I’ve been helping companies with their growth plans, revenue generation and marketing execution for almost 20 years – long enough to remember the last recession in 2008. HubSpot was a baby of a company back then, but it had a very compelling story and message.
The size of your brain is more important than the size of your wallet. This message is attributed to then-HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. That idea resonated with me back then and it has stayed with me all this time.
As we consider tougher financial times ahead, all of you should consider what he meant by that comment.
Instead of throwing money at your lead generation and growth-related challenges, spend a bit more time thinking through your strategy and leveraging tools that don’t necessarily cost you money.
Here’s how to rekindle an inbound marketing approach to your lead generation when times get tough.
Make Your Big Story More Compelling
I hate to continue to focus on the same point, but time and time again we see B2B companies with generic, vanilla and boring stories. Why should someone do business with you if you’re not willing to invest in creating an emotional, compelling and engaging big story for your business?
What makes your company remarkable? How are you different from the three other companies that do exactly what you do? How are you going to get me excited to work with your firm?
You have 10 seconds to get my attention when I land on your homepage.
You have to tell me something that grabs me, pulls me in and speaks to me as a person.
Instead of this – 10,000 different types of safety products for your business
Try this – Everyone Goes Home Safe Tonight
Instead of this – Cyber security for your B2B business
Try this – Your Company’s Network Might Already Be Compromised
Instead of this – An electronic vault for all your important documents
Try this – Don’t Leave Them Searching For Answers
Once you come up with your big story, use it everywhere, including in your sales process.
This is one upgrade that is guaranteed to help you produce more leads, more sales opportunities and more new customers when times are tough without having to pay money to generate these important business outcomes.
Design More Targeted Campaigns
This is another area where I see weakness across the board. Most marketing folks don’t know how to design a campaign that is an extension of your overall company story, includes all the right tactics, is built to be optimized over time and has expected results as an outcome.
This is also critical when the budget for marketing might be limited.
You have to leverage existing assets, you have to tell your story quickly and effectively, and you have to do it over and over again until your prospects are ready to engage.
Then that engagement has to be frictionless, easy and highly educational.
Build your campaigns to include thought leadership content, content that teaches, content that entertains and content that helps you stand out. Share that content as part of your campaigns.
Shift your campaigns from one-to-many to one-to-one. We’ll talk about how to do that technically later in the article, but you should make sure your campaigns are highly personalized.
This has to go much further than Dear Mike. Speak directly to the role, the industry and even the specific pain you solve. Use segmented images and offers.
These upgrades won’t cost more money but will improve the performance of your campaigns and impact results.
Reallocate Paid To Content Creation
Many companies today are putting money into paid search and paid social advertising. It’s one of the most widely used marketing tactics and probably one of the most widely misunderstood.
Paid digital media is not a spigot that you turn on and turn off – it’s a tactic that you invest in for the long term and optimize over time. If you’re not willing to be in it to win it, then my advice is to reallocate that money to content creation.
Money spent on paid media is sunk. While you might get some new contacts and leads from it, you’re not creating anything useful outside of the campaign.
Instead, shift to creating content for your company that you use on social media, use to get organic visitors, use in the sales process, use on your website and use in your email campaigns.
These content assets help you tell your story, engage prospects to get them comfortable with your company, educate prospects to help them feel safe and actively move prospects along their buyer journey.
As part of your overall marketing strategy, as part of your campaign strategy and as part of your sales process, content answers questions that prospects have and allows them to get those answers without necessarily talking to someone at your company.
This is a major part of how people buy in 2023, and your company needs to support this new buyer behavior.
Rethink Your Content Strategy To Focus On Video
Content has changed – I’ve seen it in all businesses, including ours. People are less interested in whitepapers and e-books and more interested in videos.
It’s not surprising, as major corporations are starting streaming services. Salesforce launched a joint venture with Disney called Salesforce+ – check it out here.
Square 2 has a free streaming service called Square 2+.
The kind of content companies are creating is moving away from traditional videos and moving more toward the kind of content that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu create.
