The ebb and flow of the world’s economy is constantly challenging B2B organizations to adapt to the current state of the market and plan budgets accordingly. When consumer demand and sales revenue begin to decline, B2B organizations historically make the same ill-advised decision we see in B2C companies: severely slashing or even eliminating their branding and marketing investment entirely.
This knee-jerk reaction tends to address near-term financial challenges, but in turn creates an even bigger long-term problem: loss of market share, customers, and enterprise value. Additionally, this creates a large void in the market for opportunity-minded competitors who wisely choose to play the long game. These nimbler competitors benefit greatly by using these times as an opportunity to bolster their own B2B brand in the market.
B2B businesses must keep in mind that in order to grow your audience, you must expand your reach, even during challenging economic times. Reminding your existing client base of your strong industry presence and finding new prospects to meet your brand, learn about your product, and make buying decisions is key to maintaining your market presence and demand for quarters and years to come.
If revenue shortfalls are going to be a challenge, compromising the primary drivers of that revenue (your branding and marketing efforts) certainly isn’t the answer. A strong brand will generate enterprise value during times of economic uncertainty while a weak brand will compromise it. Ultimately, B2B buyers are looking to build relationships with brands that they’re proud to work with and that demonstrate long-term commitment to their clients.
Utilizing marketing costs to create effective messaging
An economic downturn offers a chance for businesses to reassess their messaging and positioning to insure they are still connecting with their audiences and their current needs. Spire works with many of its B2B clients through a proprietary positioning pyramid to guide them in their efforts to uniquely distinguish and differentiate their brand in the market. The pyramid is a funnel-like structure starting from the top, exploring concise messaging to introduce the business, and then working its way down to more specific levels of content that resonate with specific audiences.
The pyramid begins with introductory sections that are unwavering in establishing high-level positioning for your brand and differentiating attributes in your industry.
As the positioning pyramid evolves, opportunities exist to craft more targeted audience-specific messaging driven by the needs and areas of concern for those you are targeting. Ultimately, messaging is crafted to incorporate your brand’s enduring attributes, while tailoring to specific audiences and current needs.
Stay true to your core brand attributes, but as economic cycles shift, constantly evolve your message to your audience’s changing needs and areas of focus.
Figuring out buying behavior
B2B buying behavior is driven by Heuristics as detailed in LinkedIn’s excellent whitepaper, “Brand and Demand.” The Availability Heuristic explains why an audience may choose a service or brand simply because they are consistently seeing their messaging. Similarly, the Affect Heuristic explores how building a bond and trust between the consumer and a brand will lead to consumers using their emotions to choose you over your competitors.
In a slowing economy, truly understanding your market needs and who you’re selling to is essential. It’s no secret that most purchasing decisions, even in the B2B sector, are driven by predisposed emotions about your product or company. In fact, around 90% of purchasing decisions are made purely off the buyer’s emotion.
The best way to understand your buyers is by conducting market research and creating personas. This will give you a better understanding of how your audience reacts to downward trends in the economy and what influences their buying behavior.
Your creative team will then have a better understanding of the type of content needed to elicit a productive buying response. Understanding your target audience is the best way to ensure that your messaging is reaching not only your current audience, but any potential buyers, too.
Playing the long game pays off in the end
It’s no secret that a recession or a downturn in the economy causes an immediate reassessment of spending for B2B decision-makers and their consumers. But completely slashing the budget instead of allocating money into more long-term consumer investment campaigns is a large mistake that many B2B companies make.
A key to driving long-term growth and profit for your B2B business is to focus on expanding your reach and generating repeat exposure to your content. The increase in impressions will build brand preference, create long-term memories, and drive positive associations with your brand to influence purchasing decisions.
Highlighting why your product or service is unique and more valuable than your competition will drive unwavering brand loyalty, even during tough times. This will prevent your brand from becoming “out of sight and out of mind” and losing market share.
The emotional ties that a buyer makes with a brand creates brand loyalty that can stand the test of any economic downturn. Therefore, it is so important for companies to continue building relationships with their audience and continue investing in their market presence.
B2B businesses must balance brand awareness for short-term gains that will align with their long-term business goals. Thinking long term with marketing and creating the appropriate message on the relevant platform is the best way to allocate marketing funds during a recession. Cutting marketing spend altogether will cause businesses to lose future clients and fail to retain current clients.
Before you slam on the brakes with your branding and marketing investment, pause and consider the long-term impact of your decision. What is the correct decision to make during uncertain economic times? Stay in the game, inspire your clients, and seize opportunities to grow your brand awareness and revenue opportunities from your competitors that use times like these to only play defense. As Henry Ford once said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”
Ashley Morales is an account coordinator at Spire. To stay up to date on agency news, awards, and blog posts, subscribe to our Spire Wire newsletter.