Businesses have been drawing their purse strings a little tighter due to the financial challenges caused by the Covid-19 lockdown. Following a contraction in GDP in the first quarter, a second quarter of decline will plunge the UK into an official recession.
Understandably, business decision-makers are nervous about their finances and marketing is often one of the first departments to be hit by budget cuts when times get tough. Marketing can often be viewed as a “nice to have” or creative department within the wider business, pursuing activities that don’t always relate directly to revenue.
However, the reality is that this could not be further from the truth. Marketing activity can play an instrumental role in revenue generation and customer retention.
Chief marketing officers (CMOs) are under pressure in the current environment. Worries about dwindling resources are coupled with an increased focus on generating leads, according to a recent survey commissioned by Dun & Bradstreet.
Covid-19 has changed the strategic approach of many marketing leaders surveyed, with 80% of those surveyed having to adjust their marketing plans and activities.
Marketers are finding themselves in a very different position. Instead of marketing budget being focused on activities and tactics to convince customers to buy, CMOs and their teams are seeing reduced demand and are having to be more creative about how to engage with prospects. Unless it’s digital transformation software or conferencing technology, buyers themselves are facing budget cuts and wider changes to business direction.
Customer needs have changed. They are operating from home and keeping things ticking over. New investments are not front of mind and hot deals near to close have been put on the backburner as businesses cope with other priorities. The most effective marketing teams have recognised this and are reallocating time and budget to where they can be most productive and impactful.
So, how can marketers help build pipeline when customers aren’t in a position to buy?
The sentiment of marketing content is shifting from being sales-driven to providing advice and support during challenging times. The focus is more about supporting clients to retain business and adopting a mentality of, “we’re all in this together”. Thought leadership content production among the CMOs we surveyed has gone up by 21% since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But building trust, establishing relationships and developing the right content is not easy. The best content development will be informed by data – by the conversations your sales team is having with customers and prospects to identify their pain-points and information about how they are performing as a business. That is where data comes in.
When making decisions about your budget it’s important to centre on the key challenges your customers are trying to solve.
The best way to keep your strategy aligned to changing customer needs is through data. Accurate and reliable data informs effective decisions and this can be sourced by third party providers, such as Dun & Bradstreet, and complemented by CRM data and information shared by sales teams.
Data enables effective budget allocation and allows areas of expenditure to be adjusted in response to evolving customer needs. In a changing and unprecedented environment, a data-focused strategy is more important than ever to help marketers to engage effectively with customers and prospects, building trust and relationships that will hopefully come to fruition when budget isn’t as scarce.
The future is, of course, unknown to some extent. But despite current budget cuts, marketers are still cautiously optimistic – over eight in ten (83%) of CMOs in our survey have been making changes to their marketing operations since the coronavirus outbreak and are preparing to bounce-back.
While many businesses may have put investment and procurement plans on hold for some services and products, the most effective marketers are using data to monitor and respond to the evolving customer needs and planning ahead to be in the best position in a post-Covid-19 era.
To deliver effective marketing on a low budget in such a transitory period requires close alignment between sales and marketing teams, underpinned by data and analytics. This is the only way businesses are going to be able to use their budget productively and respond quickly.
Data is already a priority for many CMOs. But despite the devasting impact of Covid-19, a crisis can also create opportunities. In an uncertain environment, data can provide valuable insight to help weather the storm and identify growth potential even in the most challenging of landscapes.
Richard Shore is solution sales leader at Dun & Bradstreet