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Recession-Proofing Your B2B Business: 5 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in a Downturn

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March 22, 2023

4 mins read

Tips to surviving and thriving in an economic downturn

Recession-Proofing Your B2B Business: 5 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in a Downturn

Like it or not, economic recessions are part of the normal business cycle, so it’s important to have a plan in place to navigate them. “Doing more with less” is a popular catch-phrase when recessions arrive, but it’s not exactly a detailed action plan. 

Recession-proofing your business requires you to focus on retaining existing customers, preserving revenues, and making strategic investments in demand generation. Technology tools are part of any recession-proofing solution because they provide data and analysis to fuel your customer engagement, decision-making, and revenue generation efforts. Here are five specific suggestions for sales and marketing professionals looking to “recession-proof” their organizations: 

1. Excel at understanding customer needs 

The more you understand what your customers want from you (spoiler alert: it’s value that meets their needs, not yours), the more you can deepen and expand your revenue-generating relationships. The 80-20 rule (or Pareto Principle) says that most of your revenue comes from about 20% of your existing customers, so focus your energies there rather than on (expensively) chasing net-new prospects. 

When customers and accounts visit your website, for example, make sure you can identify the areas of interest they focus on, so you can follow up with relevant, personalized messaging. If those visitors are from your target accounts, be able to identify each member of the target account’s buying committee/group so you can connect each visit to a larger account context. You need to develop the capacity to “read and respond to” digital intent signals customers (and accounts) give off that connect to purchasing decisions. Why? Because you want to spend your limited time and budget on people and accounts with the highest propensity to buy your offerings.

Having access to these customer/account intent signals vastly improves your analytics, segmentation, and personalization efforts, leading to better engagement and revenues.

2. Expand revenues with existing customers 

It takes a lot more time, money and effort to acquire net new customers than to sell to existing ones. According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of landing a new customer or account is only 5% to 20%, while selling to an existing customer/account has a success rate of 60% to 70%. Existing customers already know your company, and are more open to upsell and cross-sell approaches.

Invest in taking care of your existing accounts. Reach out to them to ensure they’re still satisfied and not having challenges. If they are, offer solutions that reinforce their decision to buy from you. Instead of investing in building brand awareness, you can offer existing accounts/customers special promotions, loyalty programs, and more. 

3. Deploy more email personalization 

Especially during a recession, growing your email contact lists and reaching out to new accounts is a good idea. But how you reach out is massively important – you should NEVER be sending out spam, which simply signals to recipients that you don’t understand their needs and don’t want to. Improving email personalization via the use of automated tools is the way to go. You’re more likely to receive a favorable response and build meaningful connections with your target accounts when you have the data-enabled capacity to personalize messaging.

4. Create and deploy customer success/case studies 

You can’t afford to make big marketing bets that lose. Spending big on an expensive TV commercial, for instance, and seeing it generate less money than it costs, is the exact opposite of targeted investment. Customer case studies or customer success stories do a great job describing how your value proposition works in the real-world with real customers. 

This type of customer success content enables you to showcase WHY customers invest in your product and gain value. Quotes from loyal customers who have experienced success with your product carry a lot of weight (what marketers refer to as “social proof”) and can be the turning point for prospects who are in the consideration phase. Talk to your customer success manager about which customers would be willing to help you craft this great content.

5. Deploy automation for scalable, efficient engagement

Automating and orchestrating as much of your customer engagement via marketing automation is a clear win-win for your cost control and your customer personalization efforts. Getting better at automating and orchestrating campaigns and marketing outreach means mapping out the various steps of your target buyer’s journey. Once you have a map, carefully consider where automation/automated orchestration can help at each step or touchpoint of that buying journey (of course, human interactions have their place too). 

The bottom line? 

Whether we’re in a recession or not, meeting the dynamic needs of your customers should be your singular focus for (1) creating mutual value based on relationships and (2) recession-proofing your B2B business. By prioritizing the best possible customer experience, you’ll be putting your organization in a position to survive and thrive during any recession. 

Hungry for more? Watch as Jon Miller talks about how to make sure your investments are worth it – especially during an economic downturn.

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Kathy Capeluto

Content Marketer, Demandbase

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