Ideas and insights > 4 ways to maintain your marketing momentum in lean times

4 ways to maintain your marketing momentum in lean times

Our thought leader:

Martha Marchesi
Martha Marchesi
CEO

Published on:

It’s that time of year again: Marketers’ thoughts are turning to next year’s budget (or at least they should!). And so the Q4 stress begins.

Though B2B companies typically allocate a smaller percentage of revenue to marketing than their B2C counterparts, expectations are just as high. In fact, according to a June 2023 LinkedIn study, 47% of B2B CMOs say they now have a more direct role in driving revenue and growth—and 40% report more pressure to prove ROI in less time.

That’s particularly stressful in the current landscape. A 2022 Gartner report found marketing budgets across the board have continued to fall short of pre-pandemic levels. And many B2B businesses are dealing with ongoing staff cuts and flat or shrinking budgets.

Faced with these challenges, the instinct for many B2B marketers is to pull back on spending. But pumping the brakes now could actually lead to a crash down the road. History offers a cautionary tale: During the last recession, brands that cut ad spending risked losing 15% of their revenue, while 60% of brands that increased their marketing spend saw a 17% increase in sales.

The simple truth is that marketing can’t be flipped on and off like a switch. It’s more like pedaling a bike. Even when you’ve gained momentum, you can’t afford to coast—or you risk slowing down or even sliding backward when you try to make it up the next hill.

Slowing marketing efforts is not the answer

Here are a few ways slowing your marketing efforts right now can hurt your business in the long run.

  • Lost sales: Taking your foot off the marketing gas pedal can drive down sales and revenue, so you have even less funding to work with next year—and more ground to make up in the future.
  • Outdated messaging: If you’re not investing in customer research—and evaluating whether the story you’re telling them reflects their wants and needs—you risk becoming irrelevant to the people you need to connect with most.
  • Reduced brand awareness and loyalty: Your customers and prospects face a barrage of marketing messages every day—and their memories are short. If you don’t keep your brand messaging sharp enough to cut through the clutter, they may forget about you.
  • Ceding space to the competition: Every prospect you lose, or customer you disconnect from, becomes a prime target for those competitors keeping their marketing dollars flowing.
  • Missing out on emerging opportunities: Once you’ve lost relevance and awareness, you’re at a distinct disadvantage for expanding into new markets, increasing your share of existing ones, and crafting messaging that helps you stand out from the competition.

So how can you make the most of your marketing dollars through the challenging year ahead?

Four ways to maintain momentum

Here are four ways to find quick wins with a lean marketing budget. They can help keep your business moving forward, even if your funding is at a standstill.

1. Reassess your relevance

Successful brands don’t stand still—they continually adapt and evolve as their industries and customers do. So start by understanding what your customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points are today.

Online surveys, social media polls, and your website analytics are all fast, cost-efficient ways to gain customer insights. You can further stretch your marketing dollars by focusing on your top two or three customer segments and creating simple personas or profiles for each one to help tailor your messaging appropriately.

2. Refresh your story

Once you understand what makes your most important customers tick, you should make sure your messaging is as meaningful as possible to them. Sometimes—especially if you haven’t made any changes in a long time—this might require a full rebrand. But if that’s not in the cards (or budget), prioritize the most critical pieces of your brand story.

Create (or update) your unique selling proposition. This is your company’s elevator pitch; make sure it highlights the most valuable benefits you offer your customers as clearly and concisely as possible.

Next, examine your brand foundations—your mission, vision, and values—to ensure they are authentic, appealing to your target customers, and supportive of your business goals.

Then, update your highest-profile marketing materials (for example, your website homepage and sales deck) to incorporate these elements of your brand story. That will enable you to get a fresh message out quickly without a big investment of time or resources.

3. Keep an eye on your competition

By monitoring your competitors’ moves, you can discover marketing channels they may be overlooking, get inspired by their successful strategies, and find new ways to differentiate your brand. This can seem like an overwhelming undertaking if your team is already stretched thin. But there are easy ways to gather valuable competitive intelligence that won’t break your budget or burn your people out.

  • Narrow your focus to your top three competitors (your sales team can be a big help in identifying them).
  • Regularly visit their websites and social media to analyze their messaging and promotions.
  • Scan industry publications and news to spot new campaigns or marketing trends.
  • Use competitor analysis tools like SEMrush and Similarweb. Even low-cost starter plans will provide useful data quickly.

4. Engage employees

Employees can be your most effective marketing partners. But because their plates are probably just as full as yours, try these simple ways to get them engaged:

  • Join forces with your company’s internal comms and HR teams to help everyone understand and embrace your updated brand story. Consider company-wide emails, intranet posts, Slack channel messages, and even a selfie video from your CMO.
  • Customers also trust real people more than advertising. So encourage employees to share their own stories about your company, products, and services through social posts, blogs, and videos.

When faced with a lean marketing budget, remember: Small dollars can have a big impact. Keep the marketing momentum going with smart, smaller-scale efforts that keep your customers connected, your sales numbers steady, and your brand in the spotlight.

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