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Navigating Uncertain Waters. Crafting a Resilient Go-to-Market Strategy

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It’s impossible to ignore that the economy is trending downward. From mass layoffs to decreased VC funding, the signs are everywhere. No one wants to say that one word we’re all afraid of – the one that starts with “r” and ends with “ecession” – but it’s possible that it’s coming later in 2023.

But just because the economic outlook isn’t bright, it doesn’t mean that our lives have been put on pause. We still have to show up to work and figure out a way to sell in a climate that’s not as likely to buy.

It sounds like an impossible task; and while it’s not easy, it’s doable. Here’s how your go-to-market team can survive – and maybe even learn new ways to thrive– in an uncertain economic landscape.

1. A Changing Economy Calls for a Changed Strategy

When the economy isn’t doing great, your go-to-market strategy definitely has to change. Everything focuses back on the buzzword of “efficiency.” That can mean different things for different companies and how you run as a business.

For us, the most important part of the equation is booking demos. That’s our way to measure not just our success, but also whether we are making smart changes to our strategy.

In my experience, our way to change our strategy is cutting our spend on ads and investing instead in our sales team. Over the last few years, we’ve learned a lot more about what our most meaningful KPIs are and how we can get there most efficiently.

We cut our paid search budget because while those ads do a good job of bringing in free users, we can’t target as precisely as we want. We just have to hope that our ideal customer will find it and come to us. But we’re in a really crowded space, and that expense ultimately doesn’t tie back to the KPI that matters the most for us. So we recently took our paid search marketing budget and cut it by 75%. When the economy is in a slump, the temptation is to make that cut and hold the extra budget money. But instead, we took that budget and moved it into human capital, hiring an army of business development representatives (BDRs) and giving them intent data. We started building this machine around highly targeted warm outbound, and it’s worked really well for us.

Even before we started the warm outbound initiative with our new BDRs, just immediately after the cut, we produced the same number of demos. After 3 months investing in our warm outbound motion, we had our best demo month ever. And that was just this January, in the middle of an economic downturn. This strategy helped us to build a healthier business that can be more efficient and target the right customers.

2. Reinvest in Outbound

Talking to others in the B2B industry, everyone’s doing the same thing. When the economy gets to this stage, you have to figure out how to cut expenses and reinvest wisely. Sometimes that turns into cutting headcount, but ultimately, B2B companies need to look at their burn rate and see where they’re spending unwisely.

With this shift from marketing spend, I think other B2B companies really need to look into focusing on outbound. Even though we cut our ad budget by 75%, within a quarter we produced 20% more demos despite the economic climate. I think that’s a pretty encouraging story, and the potential for its success is not unique to us. We’re onto something interesting with warm outbound’s potential. It fits that buzzword of “efficiency,” which is what everyone’s looking for at this time.

3. Determine Your Most Important KPIs

Even when we’re not in a struggling economy, revenue is the most important KPI. But that can be hard to use to measure the progress of smaller changes you make to your GTM strategy. The KPI won’t be the same for everybody – for us, it’s demos, but for another B2B company it may be something else, like discovery calls or site visits.

To find your most important KPI at this time, look at what’s one degree away from revenue that’s not influenced just by sales, but by other parts of the business as well. Because then you can tie how these different arms of the GTM body influence the KPI. For example, my BDR team influences demos. But so do content marketing and product marketing managers. Even paid search influences demos.

You want to find the KPI closest to what you’re actually trying to influence that also has the broadest connection to the highest number of people in the GTM org. That way, everyone can set their sights on that and help push toward the common goal.

4. Motivate Your GTM Team with Realistic Goals

An economic downturn is discouraging – there’s no getting around that fact. But there are things that GTM leaders can do to keep their teams’ spirits up. A lot of that comes down to being transparent, but still setting challenging goals.

When coming up with goals and quotas, you need to recognize the climate you’re in. That may be easier said than done, but basically – be realistic. We knew in November and December that 2023 was going to be a tough year, but even so, there were a lot of companies that raised quotas significantly coming into this year.

It’s tough because you have to find a balance. You can’t just drop goals to nothing, because despite everything it’s still a business and things need to keep running. But you also shouldn’t set goals that are doomed to fail. Motivating people is putting a goal in front of them that is challenging, but that they can attain. You don’t want to set a goal that they can only meet at 20-30%.

5. Get the Whole Organization Involved

In the past, when money was cheap, companies would buy tools that didn’t fully fit their needs if there was one feature they loved. Now, B2B customers have to be more choosy with their purchases. So the company needs to adjust their mindset. Everybody in the company needs to become very customer-focused, even those in positions that aren’t customer-facing. The whole company needs to mobilize around the GTM organization since that’s ultimately what drives the business.

