The silence was palpable when Gartner’s Brent Adamson challenged a group of otherwise upbeat B2B CMOs, "How are you preparing for the recession?" Until that moment, these CMOs, who hailed from a wide range of successful enterprises, simply hadn’t considered that either a downturn was imminent or that the possibility merited serious preparation. Nor had I.
But because “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” let’s consider the possibility of a recession as an opportunity to reexamine our assumptions and sharpen our collective saws. With this in mind here are six pragmatic ways to move forward, regardless of the overall economic situation.
Simplify Your Story
Given the ease of publishing and pushing out messages, a lot of B2B marketers have succumbed to “and another thing” syndrome. The consequence of touting many features and/or benefits, however, is that your employees, customers and prospects can’t articulate one common idea about your brand. This lack of focus makes it that much harder to get leads, let alone close the sale. With the possibility of a smaller budget in 2019, now is the time to simplify your brand story—ideally, reduce it to five words or fewer.
Market the Marketing
Growing companies are in a battle for talent. One study even suggests that 52% of workers want to change jobs in 2019! Even if a slowing economy makes jobs less plentiful, however, it’s worthwhile to retain good employees because it’s more expensive to find and train new ones. More importantly, employees who believe in your brand purpose are more likely to deliver a better customer experience and spread the word about your brand. For CMOs, this means creating an ongoing plan to market your marketing internally.
Engage Your Employees
Continuing with the theme of employee engagement, the idea isn’t to tell your employees about your profound brand story and the magic it will create in the marketplace. Instead, we’re recommending a multi-layered plan that aligns your brand promise with your employee evaluation and compensation process. If you’re promising “service with a smile,” for example, then you shouldn’t reward the curmudgeons. From there, you can develop a variety of ways to involve and inspire employees. You’ll know you’re there when they’re competing to be brand ambassadors.
Trim Your Tech Stack
While a rising tide lifts all boats, it also can hide unnecessary additions (like barnacles) that accrue along the way. Now is as good a time as any to audit your marketing technology and make sure each is delivering in a meaningful and measurable way. One Silicon Valley CMO who had grown her tech stack to 35 trimmed it by seven this year. Another CMO admitted to finding six tools (out of 28) he could discard without missing a beat.
Dial Down Your Dashboard
With so much technology at their fingertips, many B2B CMOs are awash in data, but few are proclaiming victory when it comes to tracking meaningful metrics. It is still too easy to overemphasize the known (last click sources, names captured, site traffic) versus the unknown (the relative importance of various sales and marketing efforts in the ultimate purchase decision.) To ensure you’re tracking the right stuff, consider developing a dashboard with a limited number of leading indicators (like the ones described next).
Manufacture Metrics That Matter
Reprising the notion that you have three targets (employees, customers and prospects), why not develop metrics for each? For example, track employees’ degree of motivation in relation to your brand purpose. An aggregated Employee Alignment Index would combine employees’ likelihood to recommend your company as a place to work with the percentage of employees who actively share content. For customers, the leading indicator would be a combination of NPS, churn rate and the percentage who provide testimonials. Finally, for prospects, a Lead Velocity metric would blend sales-qualified-leads, close rates and elapsed time from lead to conversion.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and memorable year of cutting through!