5 B2B Marketing Tactics to Drive Pipeline in a Recession
Christine Polewarczyk, PathFactory's SVP Product Marketing and Research, shares five best practices to help you drive profitable growth during difficult economic conditions.
B2B marketers are working hard to execute effectively in the back half of 2022 and beginning their strategic planning for 2023, but they will have to work even harder and more efficiently than they are right now to thrive through the recession. Many are starting to notice economic headwinds that are slowing sales cycles and will potentially impact 2023 marketing budgets and require teams to do more with less. Focusing on the right B2B marketing strategy and tactics will be crucial at this time to deliver results and demonstrate marketing impact for any and all efforts and spend.
Below are five areas that B2B marketers should be focusing on right now to improve the performance of their B2B content and campaigns and ensure they support opportunity creation and deal acceleration.
1. Get crisp on your content strategy.
Audience-centric content strategy is literally the backbone of anything we do in B2B marketing, particularly in digital. Without it, we cannot be effective in driving engagement, purchasing decisions, or customer retention. Everything else we do and the other elements discussed here require a strong content foundation aligned to audience needs and interests.
- Examine your content inventory. You can’t create a high-performing content strategy or campaign without understanding what you have to work with. Most B2B marketing organizations have massive amounts of content waste with 65% of marketers reporting significant content waste issues in the 2022 Forrester State of B2B Content Study. To get a handle on the problem, marketers must be disciplined about keeping a documented content inventory that classifies content by key criteria like target audience, journey stage, format type, offering, industry, topic, geography and language. Content performance and consumption metrics should be part of the inventorying process as well.
- Conduct a content strategy gap analysis. Once you have a content inventory cataloged, analyze it to understand where you have the most egregious gaps in supporting critical scenarios. For example, you may realize you have a lot of early buyer journey stage content, but lack the assets required to drive further buyer journey progression (i.e., mid- and bottom- of-funnel content). Alternatively, you may realize your messaging within assets being used for a campaign or program are no longer relevant based on economic or industry changes. PathFactory content audit capabilities can help you understand what content performs across multiple dimensions influencing future assets. For example, you can see what topics or asset types get the longest read times when deployed via a specific channel, like paid social. This type of insight can help you plan and budget intelligently across channels.
- Update your content plans based on what you learn. After conducting your gap analysis, revisit your content investment plans. Don’t let shiny object syndrome dictate what content you create. Make sure your content plans are grounded in thoughtful decision-making and data. Did you find some high-performing blogs that could be repurposed as chapters in an e-book? Did you discover some topics that have been performing well across multiple assets and others that aren’t generating as much engagement? Adapt your plans based on what you’ve learned.
2. Re-examine and redefine lead nurture.
“Set it and forget it” email nurtures should be evaluated ASAP to make sure that they are still in line with current messaging, marketing programs and business priorities. Does current offer sequencing make sense? Do you have stale or under-performing content assets in your nurtures that should be removed or replaced? Are your subject lines and overall messaging on point based on current market factors? Now is the time to make sure your nurtures are working their hardest for you.
- Maximize the click with content binging. Traditional nurture that involves sending email with a new offer every week or two after an initial trigger event like a downloaded asset is old school. PathFactory content tracks allow B2B marketers to point nurture clickthroughs to “content tracks” that house collections of highly relevant, curated content that’s tailored to the audience. This approach encourages content bingeing and is proven to accelerate buyer journeys and purchasing decisions. And, because the MAP and PathFactory work better together, any content consumed in a “binge session” will automatically remove that content in a future email nurture drip and skip the audience to the next asset in the nurture they haven’t yet consumed.
- Refresh lead scoring logic. If your goals or tactic mix has shifted in any way over the course of the year, it’s also important to go back and revisit your lead scoring logic to make sure that you aren’t inadvertently under-valuing or over-valuing certain engagement types. It is generally a best practice for sales and marketing to evaluate lead scoring models together at least a couple of times a year for any necessary fine tuning. Evaluate scoring logic and thresholds based on current audience engagement and pipeline trends.