Consider educational series that go deeper and share more ways to help clients, produced case studies that highlight successes inside your customer base, more interactive office hours and ask-me-anything sessions that engage directly with prospects and customers.
Today, it’s easier than ever to shoot video, edit video and produce video into content that is sharable, engaging and useful in generating leads and business.
In addition to its effectiveness with your prospects, it’s also scalable. A single hour of video can be turned into a podcast, a video show, a live show that people can attend or a video blog article. This all can be used in the sales process, and that one hour of content can be cut up into snippets to be shared on social.
Finally, its authenticity and its ability to represent your brand makes video a highly effective corporate asset.
Double Down On Your Website
We all have one of the most powerful marketing and sales tools on the planet – our websites. Yes, your website is the most important sales and marketing tool you have, yet most people still underestimate its power and underinvest in its capabilities.
When you have to be extra careful about how and where you spend your marketing money, make sure your website gets the attention it deserves.
Remember, it tells your story, engages prospects, educates visitors and creates real sales opportunities for your business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It never rests, it never takes a vacation and it never questions what you’re doing.
But you have to use it correctly so that it produces the desired business outcomes.
Your website needs a highly compelling, emotional story right on the homepage. It has to grab visitors, pull them in and engage with them.
It needs highly educational content, including video content that people can watch to learn something new.
It needs to create an experience for your prospects that makes them say, “Wow, this company is different, and I’d like to work with them.”
The pages have to be created in a way that helps them rank for important keywords and phrases. The people visiting these pages have to want to click, read, watch and share the content. These strategically designed interactions signal to Google that this page is high value and, in turn, Google ranks the page.
The site needs to be highly optimized for mobile, delivering an amazing experience regardless of device.
The site needs to be secure and recognize new privacy rules and regulations. It needs to have a mix of gated and ungated content so that people who are not ready to share contact information get access to highly educational information just as much as those who are ready.
Every page needs to be designed, written and coded so that you know who’s landing on it, how they feel, what they want and, most importantly, what you want them to do on that page.
In 2023, your website can’t be just an online brochure. In 2023, you shouldn’t be just getting a new site out there.
In 2023, your website should be a strategic initiative that you invest heavily in to drive very specific business goals.
Reallocate List Purchase Funds Into Community Building
Over the past few years, more and more people have been looking for shortcuts and are willing to use the money to get those shortcuts.
Typically, these shortcuts involve buying lists and using purchased lists to get in front of potential prospects.
This practice is going to get harder and harder to execute. Third-party data, the data you buy from ZoomInfo or Seamless.ai, is going to be increasingly less effective. Privacy regulations, spam rules and technology changes are going to make this practice obsolete eventually.
We’re already seeing it today. Many of these lists have spam traps in them that use email addresses associated with monitoring services. Upon receiving one of your emails, they notify the authorities, which could mean you’re locked out of your email tool, your marketing automation tool, your entire Google account or even your internet service provider.
I’ve seen it happen more than once over the past couple of years.
Instead, take that money and use it to build a community of prospects.
People want to be part of a group that includes people like them. HubSpot recently launched Connect.com in an effort to build its community of HubSpot users, fans and friends.
While still in its early stages, it’s obvious their goal is to get people with a shared interest in HubSpot on a single platform.
Once there, they can educate, entertain, inform, share and promote their products without having to find these people through all the traditional marketing channels.
Instead of looking for them and paying to find them, people will come to HubSpot.
Community building is going to be a key marketing and sales tactic going into 2023 that will require you to start early and get ahead of your competitors. The company that does this best in your industry will own the community and the access.
Leverage Technology To Deliver Personalized One-To-One Campaigns
I mentioned earlier that campaigns and outreach need to be highly personalized. But crafting an individual campaign for each person on your list can be arduous.
This is where sales and marketing technology helps. Yes, the technology requires an investment, but this investment pays off when it comes to automation and enhanced capabilities to create one-to-one, highly personalized campaigns at scale.
Today, almost everything can be personalized.
We’re working on a project with a client to create personalized landing pages for people based on language preferences and their affiliation with a specific client partner.
