It happened on February 5th: a sudden, somewhat unexpected market correction. The Dow Jones registered its worst one-day loss in history while experts and analysts tried to reassure investors. Then it happened again on the following Thursday. How are B2B business affected – if at all – by market fluctuations or by a financial crisis?
Of course, B2B companies are affected by the markets. I would argue that they are impacted even more than companies dealing directly with consumers (B2C), because the purchase process is more complex and time-consuming. Small bumps create a domino effect with worrying consequences.
I believe the best way to survive a crisis is to always keep improving, even when you feel like you’re already doing things well. Start preparing a ready-to-go campaign when business is good. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
“But it was just a correction!”
Yeah, sure. Employment and other indicators suggest we may still be doing fine for some time. This may not be it yet. As far as markets grow and the economy is doing well, nothing to worry about.
Well, I think this was a meaningful wake up call. You should plan ahead and be prepared. Whether we are heading towards a recession or not, now is always a good time to reconsider your strategy and start preparing contingency plans. A financial crisis can affect you. It can affect your clients. It can affect your prospects. What do you have that can help them survive the crisis? Be quick on the uptake!
I don’t mean putting money aside. I mean researching your industry, understanding your clients better, digging deeper in the data you have accumulated from your business. This will make your marketing efforts more efficient.
So, what’s to expect during a crisis?
There are about 5 million B2B companies in North America. We’re talking trillions of dollars going back and forth. Even that slight market correction from Monday was felt and sort of shocked us all from what seemed like an ever-optimistic market that keeps rising. We are not invincible, things will not always be so easy.
Without a plan, you will panic. You will cut your expenses and cross your fingers. During a crisis, your clients and yourself will very likely reallocate your budget across channels and reduce whatever goes into marketing. Then sales will plummet.
You must be prepared. Start building now the foundation of a strong business that can withstand hard financial times. This is how it’s done.
Use and understand the data you have
While you may be used to put moderate (or little) effort to close deals and achieve some success because things are doing so well nowadays, you will notice a sudden and disturbing lack of results during a financial crisis. Expenses are tightly controlled, clients are reluctant to buy from you, stocks stack up, overhead goes through the roof as you struggle to get some cash coming in.
Unfortunately, marketing often is the first thing to be let go because its results may not seem immediate on sales. Perhaps if your marketing and sales were better aligned, increasing your marketing budget during a crisis could lead to a surge in sales while everyone else is struggling.
This is where the data you have becomes precious. You need to understand the motivations and behaviors of your clients now, so you can help them survive the crisis later with your products or services.
With carefully planned and executed marketing strategies based on a thorough analysis, you can optimize your efforts and increase the dollar value of each sale.
Time to embrace digital media
Review your marketing strategy and the media you use to promote your business. This would be a right time to start leaving traditional media and print ads in favor of a digital strategy that values your expertise and actually reaches your potential clients.
The trend in B2B businesses shows they are gradually growing their online efforts. I’ve seen numbers out there suggesting this represents almost $5 billion in online marketing budget. Why? Because it works. It measurably works.
This would be the perfect opportunity, if you haven’t done so before, to rethink your marketing and advertising plans. Traditional media – such as print, TV, and radio – may not be justified anymore, considering the higher cost and lack of ability to measure the results.
You should opt for more efficient and proven ways that are available out there. Even – and especially – in a B2B environment. Because the funds you put towards advertising should be focused and precisely target your market or your niche to make sure nothing is wasted. So how do you become smarter about your marketing costs?
Be where your clients are looking for you
If you want to generate leads, you better be where your potential clients are looking for your company and your products. Especially during difficult financial times, when every single lead is worth gold.
We know that about 80% of the buying journey occurs before your leads ever interact with you. Behind the companies that might do business with you are people looking for more valuable information. This is even more true when their business isn’t going well.
Provide as much content and information as possible. Be there with relevant blogposts promoted on the right social platforms. It takes time to build a reputation – both online and in the real world. Buyers may be slow, but when they need you, they want you now! Speed sells.
So now, what should you talk about?
Share your knowledge
Enter content marketing. Once you know your clients better, after a thorough analysis of the data you have gathered on them, it’s time to talk to them. Give them the answers they are looking for, explain the benefits your business offers.
Establish your authority on a subject by publishing content on a regular basis. Become a reference and a valuable source of information they’ll want to keep handy.
Help buyers justify the expense to their bosses. Make them want to do business with you. Tell them how much time and money they will save with your solution. Let them know how it works exactly. Be the expert and speak their language. This is not a sales pitch. This is the basis of a future collaboration.
Being out there with the answers gives you more chance of landing a deal or, at the very least, generating leads. This proactive attitude can be a game-changer when clients are scarce and on a budget.
Be the lighthouse when times are dark
Respect the system you built as much as you can. Stick to it, measure the results, and adjust regularly. Tweak, retarget, rethink, improve constantly. But stick to a plan and trust the hard work that went into it, because there’s nothing worse than being disorganized in the midst chaos.
Remember you need to truly be of service to your business partners. You need to recognize their needs and understand their business. During a financial crisis, times are tough for them as well.
So the fact is that everyone is affected. B2B and B2C companies alike. But business will still be going on and you will want your share. This requires putting the efforts today.
“But David, this is just some general good advice, and not really about a market crash”.
Precisely! This is how you will make a difference. This is what you can do to go through a financial crisis mostly unharmed. You need to prepare now and start building while you have the time and resources.
Now, that’s a lot to think through, to analyze, to understand, and to plan. It is time-consuming. Not all companies have the luxury of a full-fledged marketing department to sort this through and make sales happen. Maye you could benefit from outsourcing your marketing to a team of experts to help you monitor and research your market, and then pick the right strategy that will enable your business to grow and prosper.
There is no way to avoid a financial crisis. What matters is how you prepare for it.