As recession looms, B2B marketers are putting their budgets under the microscope. How can they navigate the economy’s troubled waters to maintain sales and take advantage of the upturn when it arrives?
“B2B marketers shouldn’t be planning for business as usual over the coming year,” says Lisa Nakano, vice-president and research director at research and advisory firm Forrester. “With turbulence in the economy, they need to think beyond making modest spending increases and focus marketing budgets on key areas of investment while weeding out poorly performing activities.”
Forrester’s Planning Guide 2023 for marketers in demand and account-based marketing (ABM) – those selling products and services to businesses – advises B2B marketers to boost revenues from existing customers, grow their audiences and sharpen up the impact of their content. The firm also believes this is a good time to experiment with new technology and processes to find effective ways of getting the most out of the marketing budget.
“Cross-selling to existing clients and upselling them more products is classic recessionary behaviour and should be pursued with vigour. Customers are unlikely to bring on new vendors during times of crisis, so B2B marketers can find ways to move them through the sales funnel by offering them more of their products and increasing their usage. This will go some way to make up for a lack of new business,” says Nakano.
When times get tough, it is vital for B2B marketers to engage strongly with the all-important decision-makers who will sign on the dotted line for their products. Forrester notes that B2B buyers have become more protective of their privacy and less likely to give out contact information. To overcome this, demand and ABM marketers should invest in technology that allows them to connect with those key contacts while honouring their anonymity.
“This is a time to try out solutions such as advanced web analytics, working with data providers, deploying customer data platforms, and trying data unification applications. Fewer than one in four marketers say they are using solutions such as these today to help them reach and engage the growing number of buyers who are waiting longer to reveal their identities,” says Steven Casey, vice-president and research director in the Forrester Decisions for Demand and ABM Service.
When the economy contracts, an easy win for B2B marketing is to improve the delivery of content. To succeed in 2023, organisations will need to make their content more accessible and easier to digest. Some 73% of organisations say that content is often too hard to adapt and customise, according to Forrester’s 2022 B2B State of Content survey.
Using the right technology, marketers can create a modular approach to content so it can be broken into chunks and deployed in different ways along the buying journey and at the most effective points in the customer life cycle. Focusing on the content engine, marketers should improve metadata and automated tagging to make it easier for prospects to find relevant content. They should also make use of sense-and-respond capabilities, using AI and automation to assemble content modules and orchestrate experiences, and to provide the analytics and performance data needed to improve the context in which they find the content.
Meanwhile, an area of potential savings is scaling back in-person live events in favour of digital or hybrid. “While the largest companies may feel it’s still vital to keep inviting prospects to spend time with their thought leaders, smaller businesses may choose to run events focusing only on the key accounts, rather than extending a general invitation. Running virtual marketing events stands to bring deep savings,” says Nakano.
Savings can also be made by weeding out underperforming activities. According to Forrester’s 2022 State Of ABM Survey, 26% of initiatives are ABM in name only and do not follow best practice. Forrester advises marketers to start by improving the lowest performing 20% of ABM programmes – or dropping them altogether - and gradually work up to analysing those that are revenue generating but underperforming.
Overall, says Casey: “At Forrester, we are strong believers that by investing in marketing strategically during a difficult time like this, it can set you up well to minimise any shrinkage should it occur in your business. You will then be well positioned to grow once things turn around.”
For more information visit forrester.com/bold/planning-guides
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