The market is a pressure cooker right now. 2023 has been a slow year for most if not one of the most challenging yet. And as we look towards the start of 2024, we're all wondering what the new year will hold for us.
Whatever happens, the next twelve to eighteen months will require some grit, resilience and more effort from a sales standpoint.
Now is NOT the time to pull back on sales and marketing investment—quite the opposite.
I've heard of so many businesses cutting back. Why? You must be mad.
This knee-jerk reaction for many when facing a downturn is to tighten their belts and slash budgets across the board. However, the old adage "you have to spend money to make money" couldn't be more relevant in today's dynamic market.
In any downturn, there is an opportunity. I launched my first agency off the back of the 2008 GFC. You just need to get your positioning, pricing and offer tight and in front of the right people, and your business can not only survive but thrive in challenging times.
Here are some considerations to help you do that.
#1. Visibility and positioning
During a downturn, maintaining your brand visibility is key. Brands that show growth, but only if what you're saying (and therefore offering) has a market fit.
It's easy to assume that a lack of inbound demand means that marketing efforts are futile. However, by continuing to push and create visibility, you can retain your existing client base and strengthen your brand for the future.
With platforms like LinkedIn, most users are lurkers. They're not engaging with your content - most don't. They might even be ignoring your messages or emails. But that doesn't mean you're not a fit for them and don't need you, but they're not ready to talk yet.
If you've taken the time to refine your proposition and market fit and tested it. Keep going to create visibility and awareness.
#2. Reaching new audiences
Sounds obvious? But are you really leveraging outbound sales tactics consistently? Most don't and fall back to the easy option of relying on referrals and inbound.
This will not help you maintain or grow; it's tough to control or predict.
When the market gets tough, you need to triple or even quadruple your outbound activity. Switch into new sectors and even geographic markets with less pressure and scale up your outreach.
You need to get LinkedIn and Email working for your business. Neither are dirty prospecting tools if you've applied the right strategy, and they can give you a significant scale that becomes more and more predictable and sustainable over time.
#3. Events and meet-ups
In a clinically digital world, nothing works better than a human connection. So why not take control of your chance to make the right connections and organise your own events?
They don't need to be overly expensive. They can be simple meet-ups, and often, attendees will pay to be there if you're putting on a breakfast or lunch. But one thing is a must - there must be value for them coming and spending their time. So, build a focus for the event that comes back to pain points in the industry that will draw the crowd.
However, not everyone can host their own events, and there is limited scale to the number you can host in a given timeframe. So, explore other options for events happening in the industry. Find places where your potential prospects will be, and you can spark a few conversations.
Surprisingly, that's not going to be the bigger top-tier events. Yes, prospects will be there, but your networking chances are low. You need to find smaller, more intimate events.
#4. Content marketing and thought leadership
We all know this. Creating valuable content that addresses your target audience's pain points and questions can position your business as an industry thought leader. By offering insights, solutions, and expert knowledge, you engage your current clients and attract new prospects.
But what seems hard for many to understand is that pointless content that doesn't link back to the pillars you solve in your business only takes you so far. And sometimes, it takes you to the point of being annoying.
The balance is about being valuable and human. It doesn't mean you have to post every single life event. Keep it professional and keep it meaningful. But above all, keep it consistent.
It takes months for you to build trust in the LinkedIn algorithm, and to have an impact on SEO takes even longer.
Find a rhythm that takes into account longer-form content with an evergreen effect and indexes more and more over time. Balance that with shorter, more snackable content types and play around with different media types.
Don't post more than once a day. No one needs to hear that much from you; otherwise, you're too noisy.
And once you've got your own channels in hand, leverage other channels where your target audience already exists. Be that as a guest on a podcast (yes, they still work), leverage LinkedIn groups and channels, and strive to become a guest writer.
#5. Get your sales ladder in place
You're in trouble if you don't have a sales ladder (and a way to promote it) nailed by now.
We all know by now your sales ladder is the best way to create an easier-to-buy offer. It speeds up the sales cycle, releases revenue faster, helps prospects become clients, and moves the dynamic towards account growth rather than net new sales. So get one in place if you haven't started already.
Let's wrap this up.
If you still have the urge to cut sales and marketing budgets, seriously, good luck to you. Plenty of your competitors out there will love to hear that, and they're probably tripling their efforts as you hesitate.
Instead, they should recognise the importance of investing in growing and maintaining your sales engine even more than usual during tough times. Why not find a new gear and 3x or 4x your efforts? What harm can it do? It's totally in your control.
These efforts will maintain your brand strength, help you reach new audiences and create scale and predictability in your pipeline.
Remember, a downturn is not just a period of economic hardship; it's also an opportunity to differentiate yourself, out-survive the competition, build stronger relationships with your clients, and lay the foundation for future success.
As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.