B2B marketing hacks through downturns and budget cuts

It’s no longer business as usual amidst tech stock slumps and choppy macroeconomic waves. But thankfully, some of us B2B marketers have gone through uncertainty like this before.

To help decide what and how to navigate downturn and budget cuts, we spoke to B2B marketing leaders to sieve out tried and tested hacks that you can adopt.

We spoke to three B2B marketing leaders on how to approach uncertainty

Last August, ViB hosted a panel discussion titled B2B marketing hacks for more leads in less time, exploring B2B demand generation and marketing tips to boost numbers with tight resources. On the panel were Jeremy Sporn, President at Royce Brook Media, and Lisa Hackbarth, Senior Marketing Campaign Manager at Matillion (formerly at ChaosSearch), moderated by Mariah West, VP of Marketing at ViB.

A central theme in our discussion was navigating budget changes, experimentation and risk management in today’s unique market climate. And out of all the B2B marketing hacks and tips shared by our experienced speakers, we rounded up two big themes: strategy and execution. 

Get the full scoop by watching our webinar, or keep reading for our TLDR on the hacks you need to know for B2B marketing success on a budget.

Table of Contents

Reanalyzing your strategy, customers and team

B2B marketers know that any reanalysis must start with the big picture. Decisively setting a direction is the first step to make sure the following operational pieces fall into place.

You might already have a strong plan set out for the year. But here’s also the thing — don’t forget that your marketing strategy is a living document that needs to continually adapt to your environment. Setting the tone for budgetary or tactical change is the first step.

We kicked off the fiscal year. When we got going, we had this great plan. And then as we know, what is happening with the economy really had a big say in our company direction. So we did have to pivot towards the end of our first quarter. And we realized we had to just lower our overall budget.

Lisa Hackbarth

In creating a holistic reanalysis, our speakers suggested exploring three main angles: your current B2B marketing strategy, where your customers are, and your very own marketing team driving your strategy. Let’s break these down.

1. Look back to look forward

At the top of the list is to conduct a retrospective of your overarching strategy. Wherever you are, press pause and really consider what’s working, and what’s not? What’s a ‘need’ and what’s a ‘want’.

For example, if you’re using a range of outreach channels like email marketing, search engine ads, and cold calling, how do they compare to each other in terms of results? Can each of these tactics be milked further to get a greater bang for your buck, or perhaps dialed back without losing effectiveness?

Lisa talked about some golden tactics that they weren’t fully optimizing. For instance, she had an ABM platform that wasn’t used to its full potential. Once she dug into the data, she found good companies and customers that weren’t on her radar, but actually a great technographic fit. 

The customers are on our site and maybe they're even visiting our pricing page, and we just hadn't been paying attention. So it was low hanging fruit that we just missed. We were just going a million miles an hour in a hundred directions.

Lisa Hackbarth

In our experience, an example that many B2B marketers can relate to is having a great piece of content that isn’t getting enough hits. A simple trick like content syndication with a lead guarantee can easily optimize that strategy.

On the flipside, Lisa also pointed out how she was rolling back on some paid tactics. In one of her event marketing sponsorships, they went from a 10 by 20 event booth to a 10 by 10, a cost-effective cut that still allowed her team to maintain their presence.

It made me a better marketer because it made me realize how much waste there was, and how a lot of times you have so much going on. So some of the things you put on autopilot.

Lisa Hackbarth

In a recession with budget cuts, it’s critical to be discerning about which tactics and platforms perform best for you, and get the most quality output out of those, instead of moving out of habit. 

2. Make sure you’re still where your audiences are

Interwoven with your strategy retrospective is relooking where your audiences are, their interests, their buying behavior and modes of communication. While B2B marketers know this, it’s often taken for granted.

One of the questions I always ask people is where does your audience hang out? Know where they live, know where they want to be. So if your audience hangs out on Facebook, you should be marketing on Facebook. If your audience hangs out in their inbox all day, send them emails.

Jeremy Sporn

If you’re know email is your silver bullet to connecting with your audience, you’re in luck. Email promotions are cost-effective and its results are worth all the investment  once you manage to get senior management on board. Check out our quick blog on how to earn budget and buy-in for email promotion. If you need help crafting ultra-effective emails, our ebook on Four Leading Ways to Boost Your Email Marketing Success too.

But back to our main topic. What’s often forgotten is that downturns and budget cuts impact the community of tech buyers tremendously too. There’s likely waves of change happening on their side, so staying ahead of their dynamic needs is an organic way to set the direction of your new strategy.

It's a simple thing. It sounds oversimplified. But it's one of those things that's often missed — where does your audience congregate and where can you reach them?

Jeremy Sporn

Getting a good sense of your audience applies even if you know that different people respond to different kinds of marketing, which Mariah pointed out. However, replicating the initial message across various channels for example, to appeal to different audiences could only reap additional mediocre results.

Instead, first hone in on the one message and one channel that works for that one type of audience. As Jeremy pointed out, the only way to get there is to accurately figure out what your audience cares about. That’s also why one of the initial steps in Jeremy’s ultimate Marketing Campaign Plan is to get an in-depth look at your target audience.