3. Crank up your website conversions.
Having the right content and lead scoring models isn’t going to be enough if you can’t trigger action and convert website traffic. B2B marketers need to remove the friction in finding information on their websites and make it easier for buyers to buy.
- Declutter the web experience. Particularly at the enterprise-level, websites are often overladen with navigation choices, links and content offers – to the point of being overwhelming. If your target audience enters your website through organic search and lands on a product page, for example, do they know where they should go from there? If they are looking for something specific, will they quickly get lost in a confusing experience instead of having a helpful one? Marketers have to make every click and visit count. As a first step, take a look at pages that attract high traffic from organic search but have high bounce rates, low pages per session, or poor conversion. Identify any opportunities to simplify and personalize the experience on those pages to increase their performance. Traffic is meaningless if it isn’t generating further action.
- Leverage content AI, automation and analytics. To increase website conversions and accelerate the buyer journey, B2B marketers need to take advantage of content personalization capabilities to create highly contextualized experiences. Manually selected next-best content recommendations on a web page often don’t perform well because they aren’t truly personalized. They were pre-programmed based on assumptions that a marketer made when building the page. First-party and third-party data about visitors, combined with AI and automation, now give marketers the content intelligence they need to deliver dynamic experiences that change based on what is known about the visitor, their engagement history, and what content is performing the best. These capabilities also encourage content binging and help you collect unknown visitor engagement data and carry that forward into their profile when the visitor becomes known.
4. Approach ABM holistically and enable scale.
While lead scoring is still an important tool in the marketer’s toolbox, qualifying an individual lead is no longer enough. Because B2B organizations make purchasing decisions in buying groups or committees, it’s critical for your content strategy, nurtures, and website experiences to focus on activity at the account level, not just the individual lead level. Doing so helps sales and marketing align and act on the most promising opportunities, instead of wasting time on individuals and accounts that don’t demonstrate real intent.
- Align sales and marketing on target accounts. Increasingly challenging market dynamics make it especially critical now for sales and marketing to work in tight alignment on account-based strategies. Sales and marketing teams need to validate and potentially re-prioritize what are the most important accounts to target in current market conditions. Knowing what accounts are active, how many and which people are active in that account, what content they’re consuming and actions they’re taking, and anonymous vs. known account activity are all critical inputs to making informed ABM decisions and capitalizing on opportunities. In this economy, every marketing and sales motion counts. Work together to make sure you’re focusing on the right accounts at the right time in a tightly orchestrated fashion.
- Create account-based content experiences. B2B buyers increasingly expect B2C like experiences that are tailored to them specifically. Yet marketers often struggle with the time and effort it takes to create customized ABM programs and content experiences. Focus on creating microsites or destination pages for your most important target accounts first with branding, messaging, content and calls-to-action that have been personalized. From there, consider solutions like PathFactory to deliver ABM personalization at scale using AI, automation and analytics.
5. Excel at enablement with better revenue intelligence
Revenue enablement is critical to ensuring that our B2B content and campaigns perform at their best. Too often, when a lead or opportunity is handed off from marketing to sales, deals stall or fall through because the seller isn’t enabled properly to carry through with cohesive messaging, activate the right content, or understand the account dynamics that should be informing the seller’s thinking and actions.
- Prioritize opportunities using revenue intelligence. To beat recessionary factors, B2B sales and marketing have to excel at identifying the right opportunities at the right time and accelerate those deals as much as possible. Identify and prioritize accounts with activity across multiple contacts. Even if they are comprised of a combination of known and unknown individuals, these accounts are demonstrating stronger buying intent than accounts showing activity from a single lead.
- Enable sales and marketing with content intelligence. It’s important to understand which accounts have activity by multiple contacts, but it’s equally important to understand what that activity is, what content is driving engagement, and then use those insights to better enable their collective journey and decision-making process. Consider using tools like PathFactory to surface known and anonymous account activity, provide sellers and marketers with data and insights to inform next-best actions to take on an account, and enable them to quickly create personalized content hubs for buying groups.
Interested in learning more?
Check out our PathFactory Use Cases Resource Center that outlines best practices for the five tactic areas outlined in this blog.