Reassess your Marketing Strategy to Navigate Market Volatility

Matt Buckley By: Matt Buckley

With events across the world being canceled, businesses shifting to remote work, and the economy thrust into uncertainty, the world has changed at an unprecedented rate over the past two weeks. These changes have raised many questions for marketing leaders as they grapple with how to re-prioritize program spend, hiring plans and go-to-market strategies.

Working with our portfolio companies, we have identified fives strategies that can help you navigate these uncertain times.

1.Adapt your messaging to match the climate.

You will be hard-pressed to find anyone not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, your messaging should lead with empathy and highlight value for your customers and prospects. Acknowledge what your customers are going through, that they may not be ready (or capable) of buying today and that by helping them during this time they’ll be more likely to re-engage down the road.

Considerations:

  • Audit all existing drip campaigns and advertisements and pause or update any programs whose messages don’t match the current environment.
  • Help customers address their short-term priority of weathering the pandemic. For example: share ideas on managing their business through a crisis; connect them with their peer group to share learnings; distill how new government policies will impact their business and even create opportunities.
  • Utilize channels that allow you to demonstrate empathy. Instead of a press release or an email to your customers, share a video of your CEO discussing how your company is handling this crisis.
  • Revisit your value proposition to confirm it aligns with current pain points of your audience. For example, helping a business save or cut costs will resonate now but would have fallen flat a month ago.
  • If your sales team records their prospecting or discovery calls, consider implementing “film review” meetings where you can play these back and hear directly from the market what they are going through to quickly adapt messaging to match.
  • Run quick small scales tests in paid or email channels to determine which messages resonate most. As noted above, while your value prop will evolve, you should still apply a mid to long-term lens as driving shifts in value proposition across the organization takes substantial effort and shouldn’t be done lightly.

2.Prioritize helping and serving existing customers.

Double your efforts for the audience that matters most—your customers. We believe that a focus on customer-centricity is the correct course in the best of times, and the only possible way to endure these challenging times.

Considerations:

  • Do well by doing good. Launch product promotions or freemium offerings that help address short-term needs. As an example, Resman, a provider of property management software, offered their customers free SMS and texting capabilities so they can more easily communicate with their tenants during this time.
  • Many companies are finding prospecting to be less effective at this time, and your CS team could use the extra support right now. Re-allocate newfound sales capacity toward helping existing customers. Shifting these resources over to save at-risk accounts or to educate key accounts that are paying for but not actively using product features can serve your most valuable customers.
  • It’s also possible that no matter what, you will experience some churn. For these cohorts, pay particular attention to those that are “churning forever” (I.e. have gone out of business) and those that are “churning for now” (I.e. suffering from a short-term cash crunch but still see the value of the product). The latter group will be an important audience for reactivation campaigns 3-4 months from now.

3.Reposition your customer acquisition efforts.

Just weeks ago, you may have been focused on multiple segments of your current market, entering a new segment altogether or testing new acquisition channels. In this uncertain time, shift your efforts to focus squarely on the segments of your market most likely to buy your product.

Considerations:

  • For horizontal products, deprioritize verticals that are suffering the largest financial impact, such as hospitality or airlines, unless your product is directly solving the large near-term challenges facing those industries.
  • For vertical products, think about the underlying revenue streams within your customer base. If certain revenue streams are more impacted than others, deprioritize selling into those accounts. For example, some subset of your ICP may have a larger percentage of revenue coming from a “nice to have” service that will be harder hit, compared to customers offering strictly “need to have” services.
  • Consider prioritizing greenfield opportunities. The past few weeks have emphasized a need for software capable of managing business processes and facilitating remote work, but swapping out an existing software solution is likely too disruptive during this period.
  • If you offer a suite of products, prioritize the products that have a lower barrier to entry and/or offer a longer-term land and expand opportunity compared to those requiring larger up-front investments or implementation cycles.
  • Many companies are experiencing continued engagement at the top of the funnel from prospects looking for help navigating these unprecedented times, but are not in a position to buy in the near term. For this group, implement new nurturing programs and sales sequences that will accommodate a longer sales cycle.

4.Revisit budgets and reallocate discretionary program spend.

As event calendars change, buyer-behavior shifts and corporate goals evolve, reassess your budget accordingly.

Considerations:

  • Committed tradeshow and event spend likely isn’t coming back. Many events are postponed, and for those that are canceled, you are unlikely to recoup expenses from vendors. Account for that reality.
  • In lieu of in-person events, lean into virtual events and webinars as many prospects are working from home and may have additional capacity to attend a session. Paid social campaigns may also over-perform in this time as more people are at home and online, checking the news, or checking in on their own personal networks.
  • If you are cutting performance marketing spend, narrow the budget you have remaining so that it’s focused on high-intent keyword groups in the short-term and not driving demand at the top of the funnel that will be harder to convert.
  • Delay large investments in testing new channels, as the probability of seeing a false negative result in a channel that may in fact work is more likely in this climate.
  • As businesses focus more on the cost of capital and liquidity, ensure your program spend is focused on channels with payback periods no longer than 18 months, and ideally less.

5.Identify the leading indicators that can inform your (new) plan.

If your business is in tune with the economy and the health of the market you serve, you will be able to make better short-term budget decisions and react ahead of the competition.

In addition to the traditional funnel metrics you already measure today, focus on:

  • Keyword volume and a review of site directory traffic will provide insight into shifts in market demand, along with email open and response rates returning to normal.
  • Product usage data can provide insight into underlying economic trends. Pay close attention to the dynamics of metrics like order transaction volume, payments volume, or AP DPO as they will reflect the underlying health of your customers or your customers’ customers.
  • Granularly segment pipeline metrics to understand push rates, win rates, product mix in the pipeline, and forecast accuracy as early indicators that the sales engine may be coming back online.

Stay agile to stay ahead

This time of uncertainty is no doubt impacting the marketing plan you finished just a couple months ago. For some companies, that means looking for and capturing new offensive opportunities. For the majority, it means playing a little defense to stay in the game.

By relating to your customers, helping them be successful, prioritizing opportunistic segments and channels, and staying in tune with your company’s metrics and the health of the market, you will emerge from this climate strong, and ahead of your competition.


Matt Buckley
Matt is a Vice President at Mainsail Partners. He works with Mainsail’s portfolio companies to implement marketing and sales strategies to fuel growth.
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