Download Jeremy’s step-by-step guide to plan your next marketing campaign

 

3. Your strategy is as good as the arms and legs delivering it

Running any kind of marketing strategy in any climate or budget still boils down to one thing — running an effective team. They represent the hands and legs to execute plans, and can have a strong say in dictating your strategy in times of uncertainty and risk.

As Lisa notes, marketing has to be a team sport, and it’s a focus that’s seeing more urgency today. Particularly for B2B processes which are complex and protracted, getting a customer to the end of their conversion journey needs all moving parts perfectly coordinated — even if they can’t always be measured

That's one of the big trends, not being so tied into attribution and then also treating it as a whole company team.

Lisa Hackbarth

On top of setting a unified goal across the team, playing your strongest cards is also key. Just like how audiences hang out at their favorite platforms and are attracted to specific kinds of content, it’s difficult to expect your team to be a jack of all trades. Mastering tactics takes time and skill. Which is why finding a good fit among all these stakeholders is your best bet to get quality, cost-effective conversion.

 

Hacks to execute your revamped B2B marketing strategy 

With the larger direction set, the next step is to iron out the finer details. Let’s dive into some quick, operational B2B marketing hacks our speakers shared to execute a winning strategy. 

  • Don’t hold back on new experiments, but do them with reason

From what we’ve learnt in our retrospective, you might find tactics that aren’t working well. That doesn’t always mean to “stop doing new things and double down on what’s working”, as Mariah prompted. Instead, there’s still a runway to try something new. Even under a tight budget, B2B marketers have plenty of wiggle room to explore novel options for cheap — which are actually extremely common. 

I've seen display ads you could run at $50 a week or less, and have a good understanding if your messaging is resonating with your target. There's a lot of options you can do to test prove out first, once you know, you're gonna make an ROI on it.

Jeremy Sporn

You can test on very little funds, especially if you use your owned channels, too. Things like email, which have an operational cost of course, but don't necessarily have a program cost associated with them.

Mariah West
  • Look at conversion metrics over count metrics

In an economic downturn, the wiser approach in B2B is to focus on conversions. That means instead of looking at the classic metrics, like number of leads coming in, and the cost per lead for example, think about the gaps between lead-opportunity and opportunity-sale.

All of us have a decent understanding that the more leads we get, the more budget we need. But the one thing that you have a massive effect on are the conversion metrics in between lead and opportunity, opportunity and sale.

Jeremy Sporn

Milking conversions without increasing lead counts could be as simple as digging up old contacts in your CRM and figuring how to connect with their unique needs.

In our experience with B2B demand generation, conversion metrics are highly prioritized too, which is why ViB’s services see up to 50% conversion rates from opportunity to sale such as in B2B appointment setting, which are scheduled just a handful of times each month for a typical sales team. 

  • Shoot for quality over quantity

On a similar note, reprioritizing quality over quantity is another new focus to add in your strategy. Lisa suggested that on top of looking at conversion rates, have an eye on the quality of your pipeline to get to that finish.

So of course there's the milestones, the leading indicators, KPIs that we're going for, but at the end of the day, what's gonna keep the wheels on the truck is pipeline.

Lisa Hackbarth

Taking care of pipeline health means looking out for pipeline quality metrics like average deal size, average sales cycles, or even as nuanced as the days before stage change. This also helps make accurate predictions on where to ramp up effort, ensuring that no resource goes to waste.

  • Find your lowest common denominator

Every business has a lowest common denominator. As Jeremy explains, it’s something like a stage of the funnel which guarantees results once prospects do make it there. For B2B businesses, that stage is often a trial, demo, or even a mid-funnel content piece like this guide on expert lead generation strategies for B2B marketers

Whether that's demos, if you're a SaaS for example, recognize that if you get your prospects to this point, you have a very good understanding of where they're gonna go from there. Then focus on getting as many people to that point in that funnel as you can.

Jeremy Sporn
  • Don’t just get creative — innovate 

Finally, now’s the best time to be innovating out-of-the box ideas. Tactics like optimizing existing channels, finding cost-effective ways to test, and tapping into new strengths in your team all start creativity.

It's like trying to elevate every piece along the way, which doesn't always cost money, but it takes time and it takes intentionality.

We were definitely getting more creative, definitely getting more personalized. As an example, I worked with our SDR team to audit what they were doing and then support them from a marketing perspective by saying, "We have all this great content that you guys aren't really utilizing. Maybe let's look at the SDR funnel and where can we plug this in to really make you guys be a helpful voice rather than just like meeting setters?"

Lisa Hackbarth

Think of these economic challenges as new B2B marketing opportunities 

Ending on a positive note, tighter belts do make B2B marketers more creative, discerning and sensitive to changing buying behaviors. As speakers Lisa and Jeremy point out too, many B2B marketing hacks shared aren’t just limited to times of financial volatility. Instead, keep these tips and tricks in your pocket whenever you’re ready for the next push in your B2B marketing strategy.

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