5 Strategies for B2B Digital Marketing During Recession
Should B2B companies cut digital marketing during a recession? Are efforts to stimulate demand a waste of time without a strong consumer base? Or, is it an opportunity to grow? These are the questions that are haunting many B2B marketers (myself included), and for both your gain and my own, are important to hash out.
What does a recession look like?
We’ve been hearing the “r-word” a lot lately. By definition (two consecutive quarters of negative GDP), the United States entered a recession summer of 2022. While employment globally is strong, which is inconsistent with a recession, the world is struggling with rising inflation leading to a more frugal market.
Recession looks different from industry to industry and consumer to consumer. For some, it may even be a positive. For example, resellers of used equipment and vehicles typically benefit from economic downturns and even the psychological notion that “times are tough”. On the flip side, consumer or retail-focused industries, and the manufacturers that support those industries, suffer the most.
With Top Floor’s primary clientele being manufacturers, I want to touch on that more closely and how you can be smart about your marketing efforts.
Should manufacturers be marketing during a recession?
The short answer? Yes, you should absolutely still be doing some form of marketing during a recession. Unfortunately, it’s one of the first budgets to get cut, which is a mistake. I promise that as a marketer myself I am not just biased. Businesses that maintain or increase their marketing spending will see growth. Why? This is an opportunity to stand out from the competition, as customers are going to be all the more selective in their buying decisions. It’s also likely that your competitors will decrease their marketing spending, giving you an opportunity to gain market share at a lower cost for things like paid advertising as there will be fewer bidders.
However, you need to be strategic and keep your customer’s pain points in mind.
Understand that your customer will most likely be:
- More frugal and cost-efficient
- More likely to closely evaluate their options
- Will likely need support proving ROI on investments to their CFO
Remember that half the battle is psychological. Both B2B and B2C markets will change their buying behavior based on the sensation that we’ve fallen on hard times, whether they feel directly impacted or not. So, as you enter your marketing strategy make it a point to always keep your customers in mind and how they will receive your marketing messages and sales pushes. At the end of the day, the world won’t completely stop and needs will still need to be met, but the process of making a high-dollar decision will likely be longer and more well-thought-out.
So, let’s get into the 5 recommendations I have for manufacturers and B2B marketing during a recession.
1. Focus on Relational vs Transactional Gains
It’s true that during a recession, it will be more challenging to deliver short-term gains that happen at the bottom of the funnel. Shift your focus instead to top-of-funnel tactics to demonstrate your thought leadership and generate awareness. Some examples are webinars, blog posts, SEO, reports/whitepapers, and even social proof (more on that later). Once buyers are ready to convert, you will be the one who is top of mind. Again, your competitors are not going to be doing this, so this can be a huge advantage for you as your audience gets closer to converting.
A tactic that I like to use for our own marketing at Top Floor, is to look at what is already working well. If you have a large supply of blog content (I hope you do, if not this is somewhere to start), look at your website traffic to these pages. We often see clients that have a large blog inventory will see some star performers, sometimes even generating more traffic than the homepage. This is because they are attracting a larger audience, users who don’t know them yet. This is a huge nurturing opportunity. Some ideas:
- Add CTAs to high-traffic blog content (i.e. webinar signups, digital content downloads, etc.) to turn visitors into leads.
- Apply this to your paid remarketing efforts, and stay in front of these users with additional content that aligns with the original post they looked at.
2. Nurture Your Existing Customer Base
Ok, so despite the importance of audience and awareness building, you’re still looking for short-term wins. Your existing customer list is a perfect place to start. What value-added offers can you give them? Discounted repairs or maintenance for being a loyal customer? Are there opportunities to expand your service offerings? Are there customers that you once had, who have left their role at the company you formerly supplied for, that you can re-engage? Customers that leave their roles are most likely going to move to a similar industry or role at a new company, which opens a door for a new account.
Where can marketing step in? Focus on content that will engage your existing house list, whether those are prospects already in your pipeline or current customers. Some examples might be a virtual event or blog that covers a topic related to one of your service offerings with an automated campaign. You can send it to your full list, or even target specific companies you work with that might not use those services (yet).
3. Appeal to Anxious Buyers
The third tip goes hand in hand with focusing on relationships rather than transactional gains. It’s likely that your customers are going to be more risk-averse, and will need more support getting buy-in from upper management/C-Suite. Make sure to be prepared for that with as many sales support tools as possible.
Some sales support examples would be case studies, customer reviews/references, and awards. Make sure these are clearly and obviously located on your website. Another idea is to leverage your current customers with your content development. For example, consider co-hosting an event with one of your customers. This is an excellent form of social proof that shows you are a reliable, loyal vendor and may increase your chances of getting some screen time with your customer’s network (their suppliers, vendors, etc.)
4. Expand Verticals
Unfortunately, manufacturers may be hit harder than other industries during a recession, especially if you or your customers manufacture consumer goods. It might be time to evaluate other industries that don’t get hit as hard during a recession. For example, defense contracting, medical and healthcare, food services, and logistics. This is sort of a “last resort”, but is an option if you’re seeking new opportunities.
You can fairly quickly and easily develop a strategy without reinventing the wheel or changing your entire website to appeal to a new vertical. First, make sure there is a market need for this audience to use or buy your product. Are their competitors in this space? Is there keyword search volume to back up whether there’s a demand for your product in a different industry? Test it out with a dedicated landing page and some paid advertising with Google or LinkedIn to see where it lands.
5. Review Your Ads and Landing Pages
As I mentioned earlier, a recession lends itself to getting more bang for your buck as the competitive landscape will change. When competitors decide to pull back on their own paid advertising, it opens up a window for you to increase your market share at a lower cost. Therefore, I strongly suggest you maintain or begin paid advertising if you haven’t already.
Evaluate the targeting, ad copy, and landing pages you are driving traffic to. Landing page relevance is key here. You don’t want to simply send all paid traffic to your homepage. Instead, make sure you have targeted campaigns (whether that targeting is based on keywords or audience), and a dedicated landing page that tightly aligns with the targeting you’ve set. Start by looking at your campaigns and your keywords (if you’re using Google Ads), and which ones have the poorest conversion rate despite strong click-through rates. You are either generating traffic for the wrong person or, more likely, you are not appealing to them specifically when they arrive at your website.
Time will unveil what the year ahead will look like. Economic downturns are inevitable, and they don’t have to be as dire as we make them out to be. If you are strategic and define marketing as an investment rather than a cost, you should take this as an opportunity to get ahead. Research has shown companies that maintain or even increase their marketing efforts will spring ahead quickly, and the ones that put marketing aside will fall behind.
Whether you’re just getting started or looking for guidance evaluating your B2B digital marketing approach, Top Floor is here to help. Let’s talk about what lies ahead.