As we see the global markets shift from a long bull run to a recessionary period, you’ll probably notice a few of your clients struggling to get the traction they were once used to.
They may look directly at you and put you in charge of “more leads” and ultimately, to grow the business via new client acquisition.
And while that is certainly the main part of our job as marketers, it’s important to be aware of the various forces at play so you can work on the right things to make the necessary impact.
Here’s how I break down the problem to help our clients get the best possible results.
1. Macroeconomic Forces
Right now, the capital markets are down and it’s getting more expensive to borrow.
There’s concern about a looming recession in the coming months or years, and that means generally people are spending less money than they were during the long and prosperous bull run that led us here.
A lot of companies are seeing plateaus and in some cases, declines in sales. This means they pre-emptively conserve cash in case things get worse.
Consumers also spend less. And that makes our job harder.
We are directly impacted by the macro, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s good to be aware of the broad picture in times like these.
Metric to look for: GDP growth/decline, major market indexes like the S&P and DOW, federal interest rates, geopolitical activity.
2. Market Forces
The market consists of buyers and sellers in any given region or addressable area.
If the macro picture is negative, there are usually fewer people looking to buy right now. You can only sell to the people who want to buy, after all.
Furthermore, if there is a lot of competition, that smaller pool of buyers will have plenty of options to choose from, making it even more challenging.
The most customer-centric companies win in these environments.
All of this means everything companies do needs to be buttoned up. Complacent companies will be the first to get cut or replaced.
We’ll get into the particulars below.
Metric to look for: Who is the category leader and why are they most successful?
3. Category Demand
Demand for your clients’ category (i.e. CRMs, legal services, whatever else) is a major driver of a company’s success. It was almost impossible to lose money selling pickaxes during the gold rush in California.
I might love chocolate-covered pickles. I might open a chocolate pickles store. But if most people don’t like them and that’s what you sell, you’re in a tough place.
Sometimes, demand is static. People buy shampoo and dog food at pretty consistent rates.
But demand can also fluctuate due to a variety of circumstances.
Ice cream doesn’t sell too well in a Canadian winter. People don’t go on as many vacations to the Bahamas during hurricane season.
And when the macro conditions get tight, people scale down to the essentials. Demand is a real force at play, whether you and your clients recognize it or not.
Metric to look for: Total market size for the industry (local and global).
4. Brand and Product Awareness
As a marketer, making people in your target market aware of your product or service is your main job.
If people search on Google for a solution, your job is to make sure your client is plastered all over the search results.
If people buy your clients’ products impulsively from a Facebook ad, that’s where you need to show up.
If your clients’ target market spends a lot of time and money going to conferences, it’s a good sign you should help your clients show up in the best possible way.
People most closely associate a marketer’s job with driving awareness. As we’ll learn here, that’s just one of many influencing factors at play.
Metric to look for: Traffic/impressions/conversations.
5. Product Quality
When push comes to shove, how good are your clients’ products and services? When given two similar options, do people choose them or the competition? Why?
A good product alone won’t help a business grow. There are plenty of great products that died because of insufficient marketing—and plenty of mediocre products that sold due to good marketing.
But a bad product is almost impossible to sell when times get tighter—no matter how much awareness you build around it.
You could take over the entire Superbowl ad lineup and not sell a thing if the product doesn’t meet the specs of what people want.
Be as honest and objective as possible about the quality of the product in the eyes of the target market relative to the other options.
If it needs work, help the client improve it with market research. If the product is good, continue to market the heck out of it.
Metric to look for: Net Promoter Score surveys and/or customer interviews.
5. Messaging and Positioning
Your clients may have the best products. The market may love what they sell once they try it.
But if the way you position and describe the product isn’t right, people won’t see the benefit of making the purchase.
The product needs to speak to a particular audience in ways they care about. It needs to be sufficiently differentiated from the competition. We buy based on differences, after all.
If you’re getting attention on your offers, the product is competitive, and yet still people aren’t turning into leads and customers, it might be a messaging and positioning problem.
Metric to look for: Traffic to lead or purchase conversion rate.
6. Sales Process
Maybe the market forces are good. Your product is good. You’ve described it well enough to get people to raise their hands and show interest.
But for some reason, leads aren’t turning into customers.
Some questions to ask:
- What is the conversion rate on all qualified opportunities?
- Are your salespeople responding to leads quickly?
- Are they following up consistently to quiet leads?
- Do they reach out to past (dead/inactive/lost) leads?
- Do they ask the right questions when someone reaches out?
- Are they sharing the right information during the sales conversation?
- Do they know why deals were won or lost?
Marketing relies on a good sales process in order to succeed, and these are just a few questions to consider when evaluating the sales process.
It’s a lot easier to sell to a hungry market when you have a great product during exceptional macroeconomic conditions than it is to sell an undifferentiated, sub-standard product with a sales team who isn’t performing.
But we don’t always have the luxury of the perfect scenario.
As marketers, our job is to understand the landscape—both the macro and local factors—to sufficiently guide our clients toward the best possible outcomes.
Marketing is more than just broad awareness. If it were that easy, we’d all be rich.
The best consultants get out of the siloed view of marketing channels alone and get involved in—or at least contribute to—discussions related to the product, price, and sales activities.
It’s not enough to be a master technician at one channel or another. Everything is marketing.
We have to be critically aware that our role as marketers means taking a cold hard look at the desirability of the product, the macro trends shifting winds for or against us, and how we can help the sales team to close more opportunities.
At the end of the day, it’s about results. Financial business results. Don’t be scared to evaluate your clients’ businesses more holistically than through a typical marketing lens.
Sometimes, the answers are self-evident. But you won’t see it unless you look at the whole picture.
As an outsider, you’re best positioned to see things as they are.