What does that look like? For us, it means that we’re doing so many more calls where we’ll bring in a representative from the product department or the VP of R&D. We’ve had some great wins from things like bringing in the legal department early on in the discussion when we knew there would be a potential issue the prospect would want addressed later in the opportunity. It’s something we did previously, too, but especially in this climate it’s important to keep in mind that if you can sense you’ll arrive at a roadblock, then mobilize as many of the troops as you can to help.

In an economic crisis you can either put your tail between your legs and just shut down, or you can figure out how to be smarter and more efficient. It’s not easy, but it’s an opportunity to figure out how you can be better as a business.

6. Focus on Data-Driven Decisions

As the economic landscape shifts, it’s crucial for your go-to-market team to rely on data-driven decisions more than ever before. In times of uncertainty, gut feelings and intuition might not be as effective as they usually are. Turn to your data analytics and insights to guide your strategy.

With the right data, you can identify trends, customer behaviors, and opportunities that might not be immediately apparent. Utilize business intelligence tools to gather and analyze data from various sources, such as customer interactions, website traffic, and market trends.

By studying this data, you can adjust your go-to-market strategy to better align with the changing needs and preferences of your target audience. This approach allows you to tailor your offerings, messaging, and outreach efforts to be more effective in a challenging economic environment.

6.1 Personalization through Data

One powerful aspect of data-driven decisions is the ability to personalize your interactions with customers and prospects. Utilizing customer relationship management (CRM) software, you can gather detailed information about individual leads and customers, including their preferences, pain points, and buying history.

This data enables you to craft personalized and relevant messages, offers, and solutions. Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, you can address the unique needs of each prospect. Personalization not only enhances the customer experience but also increases the likelihood of conversion and retention.

6.2 Adapting to Market Trends

Market trends can shift rapidly, especially during economic downturns. Staying attuned to these shifts is essential for your go-to-market strategy. Competitive analysis and monitoring industry trends can provide valuable insights into what your competitors are doing and how consumer behavior is evolving.

By staying ahead of these trends, you can make informed decisions about product development, pricing strategies, and marketing approaches. This proactive approach ensures that you’re not caught off guard by sudden changes in the market, allowing you to pivot quickly and maintain your competitive edge.

7. Embrace Agility and Innovation

In a turbulent economic landscape, the ability to adapt quickly is a key differentiator. Your go-to-market strategy should be designed with agility in mind. This means being open to experimentation, welcoming innovation, and having the flexibility to adjust your approach as needed.

Agile methodologies can be particularly useful during uncertain times. Instead of rigid, long-term plans, embrace shorter cycles of planning, execution, and evaluation. This approach allows you to react swiftly to changes in the market, customer feedback, and other variables.

Furthermore, encourage your team to think creatively and seek innovative solutions. This might involve exploring new distribution channels, developing unique value propositions, or even collaborating with partners to create joint offerings. Innovation can lead to differentiation, setting you apart from competitors and capturing the attention of your target audience.

7.1 Foster Cross-Functional Collaboration

Agility and innovation are best achieved through collaboration across different departments within your organization. Encourage cross-functional teams composed of individuals from marketing, sales, product development, and customer service. This diversity of perspectives can lead to fresh ideas and comprehensive solutions.

By breaking down silos and promoting open communication, you can create an environment where everyone contributes to the success of the go-to-market strategy. Cross-functional collaboration also enables faster decision-making and smoother execution, both of which are crucial during times of economic uncertainty.

8. Maintain a Customer-Centric Approach

Amid economic challenges, it’s important to remember that your customers are at the heart of your go-to-market strategy. Focusing on their needs, pain points, and aspirations can guide your decision-making and ensure that you provide value in every interaction.

Customer journey mapping is a valuable tool in maintaining a customer-centric approach. By visualizing the steps your customers take when interacting with your brand, you can identify opportunities for improvement and areas where their experience could be enhanced.

Additionally, actively seek feedback from your customers. Their insights can provide valuable information about their changing preferences, challenges, and expectations. Use surveys, customer interviews, and social media listening to gather feedback and adjust your strategy accordingly.

8.1 Prioritize Customer Retention

In uncertain economic times, customer retention becomes even more critical. It’s often more cost-effective to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones. Implement strategies to nurture and strengthen your relationships with current customers.

Consider offering loyalty programs, personalized recommendations, and exceptional customer support. By demonstrating that you value their business, you can enhance customer loyalty and increase the likelihood of repeat purchases and long-term partnerships.

9. Conclusion

Thriving in an uncertain economic landscape requires a combination of strategic planning, data-driven decision-making, agility, and a deep commitment to customer satisfaction. By adapting your go-to-market strategy to the changing environment, you can not only weather economic challenges but also position your business for growth and success.

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