Keep Marketing Agile and Weather an Economic Downturn

Recession Ahead? Here’s How To Keep Marketing Agile

Sequoia Capital presented a 52-page memo, “Adapting to Endure”, to its portfolio companies at May’s Founders All Hands meeting. In this presentation, Sequoia predicted the potential recession and encouraged portfolio company CEOs to prepare themselves to “avoid the death spiral.”

To manage a business, you should always have plans to prepare yourself for uncertainties. As B2B marketers, we should do the same.

I took pieces of their advice and offer my thoughts on how marketing should proactively prepare for the uncertainties and economic hardship to come.

The most agonizing decisions that founders and senior managers need to make are where to invest and where to cut. And where to invest or cut has consequences.

For example, if you decide to let some of your marketing team members go, you need to decide at a base level what skills are required to “keep the lights on,” such as website maintenance, target outreach, and reduced sales support. Then, modify your B2B marketing strategy and goals accordingly to match your reduced budget and resources.

If you decide to eliminate certain features of your products, will that decision make your existing accounts angry? How will that impact the projected revenue or future product roadmap?

Ultimately, “to cut or not to cut” is guided by your business strategy, strategic focus, and revenue business model.

Then, your business strategy and revenue model will guide sales goals, marketing planning, content marketing efforts, and sales enablement.

The strategic directions need to come from the top for marketing to execute well.

Here are 5 proactive steps that marketing decision-makers of B2B companies can take to get teams ready for what’s ahead.

1. Incorporate marketing into your products and services

Marketing can do what they can to promote new products. However, once they drive the traffic to the sites for sign-up, the overall digital sign-on and self-onboarding need to be seamless and straightforward to encourage purchasing decisions.

I use Lucidchart to help my clients build workflows. Lucidchart has a new product, Lucidspark, to help teams brainstorm and gain alignment. They make it easy to sign up with the “One-click trial” button. The copy “limited-time offer” implies urgency and nudges you to give it a try.

Marketing can do everything to promote your products, but ultimately, the sign-on and self onboarding steps need to live up to marketing’s promotions for all that work to mean something.

Another example of incorporating digital marketing communications into products is to apply relevant content to your apps or software platforms.

For instance, inside the SEMRush platform, you can access all the resources you see on a typical website.

When you plan your content marketing strategies, you need to think through the types of content that apply to your website and inside the platform.

Depending on how you launch your products, you can also embed self-training and self-onboarding as part of the platform.

In this example, you can see’s new Work Management Product.

To self-serve and self-learn, the page helps users in “getting started,” “steps 1-3” to complete the setup, and “learn more.”

In a way, your product becomes a channel of your marketing communications and sales enablement tools.

2. Crisp, clear messaging, and no fluff

I always say that Amazon spoils us (consumers in the B2C market) with features like one-click touch and <24-hour delivery. Well, the pandemic accelerated not only digital transformation but also digital interactions.

Your potential customers no longer have the patience to wait for you to respond in 5 days. Now, they also want B2C-like services and responses.

In addition, digital touchpoints need to be easy and seamless, and your copy and product messaging both need to be crisp and direct.

There is no time to beat around the bush.

Clearly say what your product will do, and reinforce it repeatedly.

I’ve learned to cut sentences out when I write copy to keep it concise and to the point. Pare things down wherever possible.

The best way to start evaluating your copy is to build a messaging framework.

I wrote an in-depth blog post on how to construct your messaging framework, which you can check out here.

3. Understand your audience deeply through rigorous testing

The keywords here are “deeply” and “rigorous” testing. Although my target audience is B2B marketers, I still can’t say that I understand my audience completely.

I am learning about them every day based on the content I publish, comments I receive, and direct conversations with them.

If you are on the show floor, talk to them. If they send emails or comments on social media, read and respond to them. Use a variety of ways to test your messaging, copy, and creative concepts.

Find out what makes your audience tick. Then, optimize your digital communications and products constantly. Sadly, this never ends.

4. Complete sales and marketing alignment via sales enablement

The function of marketing is to build brand equity, drive demand, and enable sales. When every dollar counts, it’s even more critical to lend a hand to sales teams. Marketing needs to qualify their sales contribution.

One of the best ways to support sales is account-based marketing. Complement sales efforts when the team is working on new strategic accounts.

You can find my ultimate account-based marketing guide here.

Another option is to gauge the purchase intent of potential leads. For example: if you have a list of attendees from your regular webinars, can you run a particular email campaign for attendees who came to your webinars at least 3 times in the past 6 months?

Write your email with specific calls to action to gauge their interest in your products and services. Whatever content you add in your campaigns needs to provide clues if they are interested in buying now or learning more about your services.

Present your finding as a case study to share with your sales.

5. Continue to optimize your marketing outreach with relevant content

Educate your management and sales team about your marketing plan and the channels you are using to build awareness and drive demand. Help them visualize your strategy and plan for implementation.

Be transparent about campaign results, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you do well, let them know. If you didn’t do well, let them know why and how you will do better next time.

If LinkedIn ad is an essential part of your marketing campaigns and your management questions why spend money on LinkedIn while it’s cheaper for search per Link (paid search engine marketing).

It’s your job to help everyone understand LinkedIn may be pricier, but the platform will lead to bigger deal closures in the long run. Explain that you don’t want to be penny-wise or pound foolish.

There are pros and cons for each marketing channel. Have a deep understanding of what you’re doing and why, and then help others to see your logic.

Should you cut marketing when times are tough?

Your marketing budget and staff tend to be the first ones on the chopping block.

Cutting your budget and/or staff members is never an easy choice, so it’s crucial that you understand the consequences alongside the potential benefits.

Be very focused and intentional about your product roadmap and revenue business model. Then, use that to guide your marketing and sales efforts.

Downturns and recessions challenge everyone. The key is to have a collective plan as a team, stay close-knit, and adapt and change as a unit.

Remember, no matter how rough things get, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Stick to your values and you’ll be able to weather any storm. #cando


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