time to Create A Proactive Go-To-Market Strategy Was Yesterday
The threat of budget cuts is always looming. Roughly 81% of CEOs believe there’s a recession on the horizon, and now there’s talk of which investments (or people) will get the boot.
Naturally, marketing teams will go into a frenzy to prove their value. Unfortunately, this tends to put the focus on reactive tactics—or random acts of marketing—solely focused on driving conversions and clicks.
This is not the way to build an effective marketing strategy, let alone prove the value of a wide marketing budget.
The best time to create a go-to-market strategy is before a calamity hits. And it must have a finely tuned and highly repeatable model you can scale up or down based on the economic climate and demand.
Here’s how to build one.
Say No to Random Acts of Marketing
The first step to building a sustainable go-to-marketing plan is eliminating random acts of marketing.
A random act of marketing happens when you don’t have a plan and try a “throw spaghetti at the wall” approach.
For example, maybe you:
- Brainstorm a list of keywords, run an ad campaign and see a boost in leads—but struggle to convert them because the targeting was off
- Send one-off ‘batch-and-blast’ emails to your database
- Create new pieces of content based on who is “shouting the loudest” for it internally, instead of basing it on where the gaps are in your content model or what content is resonating the most with your customers
- React to falling sales by hiring more salespeople
- Focus on sales activity volume instead of outcomes
- Have your SDRs calling on unqualified leads because ‘volume is down’
- Start conversations with prospects without leveraging interaction data to personalize the conversation
Since your approaches are inconsistent, your meaningful results (beyond vanity metrics) are too. And when you happen to see success, it’s challenging to repeat the outcome.
That’s because you’re succeeding despite your marketing and sales experiments, not because of it.
Build Your Foundation
The alternative to random acts of marketing is to transform your go-to-market strategy, operationalizing it around the customer journey. This way, you have a model that marketing and sales teams can follow to recreate the same or similar results each time they use it.
Switching from tactical demand generation to strategic demand marketing is critical if you desire consistent outcomes, no matter the economic situation.
Start by building a foundation for your buying process. Building your strategy around the buyer journey requires a deep understanding of your target customer at each buyer stage.
For instance, you must know:
- Who they are and how they think
- The macro trends in the marketplace impacting their organizations
- What their pain points are that your product or service can eliminate or reduce
- What objectives and roadblocks they have (e.g., getting buy-in from decision-makers)
- Which channels they use to consume content (social, YouTube, blogs) and what format they prefer their content in
- What questions they ask before or during their search for your product/service
Your content should educate prospects and decision-makers, so your salespeople can have more meaningful conversations.
Implement Your Demand Process Model
After building a foundation for the buyer’s journey, the next step is integrating your people, process, content, tech, and data.
Here’s how you do that:
- Open a meaningful two-way dialogue with customers so you can understand who they are, and monitor their needs and frustrations throughout their journey. Use conversation tracks and content marketing to address their needs at each stage.
- Qualify leads beyond demographics and firmographics. Leverage both the information they’ve shared with you via progressive forms, as well as their interaction data, to better understand who they are and where they are in the journey.
- Align sales and marketing with an agreement around what makes a lead qualified, and clear responsibilities for moving prospects to the next stage of the buying journey.
- Build a marketing and sales tech stack to make it easier to identify leads, their level of qualification and organizational intent, and where they are in the buyer journey.
Build an Unshakable Foundation For Your Business
The world is an uncertain place, but this doesn’t mean you have to be at its mercy. The strongest businesses adapt to changes around them using proven strategies to stay afloat.
Unfortunately, most rely on tactical demand generation to ride the rising tides of unforeseen obstacles. This approach has proven inconsistent and doesn’t provide the long-term vision businesses need to succeed. Many are ill-prepared, and when storms like a recession hit, they struggle to survive.
This is where you can shine.
By adopting strategic demand generation, you’ll have a solid foundation built to last long-term and turn times of uncertainty into opportunity.
If you’d like to learn more, check out the Anatomy of a Strategic Demand Marketing plan.
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