Now is not the time to sit idle if you are in the business-to-business (B2B) space. If yesterday’s game was about revenue generation at all costs, then today’s is about being as aggressive as you can with cost-saving strategies.
And yes, this even applies to your marketing and sales operations.
Let’s face it. Every company is learning to do more with less. Here are seven great low-cost, high-impact initiatives that could transform your marketing department into a lean, efficient, and deadly effective organization.
1. Develop and monitor the performance of your channels.
The current economy dictates that companies divest their underperforming assets. For marketing managers, this means carefully evaluating the performance of your sales channels and partnerships. Since most businesses rely on a network of resellers, distributors, service partners, or retailers to sell to customers, it is important to know the relative performance of each of these channels.
Moreover, grasping your marketing and sales operations as a set of processes will enable you to evaluate efficiencies in the chain. Eliminating weak links can save your company significant amounts of cash.
Bottom line: Pruning nonproductive business relationships will improve the health of your organization and enable you to focus on your most profitable channels.
2. Retain and augment your most valued customers.
The cost of acquiring new customers in these choppy waters is very expensive. Sales cycles have increased, new buyers are apathetic, and marketing messages have diminishing impact. Initiatives focused on mining current relationships will prove to be very effective in these lean times. The cost of gaining incremental sales from a current relationship can often be less than that from a new customer.
Bottom line: Treat your current customers as assets that must be protected diligently during these times. Do whatever it takes to keep your current franchise of customers productive and well served.
3. Measure value creation for your customers.
The current macroeconomic downdraft has created a heightened sensitivity to value. Companies are carefully looking at all operations and their impact on profitability. Good marketing organizations have long understood this concept and have measured the performance of products or services in terms of quantifiable customer results. A good example is the claim Larry Ellison makes related to the millions of dollars he, or should I say Oracle products, saved his company.
Bottom line: Take the time to quantify the value your business has on other businesses.
4. Collaborate with customers.
Looking for new product ideas in a tough economic market? Look no further than your customer base. Product development geared for an existing customer base is a lot easier than trying to launch new products into an uncharted market. Making key customers influence the future of your business model or product pipeline is a great way to build trust. Create an environment of shared responsibility where there is a mutual interest to maintain the viability of the enterprise.
Bottom line: Customer apathy is death. Do whatever it takes to engage your customers in decisions that affect the future of your company’s product or service.
5. Get industry focused.
Industry specialization or domain expertise is a mandate under tight market conditions. Over the last few years, the growth of competition in every space required companies to develop specific capabilities for discrete industry segments. Developing deep expertise within a target market is more effective that attempting to do everything for every market.
Bottom line: Execute a marketing strategy that is an inch wide and a mile deep versus a mile wide and an inch deep.
6. Integrate customer contact points.
All customer contact points should be leveraged as a sale channel when companies face contracting opportunity pipelines. Support, delivery, and maintenance activities should be viewed as cross-selling or up-selling opportunities for your existing customer base.
This strategy places greater emphasis on your organization to have a cohesive view of the customer. And the only way to achieve this goal is to integrate information collected throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
Bottom line: Distribute the sales responsibility across the entire organization by integrating and distributing customer data.
7. Break out the measuring stick.
The emphasis on delivering tangible value requires marketing organizations to quantify results. Improving a relevant set of performance metrics for your customers should be the central objective of your business.
However, measuring results can be tricky business. After all, how do you prove what a solution does for your customers? You ask. Quite simply. Incentive-based compensation or pricing can signal very clearly to customers that your company is willing to enter a true partnership and share risk mutually.
Bottom line: Signing off on performance metric improvement may sound risky, but in these times it’s a risk that must be taken to survive today’s downdraft.
Jeffrey Graham, who usually writes this column, is taking a rare week off.