Don’t Panic, It’s Just Lava

New Buying Behaviors Changing 2021 Revenue Marketing Strategies

When my girls were little one of their favorite games was the “hot lava” game. They’d make a pillow path across the floor, just far enough apart that it was questionable whether they could leap from one to the next without falling in the lava. Then they’d journey from their starting point by leaping across each expanse of lava, balancing precariously at the edge of each lava free spot until making the final jump to the welcome safety of the couch.  If they happened to dip a toe or a foot in the lava – they were saved by their lava boots (hastily constructed paper boots taped over their socks). If someone fell into the lava, they could be rescued by a fellow traveler as they reached out and hauled each other to the next pillow and continued on their journey together. It taught them the value of working together through a tough situation, and to make sure everyone succeeds.

Feels a lot like 2020, right? We’ve made it to the safety of the couch, but we know there might be another lava field just around the corner. “What do you mean I have to build a marketing strategy for 2021? Do you not realize I just escaped the lava monsters and am catching my breath?” (Yes, of course there were lava monsters!)

As someone who normally thinks strategic planning is the fun stuff – this year it feels hard. In talking with other CEOs, it seems to be a common thread. We’re all just a little bit (or a lot) exhausted. The emotional toll on our families, our companies and employees, and yes, on ourselves as leaders, is real.

But 2021 is on the way, and from a marketing leadership perspective, adapting revenue marketing strategies to address the new buying behaviors is essential for success.

It’s A New World for Marketing and Sales

This year has accelerated changes in the digital world that have impacted marketing and have hit sales in a significant way. The old rules of engagement have flown out the door and disruption in the sales process for many B2B companies is substantial. It’s no longer enough for sales and marketing to be aligned. Sales and marketing leaders must step back and work in a fully integrated way to keep their shared revenue pipelines healthy and flowing.

This does not mean that sales and marketing should combine as departments or functions within a company. The discipline, focus, purpose, drivers and thought processes are different for sales and marketing teams. To be successful your company must have the expertise of both disciplines, working together in new ways.

McKinsey & Company published some eye-opening survey findings this fall. The following excerpts are from their article “Survey: US B2B decision-maker response to COVID-19 crisis”

    • Over 90% of B2B decision makers expect the remote and digital model to stick around for the long run, and 3 in 4 believe the new model is as effective or more so than before COVID-19 (for both existing customers and prospects)
    • 99% of B2B buyers claim they will make a purchase in an end-to-end digital self-serve model, with the vast majority very comfortable spending $50K or more online

This is a staggering change in buying behavior and illustrates the extent to which the sales and marketing functions must change to meet buyers’ expectations. It is incumbent on sales and marketing leadership to respond to the challenges together.

Strategies for 2021 Revenue Marketing

Take Care of Your Customers

Your customer’s world has changed too. More than ever before, it’s important to understand your customers, what they need, what they value, and how you can be of service or meet their needs in new ways. People will remember those who have been authentic, and honest and worked with them to solve real challenges.

CEOs and C-Suite leaders might have to make some hard decisions that impact customers. Marketing needs to lead the way with communicating changes to customers in a clear and compassionate way. Make sure you also celebrate and share customer stories (their wins – not how cool your products are).

Customer engagement marketing and communications is a cross-organizational initiative. Be intentional with your customers. Happy customers talk; unhappy customers talk more.

Rethink Your Pipeline

    • Sales and marketing must understand each other’s definition of success and what’s at stake. Agree on definitions, terminology, and set goals together
    • It’s more critical than ever that marketing drives full-funnel pipeline strategies, making it easy for customers and prospects to find, evaluate, and purchase your solutions
        • Sales is responsible for revenue generation, pipeline management, and closing deals
        • Marketing is responsible for revenue generation, pipeline management, and customer engagement
    • The ability to connect the dots between marketing and sales efforts with real data is essential for understanding what’s working in attracting new customers and moving them through your pipeline

Don’t Dial for Dollars

In response to changes in buying behavior and the shift to remote work, we’re seeing an increasing trend of frantic cold prospect outreach. Sending a cadence of emails and phone calls to a prospect who doesn’t know who you are and may or may not need your services has very low return. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting 2 or 3 of these a day for the last 6 months.

In general, outsourced “lead generation” companies are playing a numbers game and, more often than not, the primary beneficiary is their own company. That doesn’t mean cold calling or email outreach can’t work. The SDR (sales development rep) plays an important role in the sales process, but this type of effort needs to make sense as part of an overall targeted and integrated marketing and sales strategy.

In a World That’s Pivoting, Narrow Your Focus

While seemingly a statement of the obvious, focus on what matters. It can be tempting to broaden your focus or pivot during times of market disruption. While we are a big fan of evaluating new opportunities, it is equally important to stay true to your vision.  For CEOs, it’s a balancing act. Shiny objects can be a distraction, but there are real opportunities for growth in times of change.

Use real data to evaluate your best market/customer/product fit—aligned with your margins, cost of sales, and the probability of success against your competitors. Marketing can then build strategies to illustrate your strengths, improve positioning and messaging to stand out, and implement tactics to attract best-fit customers who are seeking the solutions you have. Gain traction and build on successes before expanding.

Put on Your Lava Boots

Reach out to your teams, your fellow CEOs, and your advisors and work together for a 2021 plan that ensures that your company, employees, and families have a successful year. Grab your lava boots and let’s make it to the couch together.