How are your sales today? Down a little bit? Taking longer to close? Pipeline a little less robust? Hearning a lot more excuses?
How are you responding? Cut budgets? Attending less shows? Cutting expenses across the board?
Sound like your company? Sounds like a lot of companies. Welcome to a recesion…
But, underlying this, there are some fundamental changes happening in markets. The traditional lead generation and sales activities have subtly been dimishing in their effectiveness. Tradeshow attendance is slowing (even before the recession), webinars attendance isn’t as easy to generate, email marketing response rates seem to be low, etc. I had a conversation with a friend who told me about a company that found a way to double sales; they doubled the amount of SPAM they sent out. This is definitely one way to get attention, though I wouldn’t recommend it.
The reality is that the model for lead generation is changing as dramatically as the buying model. Buyers are inudated with solicitations from all channels. They are tuning out the noise because it is so overwhelming. It costs nothing (or close to nothing) to distribute SPAM email, facebook updates, linkedin updates, tweets, etc. so the volume is dramtically increased. Now add in the fact that the traditional activities has been diminishing; tradeshows, conferences, press releases, advertising, telemarketing, direct mail, etc.; coupled with the recession; and there should be no surprise that doing the same activities won’t get suddenly better results.
So, what do you do?
A. Play Defense- Hunker down, focus on your existing customers, and hang on – not a bad strategy if your sales aren’t too far off and you are profitable. It won’t necessarily generate revenue growth and i potentially opens the door for your competitors time to find an advantage that does lead to their growth. Also, at some point, you may find that the market has evolved and you have to play catch-up.
B. Go Kamikaze – You throw lots of things against the wall and see what sticks. You figure that the competitors are down so let’s take advantage of the fact. Not efficient, but should generate more opportunities. If some medicine is good, more must be better…
C. Change the Rules – take a step back and look at the changes in the market, buyers, and trends to see where you can selectively target for opportunity. Playing offense, but playing smart offense looking for a way to score effectively and efficiently. May require changes to your target markets, offerings, client communication strategies, lead generation activities, and sales support activities.
Ok, so you say Option C sounds good, but how do you all of a suddent figure out how to change direction and effectively approach the market? Short answer is find someone (internal or external) who knows strategic marketing, the new marketing techniques, and how to integrate online marketing. This person must not be a “talking head” consultant, but someone who can get there hands dirty. This person must be able to effectively manage multi-channel lead generation, build metrics for their activities, and fully integrate the “new” with the “old”. This person must be able to understand your market, your organization, and your culture. They also must come in with a plan that makes sense to you with clear milestones, investment requirements, and timelines.
At the end of the day, as CEO, you may not understand the how to apply the new marketing techniques and technologies (facebook, twitter, online communities, blogs, web 2.o collaboration tools, CRM 2.0, multi-channel marketing). You may not need to, but you at least need someone who can develop strategy & can communicate the business fundamentals behind the new techniques and tools if you want to “change the rules”.