Language, content and images all can be personalized. Even the offers in emails, landing pages and campaign messaging can be personalized based on almost any of your data.
As long as you have the data in your customer relationship management (CRM) system, this data can be used strategically in any or all of your campaign assets to make the campaign experience seem highly personalized or, as we say in the industry, one-to-one at scale.
But you need the tools to design, execute and then track campaigns like this. Tools like marketing automation, your CRM and personalization features allow you to collect personal information correctly and then leverage it inside your campaign assets.
Not convinced? Here are some facts:
- 72% of customers will only engage with personalized messaging (SmarterHQ)
- 80% of customers are more likely to buy from a company that provides a personalized experience (SlideShare)
- Customers are more than twice as likely to view personalized offers as important and 52% expect offers to always be personalized (Salesforce)
In 2023, this is going to be even more important. The better you can tailor the prospect’s experience and the more you personalize the message, offer and content in your marketing, the better your program is going to perform. This means more leads and more sales opportunities for the sales team.
Add An Outsourced Growth Agency To Your Team
In tough economic times, the trend to hire in-house and build your own teams will be reversed. In 2008, outsourcing marketing support was one of the only ways companies could continue to market their businesses in a way that made sense financially.
Over the past few years, the trend has been to hire. That has driven up salaries, made talent difficult to source and retain, and also stretched budgets beyond their limits.
When companies cut, the first place they cut is marketing. It’s a sad but true fact.
While that might mean you have to reduce your staff, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get a pass on your initiatives, metrics and expected performance.
Instead of hiring and bringing on more fixed costs with a fully burdened benefits load, consider working with an agency.
There are some strong and compelling value propositions associated with using an agency during a recession:
- They can get ramped up quickly: Instead of waiting months just to hire one or two people, the agency can bring a full team to work for you in in a matter of days. Some agencies can also provide a dedicated team that could potentially get months of work done in just a few weeks.
- Leverage variable costs from the operating budget: Instead of incurring new labor costs, you’re controlling the costs month over month by defining the scope of work for the agency and agreeing on priorities every month. If you do this well, you can execute a highly efficient program where your work gets done quickly and efficiently.
- Utilize economies of scale: The better agencies have a diverse set of resources, skills and talents that they can bring to your company. They can write, design, produce videos, build a website, handle strategy and craft your message. All these activities are key, and if they can be done by one agency, you can lean into that relationship to get preferred pricing and high-value services for reasonable rates.
- Take advantage of a system: The best agencies have systematized much of what they do for clients. Look for an agency that has a system. Find an agency that is willing to teach you their system and share with you the tools they use to execute the system. You will be paying them to learn their system, but you could potentially take the system in-house once you’re comfortable and run it on your own.
- You don’t know what you don’t know: Again, the best agencies should want to share their expertise with you. Use the agency to learn the latest techniques for getting found on Google, leveraging Instagram paid ads and producing video. Since they have these skills, your company gets access to it and over time will become much more comfortable with some of today’s newer tactics.
- Lean into the technology: Look for an agency that has technology services as part of their portfolio. We talked above about the importance of using it for personalization, campaign execution and analysis. The agency should be fluent in the technology of your business or be willing to help you select, install, configure and train you on the new technology your company needs.
All these opportunities make working with an agency a very attractive option in 2023, especially if the economy is suffering and your business objectives are to be frugal and control expenses.
Remember, the companies that market through a recession always emerge and grow faster than those that don’t. Consider this:
- In the recession of 1981-82, companies that continued to invest in marketing saw more growth than their competitors that cut or eliminated their marketing budgets – that growth was a staggering 256%. (ICAEW)
- In the 2008 recession, marketing expenditures dropped 13%. Yet statistics showed companies that continued to market through the recession had 3.5 times more brand visibility than those companies that cut their budgets. (ICAEW)
People in marketing have been spending money on all sorts of things over the past few years – many of them the wrong things. While no one wants or enjoys marketing through a recession, it’s time to return to a more reliable, scalable, predictable and economical approach to marketing in 2023 and beyond.
Square 2 — Building The Agency You’ll LOVE!