I am certainly not the only one who can say that the last couple of weeks have been among the most interesting of my career. While the origin of the expression “May you live in interesting times” is unknown (often attributed to the Chinese), there is agreement that it is considered more of a curse than a blessing! The majority of us are forced to work from home, everyone is preoccupied with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. Our friends and neighbors are losing jobs and watching their retirement accounts shrink. Certainly, these people would prefer the times to be a bit less interesting.
Hopefully, this is a short-term blip and we can get back to normal (at least some semblance of normal) in the not-too-distant future. Regardless of the big picture environment, which you and I can do little about, there is still a need to find prospects, nurture them, convert them to customers, and keep them happy so they buy more stuff (products or services) from us.
Amidst all the pressure and uncertainty, it is understandable to become stagnant – what we sailors refer to as the doldrums – when there is not enough wind to move the boat along. And to keep your revenue machine running, you will need to create your own wind, or turn on your motor. Basically, doing what is needed to come out of the uncertain times with momentum. The situation isn’t going to fix itself, and you and I need to plan then act (hopefully in that order) now. When in doubt, some action is almost always better than doing nothing.
With all this in mind, I’d like to suggest some things you can do to gain and maintain momentum, whether the uncertainty comes from COVID-19, a bad economy, a natural disaster, or any other outside force that can potentially disrupt your revenue flow.
I will cover these ideas in more detail at an upcoming Sales Experts Channel webinar, How to Grow Your B2B Business in Challenging Times but here are the basics to get you started.
Nine Business Growth Ideas
- Really Know Your Competitors. Start by identifying your top 3-5 competitors and study them until you can answer questions like:
- How are they different, better or worse than you?
- What are the key weaknesses you can exploit?
- In what ways is their messaging different or better than yours?
- How are they positioned vis a vis your company in terms of industry leadership?
- What marketing tactics can you emulate?
- Establish or Extend Thought Leadership. Thought leaders have higher close rates, shorter sales cycles, and generally, more profitable businesses. Take advantage of this slow period to determine exactly where your knowledge and company advantages can be best leveraged to attract the right types of buyers. The objective of any thought leadership exercise is to make you the logical (and perhaps only) choice for your product or service offerings.
- Refine Your Message. Once you’ve established your top-line messaging, it’s time to refine your existing top-line messaging to make sure it is fully aligned with the overall company strategy. Everything you say, regardless of medium, should support/reinforce the overarching messaging.
- Become a Content Factory. This is a good time to get those white papers, executive briefs, articles and case studies written. Make sure you have sufficient content to cover every stage of the buying process. There is no such thing as too much content, as long as it supports your company’s key messaging.
- Talk to your customers. Chances are, your customers are dealing with their own share of uncertainty and perhaps, a reduced workload. This presents an opportunity to get them on the phone and discover important information like:
- What are their key business drivers?
- What are their specific challenges and how are they solving them currently?
- What do they most like and dislike about your company, products and services?
- How do they prefer to buy (buyer’s journey) vs. how you are selling?
- Who are the key players that will impact future purchase decisions?
- What new opportunities exist where you can provide a solution?
- Optimize Your Website. In my 11 years helping clients, and years before that as an in-house marketing executive, I’ve never come across a website that couldn’t be improved. Fortunately, you can make a lot of progress in reasonable time. Read this for 10 Quick Fixes to Make Your Website Marketing More Effective.
- Be a Networking Machine. Regardless of your current level of networking activity, you need to ramp it up during periods of uncertainty. Now is the time to reach out to partners, industry contacts, prospects and customers. I do a lot of my networking through LinkedIn, utilizing the messaging feature to contact those I know and the InMail service for those I don’t know. And by the way, you want to come across as someone who is service-oriented (how can I help?), not sales- oriented (can I sell you something?).
- Launch a New Sales Model. When business is a bit slow (or a lot slow), you can step back, take a deep breath, and brainstorm about new go-to-market models or new revenue streams that can catapult your revenue past where it was before we entered the crisis. Can you add new channels or new verticals? Can you leverage your products to create a service, or vice versa? More about this in the upcoming webinar.
- Create New Profitable Partnerships. How about using the networking tactics I covered in strategy 7 to make deals with new partners? Chances are, your potential partner is equally uncertain about the future and the fact that you reached out at this time may create a memory that helps get your partnership off to a great start.
My past experience as a CMO in the software industry illustrates the power of a shared experience. A business partner had flown in on the evening of September 10, 2001 to discuss some joint technology and marketing initiatives. Our meeting was scheduled for 9 a.m. on that fateful date 9-01-01. Needless to say, we didn’t get a lot of work done on that day, but we had a shared experience neither of us will forget as we watched the aftermath of the attack on the television in our conference room. This bonding is not the only reason that we had a great working relationship from that point forward but it was certainly a contributing factor.
I hope these ideas will help guide your actions or perhaps spur additional areas for marketing and sales performance improvement and grow your B2B business in interesting times – or for that matter, good times. Don’t forget to join me on the upcoming webinar to hear more details.