2020 has been a year of uncertainty, to say the least, for most enterprises — and even more so for commercial sales and marketing organizations. Many businesses are wondering how, where and if they should be investing in their marketing organizations or “wait out the storm.” While there are a sizable number of organizations maintaining or increasing their marketing budgets, in other cases budgets are tightening or freezing altogether. While it seems intuitive to cut expenses like marketing during times of turmoil, remember that “this too shall pass.” Indeed, when this turmoil has passed, the state of your brand and growth will be dictated by what you’re doing now. I’m making a case that, far from just avoiding expenses, you are missing potentially massive opportunities by not investing in marketing in the present moment. As Warren Buffet is famous for noting, “Be greedy when others are fearful.”
This perspective aligns closely with Harvard Business Review’s recent comparison of startup Unicorns versus Camels, which offers a model for how business can sustain operations and even grow through crises and in adverse conditions.
“These startup camels offer businesses in all industries and sectors valuable lessons on how to survive through crisis, and to sustain and grow in adverse conditions, even if the metaphor isn’t as flashy [as Unicorns]. They do this with three strategies: they execute balanced growth, they take a long-term outlook, and they weave diversification into the business model.”
As this outlook implies, companies will need to be selective about where and how they dole out marketing resources. But first thing’s first. The initial step in honing these efforts — as a precursor to revenue marketing tactics — is to invest in your company strategy and positioning, which will inform your ground game tactics, and are in fact the fundamental, sine qua non building blocks of successful marketing. This, however, is not our blog about messaging and positioning (which you can expect in the next few weeks).
This blog is about tactics. Because, while now is a ripe time to invest in marketing, not all channels are equal during regular times, not just during uncertain ones. Here are several areas we’ve seen marketing teams successfully investing in, to optimize their budgets for maximum impact.
- Inbound customer marketing
- Your customers need assurance from you now more than ever. Developing customer marketing programs that both reinforces your partnership and your commitment to their growth and wellbeing not only strengthens customer lifetime value (LTV) but creates stronger potential for expanding with new products and service offerings.
- Some examples:
- As complex sales cycles are extending, it is critical to furnish prospects with content that continues to nurture and educate them as they evaluate potential vendors. Particularly as buyers are finding themselves working remotely and may have additional time for education and consuming longer forms of content.
- Some examples:
- Podcasts — short-form and long-form, with internal SMEs and industry leaders
- Video series — highlighting existing content in a new channel, or bringing to life a new topic, short-form and long-form
- Long-form collateral pillars (eBooks, white papers etc.)
- Paid media (search and social)
- With many spending more time online, paid media is a powerful investment to secure more share of voice and engage customers where they’re at — helping you drive awareness and prime your pipeline for post-turmoil. Paid channels also present a great opportunity to focus your targeting and explore deeper retargeting strategies. In general, paid channels are a powerful way to extract as much value from your budget as possible, because they make it easy to monitor, optimize and track your performance vs. spend.
- Some examples:
- Via your automation platform, integrate triggered ad campaigns based on website behavior — allowing you to continue to nurture your audience when they show signs of intent.
- A/B test messages for 1) immediate impact and 2) so that when we emerge in the “post-turmoil” world, you have total confidence in the resonance of your communications.
- Build on your competitive paid search strategy by expanding your universe of competitors beyond just direct to indirect.
I’ve noted in a previous 280blue blog that during times of turmoil the best trait a company can bring to its customers is empathy. So while there are certain channels and use cases that are ripe for investing in marketing, that does not mean spamming your current customers or using an abundance of fear-based strategies with prospects. It means being intentional, iterative and goal-oriented in bringing to life effective programs during times of uncertainty.
You don’t have to overthink getting started. While fear of the unknown is one of the most common reasons for not investing in marketing during periods of uncertainty, there are simple ways you can test the waters for your organization.
- Produce ancillary, short-form assets
- If you’ve already developed a number of long-form content pillars you can more easily break that down into shorter-form ancillary pieces that can still add value to your customers and prospects. In some cases with simple low-code and no-code design tools you can parse these long-form pieces out without heavy design resources. Taking an eBook and breaking out each chapter into a short podcast, a blog calendar and simple one-sheeters are a few quick-turn ways to extend the life of your content. And, by amending content with revised intros that acknowledge COVID and the uncertainty in the market, you can add a layer of relevance for your customers.
- Test retargeting to new cohorts
- Conducting a cohort analysis on your web visitors and marketing contacts can reveal unique segments that haven’t been addressed. It’s not new that upwards of 70% of a buying process is now done online, where customers are engaging with all different types of content. But that figure is amplified during times of uncertainty. Meet your customer where they’re at by focusing on retargeting strategies targeted to these cohort subsets
- Develop regional online, virtual meetups
- As virtual meetings are becoming cheaper and easier to produce, now is a great time to bring customers together starting on a regional level for meetups or user groups. Additionally, as Zoom meetings and other virtual events are becoming par for the course, buyers are becoming more and more comfortable with casual settings. This allows you to develop simple agendas, with simple production and still add value to your customers with powerful content and the ability to curate connections with other like-minded customers.
When the degree of uncertainty in a market rises, the degree of risk-aversion understandably follows suit, and budgets tighten. While this seems like the intuitive, conservative response to uncertainty there is a little-discussed risk of missing out on opportunities for the business to not only sustain but to grow when others are not. Marketing serves as one of those potential opportunities for many businesses under the right conditions. Maintaining or increasing your budget can drive down customer acquisition cost, deepen your pipeline and grow share of voice and awareness. It is a no-brainer to consider marketing as a key sustainability and growth lever during times of uncertainty.
To learn more about optimizing and investing your marketing budget during uncertain times, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary assessment.