Five Strategies for B2B Marketing In A Downturn

Many organisations have been scaling back on their marketing spend in response to the global downturn. This has made the job of the B2B marketer even harder.  But in reality, it may well 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 pound/euro 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!

The good news is that there are lots of levers to pull and tactics to employ to make that happen. Below are five key strategies for making your marketing go further, whatever the economic climate and getting the best return for your marketing investment:


  1. 1.     Use content to help leads find you - The days of relying solely on outbound marketing such as tradeshows, cold calls, and print ads are over. Customers are taking control of the buying process by educating themselves on your product and your competitor's product - long before they want to engage with your sales. In this new world, your job as a marketer is not only to find leads, it is to help leads find you. That is Inbound Marketing. While there are a few different types of inbound marketing, a great place to start is with content marketing.  At it’s core, content marketing is about creating interesting, informative, valuable and even entertaining content, and then optimising and distributing it across different online channels so it can be found by – and engage – prospective buyers early in their process. As outbound marketing gets less effective and more intrusive, inbound marketing takes on a bigger role in your marketing mix.


  1. 2.     Leverage influence marketing, give every campaign a social boost - Social marketing is evolving from company-buyer into peer-to-peer influence marketing. A recent Nielsen Survey showed that only 33% of buyers believe what a brand has to say about itself because people view any brand-to-buyer communication as an advertisement. As a marketer you can take advantage of this shift by adding elements of social to your campaigns, empowering customers, prospects, and fans to become brand advocates. Leveraging the power of peer-to-peer communication delivers significant benefits including no cost or low cost brand lift, increased brand authenticity, and it gives sales and marketing access to new opportunities. In addition, peer-to-peer word of mouth is highly trusted and effective for reaching far beyond your initial database and social community. This type of word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something put their reputations on the line by telling other people how much they like a business, product, service, or event. Tracking the information behind the interaction, helps you identify the most influential sharers of your content and ensure they are part of your influencer marketing program


  1. 3.     Focus on the entire revenue cycle, not just the top of the funnel – Chances are, many of the people you meet at a tradeshow or other marketing programs, are just not ready to be passed to sales. If you pass those names prematurely you’ll likely annoy the sales rep, and the buyer.  But if you don’t have a process to nurture them until they are ready, you’ll have lost the opportunity.  Lead nurturing helps you bridge that gap and build relationships with prospects that are too early in the buying cycle to be ready for sales. Profiling prospects and delivering regular, relevant content in line with their interests can yield a dramatic improvement in the conversion of qualified prospects. Effective lead scoring is essential to ensuring that only well-qualified leads are handed over to sales and helps them prioritise the hottest leads. By focusing on the entire cycle rather than the top of the funnel you’ll better understand the flow and speed of your prospects through the funnel and optimise at each stage of the process.


  1. 4.     Align with Sales – Fit and interest are required for “win-ready” leads - Marketing and sales alignment offers perhaps the single greatest opportunity for improving business performance. Often the relationship between sales and marketing seems one way, since typically it’s marketing’s job to pass leads to sales. But when marketing and sales align, the potential for organisational improvement is enormous, with everything from marketing ROI, to sales productivity, to top-line growth reaping the benefits... We know that buyer behaviour has changed and that in this brave new world, sales and marketing need to change with it. Lead nurturing and lead scoring are essential these days but can’t be done in a silo. Sales and Marketing need to agree the framework for lead scoring and what constitutes a hot lead. in return for marketing only passing the hottest, most qualified leads, sales agrees to follow up promptly. Everybody wins!


  1. 5.     Use analytics to turn marketing from a cost centre into a revenue driver - One of the biggest challenges for any marketing team is to demonstrate how marketing is driving revenue for the business. Too often marketers focus on metrics like webinar attendees but what the board and the CEO really care about are revenue, pipeline profit and cashflow. By measuring and reporting on the things they care about, it’s possible to truly demonstrate marketing’s value. And by understanding how prospects move through your funnel, you’ll get an accurate picture of your customer acquistion cost. Armed with solid data like this, you can then start to accurately forecast pipeline and revenue. That’s the first step to helping your CEO think of marketing as an asset that drives revenue, not a cost centre.  And makes it a whole lot easier to protect your marketing budget if there are attempts to prune!


*** More information on how to market in a downturn can be found at the B2B Marketing Marketo webinar

Elizabeth Smyth is Marketing Director EMEA for marketing software specialist, Marketo. She can be contacted at