What’s Your Strategic Marketing Plan in a Changing Economy?

Stephanie Woodcock

The economy is a big topic lately. How does a changing economy affect small businesses and the St. Louis construction industry?

What do we do in an unsettled economy?

Get more sales.

Now more than ever, sales and marketing teams needs to be aligned. Marketing’s job is to provide qualified leads for the sales team. Sales’ job is to nurture those leads and convert them into sales. Companies with better sales and marketing alignment are 67 percent better at closing sales.

In times of economic uncertainty, we need to go back to the basics. First, we need to know and keep our customer base. Second, we need to maximize the efforts of marketing and sales to increase that customer base. Increasing our market share helps offset any reduced spending that can occur with our regular clients. The two teams need to be aligned to do this. How do you develop an effective marketing strategy in a changing economy?

Build your brand and go back to the basics. Here’s how:

#1 – Fortify your existing customer base.

It costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. 

In a downturn, the market can get more competitive, as everyone scrambles for market share. The weakest competitor will get desperate and undercut with price.

Knowing your customers and building up those relationships increases brand loyalty.

Create a customer advisory board. What better way to gain that knowledge than through your existing customers?

Use your salespeople. They are the frontline and know the customer. That knowledge is gold and should be maximized by marketing. Marketing teams should be interviewing salespeople and developing plans together on tactics and strategies to increase leads and sales.

#2 – Know how your customer is reaching you.

Part of knowing your customer better is knowing how your customer found you. Referrals, associations, supplier/ vendors, online searches, LinkedIn, website leads, email marketing – all are ways for customers to find you. Any lead that comes into a company through a marketing channel is considered an inbound lead.

For B2B companies, inbound leads are on the rise. Why? Buyers are getting more educated. They prefer to research a company independently because information is so easily accessible.

Knowing how they found us helps us know what marketing channels to continue to develop. Creating a better customer journey increases the overall brand experience and loyalty.

#3 –Build Better Brand Position

Every company has a brand position. Your customers are looking at your website to find out what that is. A good marketing team provides the best first impression and a proper “brand position” at a glance.

Because of the rising trend of inbound leads, leading B2B companies increasingly respond to intensifying global competition by putting customer centricity and experience at the heart of their strategy.

For example, Monsanto (now Bayer) transformed itself with an online platform from a supplier of seed and crop protection products to a productivity partner, providing advice on subjects ranging from product selection to sowing and harvest timing.

The company saw the trend of more educated buyers and decided to meet that need with more information about the overall market, creating a stronger brand position of being customer driven.

In the same way, we should be thinking about our brand position. Are our marketing channels portraying our brand position and meeting the needs of our future customers? Marketing is not just for the company’s benefit. It’s for the customer’s benefit.

#4 – Develop Buyer Personas for Ideal Customers 

A buyer persona is a target customer profile that describes an ideal customer – what their days are like, the challenges they face and how they make decisions.

Knowing what ideal customers need to make decisions helps us craft the best customer journey.

In B2B companies, we know the customer has a unique journey. Relationships go deeper, are long-term and usually have recurring sales. They also involve more individuals. Customization is more widespread in B2B than B2C. The stakes are higher in B2B deals. One customer could make or break a company.

It’s sales’ and marketing’s responsibility to predict and craft that journey to be as seamless as possible.

#5 – Treat Your Company Like a Publication

Because buyers consume more knowledge, we need to keep feeding them information. That means ramping up our content marketing. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. Write! Content marketing generates three times more leads than outbound marketing, with LinkedIn being used by 96 percent of all B2B content marketers.

Many people within their own company tend to assume others know what they know. It’s known as the “Knowledge Curse.” Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. This presents a problem when we want to share our knowledge with our customers. We can’t readily recreate the simple problem and solution.

The key to communicating with customers is finding out what they still don’t know about us and giving them those answers. The audience is everything. Many companies can create content, but it may not be meeting the needs of their target audience.

Simple communication sounds easy, but simple is not easy.

The magic in marketing is when you can pave that information highway with effective, simple communication to correct the information imbalance that can occur between people inside and outside a company.

Simple communication and breaking the knowledge curse is the key to building relationships that will endure through a changing economy.

It’s a simple formula. Build your brand + Back to the Basics = Better Marketing.

No one knows what you know. Let’s change that and get creative.

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Too Creative, a St. Louis-based marketing and creative design firm for businesses in the building industry. Contact her at Stephanie@toocreativestl.com or (314) 753-1148.

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