how to stimualte demand generation for your brand during an economic downtown

Over the last few years, several environmental and external factors have affected the sales pipeline. Companies are seeing prolonged sales cycles, with consumers spending more time exploring and evaluating their purchase journey. Between a global pandemic, inflation, recessions, and more, it makes sense that people are stopping to re-evaluate how they spend their hard-earned money. But we can also see how this trend can make companies hit that big, red “panic!” button.

If you’re noticing that your pipeline seems to decrease month over month, you’re not alone. In fact, 50% of companies have seen a drop in existing and potential revenue. Lower lead generation doesn’t mean that your efforts aren’t working, and it definitely doesn’t mean you should slash your marketing budget.

Prospects ghosting you? Pipeline dry? Sales cycle taking longer? Never fear-this is actually a GREAT time for you! Click To Tweet

It means exactly the opposite. According to the second annual B2B Marketing Survey from Appetite Creative Solutions, a creative technology company, B2B marketing is considered an important new business driver that helps deliver sales and e-commerce success and creates a strong brand identity. As your competitors pull back to save marketing dollars, acting on fear of an impending recession, you have the perfect opportunity to increase your market share and become the go-to brand in your industry. 

Additionally, 46% of sales professionals say most of their time is spent lead prospecting, and prospects now need 27 touch points before making a purchase, up from 17 in 2019. The brands with the most visibility can make touchpoints more quickly, closing sales and owning the highest share of the market. 

Not quite sold yet? Look no further than yours truly, Zen Media. 

We were founded in 2008, during the height of one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history. Unlike other companies that shut down or scaled back their efforts and goals, Zen was just getting started. We grew 400% during that first year. 

So what’s the secret to confidently growing in economic uncertainty? Doubling down on what you know works: building trust, meeting your consumers where they are, and getting comfortable playing the long game when it comes to customer conversions. 

Related reading: How to Win at Marketing During a Recession

Continue Building Trust

We’ve established that economic insecurity makes buyers warier—hence the increase in necessary touchpoints. But what exactly is the benefit of all those touchpoints? The ability to build trust. Actually, one study found that 88% of B2B buyers say they prioritize trustworthiness and will only buy from a salesperson they trust. Companies can build trust by becoming more visible to their consumers. Increasing visibility by creating and maintaining strong brand identity across various channels will naturally increase your company’s credibility, therefore building authority in your industry. And when buyers believe you are an authority, they spend their money with you.  

Strong marketing helps companies build trust and establish connections with their audience. When you show potential consumers your products and services, the impact they make, and the experience existing customers have with you, you build trust. Additionally, positioning executives in your company as thought leaders in your industry or partnering with respected influencers to promote your brand builds credibility in the eyes of your consumers. 

Another way for B2B companies to build trust with consumers is to insist on better, more secure data. This could mean updating CRM or other data-management tools to increase security, being more thoughtful about what data your company collects and having transparency about where that data is used, or even simply creating content that actually matters to your consumer. 

Related reading: Here’s Where to Focus Your Marketing Efforts According to Experts

Invest in Digital 

With B2B consumers doing more research than ever before converting, companies need to be prepared with easily accessible, valuable information. According to TrustRadius, the average tech buyer consults 6.9 information sources before making a purchase—the top three sources being product demos, vendor websites, and user reviews. And when it comes to trustworthiness? B2B buyers find product demos, user reviews, and free trials as the most reliable.

What’s the common thread between those resources? You guessed it—they are all digital. With the pandemic changing the scope of in-person work forever, the online experience is paramount. The ability to give customers easily understandable virtual content is what will drive sales. This can be done through digital product walkthroughs, live chat tools, and engaging B2B content that keeps the customer thinking of your product even after they’ve closed their browser. 

Related Post: How COVID-19 Has Changed the B2B Buyer Behavior

Get Comfortable in the Dark 

Still feeling overwhelmed by those 27 touchpoints? Remember that many of those touchpoints happen where you can’t see them: in the dark–dark social, that is. In short, dark social is where private conversations are held—Facebook messenger, Slack conversations, and e-mail are all examples. It can be nerve-wracking to invest in marketing and not see the needle move immediately, but rest assured that dark social is likely doing some heavy lifting unbeknownst to you. A B2B buyer interested in your service may direct message a friend in the industry who has used it. That conversation could springboard to a discussion in a team-wide Slack channel. And that Slack channel conversation could become a presentation to a company executive to consider the expenditure. But your data won’t show all that. Your data is in the dark—and that’s okay. If you are doing the work of marketing, building trust, and investing in digital channels, you can be certain that somewhere on dark social, people are talking about your products or services and making behind-the-scenes decisions. 

Related reading: Discord: What Is It and How Can You Use It For Marketing?

Consumer behavior changes, especially lengthening sales cycles, can scare companies into halting marketing efforts. But all that will do is halt sales, too. Remember that you’re in it for the long haul. Like an investor pulling their money from the stock market at the slightest hint of a drop, pulling marketing dollars away from your budget will only ensure loss for your company rather than prevent it. 

