Recession B2B Marketing– 5 Techniques To Help You Survive

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By Steve Wallace & Bob Cook

When a recession hits marketing strategies are revised and marketing budgets cut, but what should your company do to best make use of its opportunities remaining in the marketplace? Bob Cook and Steve Wallace look at 5 simple techniques that Taiwan’s B2B companies can use to retain overseas market share and examine how the recession affects business customers.

The business world turned into a warzone – layoffs are everywhere, contracts are being torn up and the chances of invoices being paid is near zero. Fears of being downsized now dominate almost every business decision; this makes effective marketing twice as hard as it was before. Or does it? Maybe it makes it simpler. Now we know what really motivates purchasers. Consider the implications of this as you read these techniques for survival marketing.

Simple recession marketing techniques:

  1. Make every dollar work for you

    Current economic realities mean that marketing budgets are leaner than they have been for a long time. Adventurous spending is out, the main focus of your marketing has to be getting your message to the key decision makers. That means going back to those tried and tested techniques – high quality sales letters, brochures, targeted advertising. In recessions buyers become more nervous so marketing material that focuses on facts builds reassurance. Information based materials like white papers, performance comparisons tell buyers that they are making the right choices.

    In addition it’s time to cut down on brand building and focus on measurable marketing techniques , then make best use of the ones that you find work effectively.

  2. Shift your focus from getting new customers to existing customers and ex-customers

    The simple truth is that as it costs more to acquire new customers than to retain those you already have or regain those that have done business with you in the past. Even if they no longer use you, companies that you’ve done business with in the past have an impression of the way your company works and what it offers. This means that you are perceived as a lower risk than many of your competitors. Aggressively marketing to those who know you offer more chance of success than branding or advertising. Also remember that potential customer’s situation has changed too, so previous offers that were rejected may now be attractive especially if they offer substantial savings.

  3. Restructure your marketing department

    Sales and marketing are all part of the selling process, but should they be part of the same department? With recent layoff this is becoming a hot topic.

    The advantage to having them in the same department is that the message is consistent and clean. The danger is that sales and marketing require different skills. Great salespersons don’t make great marketers as anyone who has seen an brochure written by a sales person can tell you.

    Many B2B companies are finding that creating a department focused on sales, and using an external marketing agency is an good balance. Don’t be afraid to outsource the production of technical sales letters, marketing materials, press releases etc, in the current economy it can be a far cheaper option than retaining employees to do this in-house.

  4. Revise your sales and marketing materials

    The recession has forced customers to rethink their priorities. For example production managers that once searched for suppliers who could ensure trouble free plant operation now have employees with an excess of free time to sort out production problems and fine tune machines for use with lower grade materials. Sales and marketing documents written to emphasize supply reliability and consistency have little effect on the minds of buyers looking for low prices. With most plants running at low capacity just- in-time inventory management is being replaced by just good enough, just enough stock and just cheap enough. The way B2B products and services are sold has to reflect this new reality.

  5. Check the quality of the foreign language material you send out

    Even if your Chinese language materials are up to date, you need make sure your foreign language materials are too. If many of your customers are Japanese , get a native Japanese speaker to read your documents. If it’s possible, let him write the marketing documents so you are totally able to avoid the problems of language and cultural understanding that non-native speakers naturally face.

    When writing marketing materials in a foreign language make sure your materials are written in the target language not badly translated from Chinese. For overseas buyers marketing materials with weak selling messages, errors or mistakes give the impression of unprofessionalism and create unnecessary worries about the standard of the products – exactly what you don’t need at this time.

    Regularly update your foreign language website; nobody is going to bother contacting you for information about your products if the technology shown on your English language website is from 2004.

Finally remember it’s still a long term game

A sales director recently told me of a dilemma he faced – should shift his positioning strategy from high quality/high price to high quality/low price. If he shifts he worries that the margins will remain low even at the end of the recession and the company will still be losing money. The answer is probably for him to think long term and retain the high quality/high price position, but work with finance to focus on offering very favorable payment terms to get through the recession.

The cost of rebuilding brand and product awareness after a recession is significantly higher than the money spent maintaining it during the downturn. At some stage the recession will end and your customers will be looking for suppliers. You need to maintain powerful marketing to be in a strong position when that happens, and to be the first name they think of when they think of when they start looking for suppliers to fill that first big order.