As a go-to-market (GTM) leader, you’re likely in the middle of formulating next year’s budget, or already have an approved plan, but the truth is there may be no way to prepare for what is likely just the start of a continuous rollercoaster for the next several quarters.
Last year’s rallying cry of “growth at all costs,” fueled by cheap capital, has boomeranged into costly capital with inflation climbing and recession looming across most regions of the world. With this shift, investor expectations and company metrics have also changed: Efficiency, profitability, and customer acquisition cost (CAC) have replaced the race for revenue at any cost.
That said, we are at a unique point when both our customers and our teams are living, working, and building businesses and solutions in a digital-first world. Even in a downturn, both customer expectations and innovation requirements will continue to increase, so we can’t take our foot off the accelerator.
I’d like to share eight specific strategies that I recommend you consider to thrive in today’s volatile macro environment. Think of them as marketing and sales strategies for uncertain times.
Go all-in to co-create with your best customers
Schedule formal time to check in and understand the current state and needs of your customers, and then rally your resources to find opportunities to co-create. Get creative: tailor solutions; consider changes to pricing based on economic factors; and bring in partners and resources to focus on high priority customer use cases.
Lock arms with finance in your planning and reporting
Marketing and finance are not typically a pair of exec leaders you expect to see working side by side. Uncertain times provide the perfect opportunity to change that, as well as to build trust. Marketing and finance can work together through unstable markets to re-set metrics, craft financial goals, and prioritize investment areas to move the needle.
Learn to say “not now”
Prioritization and focus are everything. Because tension is likely high, an increased number of small and large requests will drop in your inbox. The asks you say “no” to are as important as those that you greenlight. Stay united with finance and leadership by re-emphasizing the current priorities and where you are spending time and investing resources to meet the most important needs.
The worst thing GTM leaders can do is wait for direction when markets become tight. Rather, take a proactive approach by bringing fresh ideas and suggesting strategy and priority changes to contribute to company targets. Strategy suggestions can include: offering customer or market segments to focus on for more profitable revenue generation; narrowing marketing channels for efficiency; forging or doubling down on GTM partnerships to offer essential capabilities to prospects and clients; and building a community comprised of your target customers to bring them closer. This is the time to lead.
To increase win rates, get marketing and sales on the same page to work together on specific accounts, as well as to develop cohesive GTM motions and plays that advance prospect opportunities. Now also is the time to close any gaps in buyer and account journeys across sales and marketing, starting with how you identify, engage, accelerate, and serve customer relationships and revenue.
Bring product developers and managers into customer conversations
The theme continues: Work side by side with key functions to lock in on customers. By understanding customer needs and challenges, marketing, sales, and product teams can work together to make small tweaks to products and solutions, even adding services by bringing in partners, to meet a critical need to help customers advance or navigate through uncertain times. In fact, some of the best products have been brought to market during downturns — continue this trend!
Review your ideal customer profile and narrow your segmentation
Now is the time to review your ideal customer/buyer profiles (that is, personas). Over time, it is easy to try to sell to every type of company in multiple markets and target all roles and functions. This is the time to home in to identify the highest opportunity and highest need markets, customer types, and accounts. Commit executive and specialty resources to sit down and work with the customers and prospects that represent the best opportunities.
Bring in contractors and freelancers to add expertise
Despite murky economic conditions, the talent gap is still real in most markets today. Leaders need to move fast. Identifying and bringing on specific talent and areas of expertise helps increase speed to market and agility.
It’s hard enough to develop, bring to market, and communicate the value of your products and solutions in booming, healthy markets. Mix in today’s economic uncertainty, market and investor whiplash, and geopolitical unrest, and everything gets hazy very fast. Focus, prioritization, and placing smart bets are all a big part of thriving in uncertain times. For GTM leaders, this means working with a sense of urgency and locking arms with your colleagues across the company.
Most importantly, now is the time to secure and expand relationships with existing customers — all while focusing on your prospects that represent the biggest opportunities. History shows that with this approach, the best customer and partner relationships will develop and lead to innovation that will help us thrive through this downturn, however long it lasts.