With our team of marketing and PR experts, Zen Media understands the frustrations, concerns, and challenges companies face during economic downturns. Need help making your brand a frontrunner? Reach out.

consistency is key when it comes to your brand

What do Ariana Grande’s signature ponytail, the Geico Gecko, and the McDonald’s arches all have in common? Each could be recognized a mile away by people spanning generations, continents, and lifestyles. And that, dear reader, is brand consistency. (Did you see what we did there, Bridgerton fans?)

Ariana Grande started wearing her signature high ponytail in 2014 when her musical career was taking off. Geico began using the Gecko in 1999 after learning, through market research, that the company’s name was often mispronounced as “gecko.” A part of the original building’s design, the Golden Arches were introduced in 1953 and officially incorporated into the brand’s logo in 1962.

These icons have permeated our culture in such a way that, even without the name in front of them, a person could likely name the brand each belongs to. That kind of top-of-mind awareness allows a brand to develop frequency bias—the phenomenon where after you notice something for the first time, you are more likely to continue noticing it.

Related reading: Meaningful > Merely Measurable: Break the CTR Cycle and Bring Real Value

Frequency bias creates familiarity, and familiarity builds trust. The more we see something, the more familiar it becomes, and thus, the more credibility it has in our eyes. When a brand builds credibility, profits rise, because consumers are more likely to choose a well-known brand they find credible than a lesser-known brand. 

That is why building and maintaining a strong brand identity is important. If you are constantly changing branding elements (like name, logo, colors, or even audio), consumers won’t associate your brand with any particular sentiment, and you’ll lose the ability to develop frequency bias.

During the initial B2B branding process, it’s crucial to give deep consideration to the presentation, tone, and imagery associated with your brand. Taking the time to contemplate something as simple as your brand’s colors can set your company apart from the pack—and it can save time, money, and resources by avoiding an expensive rebranding process later. 

You may be thinking, “I’m not going to rebrand! I love our logo! Our colors are perfect!” But brand consistency isn’t just something to consider during the brand development stage or during a rebrand; it’s also important to consider when expanding your company into new markets. Colgate Kitchen Entrees is the perfect example of a new market launch that went terribly wrong due to brand inconsistency. 

Yes, that Colgate, the toothpaste company, attempted to bring a line of frozen foods to the market in the 1960s. While there has been rumor of a Colgate beef lasagna, it’s unclear whether or not that particular meal was ever in concept at the company. But Colgate did bring a line of five items to the test market in Madison, Wisconsin, as reported by Weekly Digest from the American Institute of Food Distribution. Within a year, the items were scrapped. 

So what pushed a successful hygiene brand to enter the food market? During this time, Colgate-Palmolive seemed to be facing some intense competition from Proctor & Gamble and looked to branch out into other industries. In today’s increasingly competitive market, companies are no doubt feeling pressure to differentiate themselves, but doing so in a way that is consistent with brand values, messaging, and identity is the difference between a successful expansion and, well, frozen foods that remind consumers of minty-fresh breath.

But just because the average consumer values a strong brand identity, does that mean it impacts the B2B market? Well, if differentiation is your goal, then yes. Did you know that fewer than 10% of B2B brands say that they have a consistent brand identity? The B2B buyer’s purchase journey is slightly more complex than that of the B2C buyer, which has a shorter sales cycle and fewer decision-makers in the process. So why not give your B2B buyers all the reasons to feel not only comfortable with your brand but excited about purchasing from your company. Remember that comfort comes from familiarity, and familiarity eventually leads to profitability. 

But it’s not just the typical sales sheets and pitch decks that need to convey a strong, consistent brand identity to win over B2B consumers. A study on social buying from International Data Corporation showed that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives use social media to support their purchase decisions. So even though you may not be targeting the primary audience on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, your brand could immensely benefit by having a branded, up-to-date presence on social platforms.

Related reading: Creating an Earlier Buyer Journey: Why It Matters, and Why You Should Be Reaching Out

And don’t worry if you feel like there’s nothing engaging for your company to post. Even if you’re selling parts for factory machines, you can still create interesting B2B social media marketing content that uniquely conveys your brand messaging. For example, you could tell the stories of the employees who make the parts you sell: why they work for your company, who they are outside of work, or why their work is important to them. 

You may think that B2B buyers purchasing those factory machine parts aren’t interested in the emotional stories of the employees who make them, but you’d be wrong. A survey of more than 3,000 B2B buyers found that the emotional connection we’re talking about is something they actually seek out. In fact, those potential B2B buyers that feel a “high brand connection” are 60% more likely to convert than those who don’t. 

So, we’ve established that brand consistency is key—whether you are B2B or B2C. But what if your brand really does need an overhaul? If you failed to build a strong brand voice, perspective, messaging, and image from the start, you need to ensure all those components work together to convey the right brand identity when you decide to rebrand. 

Sound like a lot to take on? Reach out. We can help you develop your brand to make it irresistible to consumers.