It is tempting to minimize marketing spend to what most companies consider the essential: the short-term performance tactics – and slash all your long-term brand-building activities.
I think that’s a big mistake.
Research consistently shows that stopping your brand building during tough times will damage your brand and ultimately your business results in the long term.
But how can b2b SaaS companies continue to build their brands while they are also trying to survive, one day at a time?
Brand building takes time and patience, it takes big ideas and big bets. It might be scary and counter-intuitive but slower economic times might be the perfect opportunity to focus on your brand.
Here are 5 ways you can continue to build your brand even when things get tough:
- Make your value proposition recession-proof.
The current context is forcing b2b tech companies to slow down, and this might not be the worst thing after all. Less budget means fewer activities. So, you can use this time to pause and think. Use the time to focus on your brand foundations and take another look at your positioning and your value prop.
During a recession, customers are more likely to be price sensitive. That means that the value you offer should be front and center. You need to position your brand as an essential because nobody will spend money on a “nice-to-have” right now. The role of your positioning is to make yourself indispensable, to reduce the perceived risk, and build a story around the true value you provide right now – cost cutting, increased efficiencies, increased profitability, increased competitivity. This is what most buyers care about. Focus on your audiences and show them how you will help them thrive in our current times and achieve their goals. Bring storytelling into your messaging and make sure you appeal to both your buyers’ rational and emotional sides.
- Focus on the audiences that matter the most to your company.
Building your brand right now doesn’t mean that you must try to get in front of everyone. You don’t need to try to be everything to everyone.
We are talking about b2b here, not consumer brands. You can build your brand through very targeted campaigns and clever ABM plays. I am a big fan for example of fun, creative direct emails. It isn’t a billboard on Times Square, but it can create a memorable brand experience for a very specific audience.
Focus on your target accounts and direct your brand awareness efforts toward them.
- Get creative.
Most b2b tech companies won’t have the budgets for big brand campaigns, billboards or radio ads right now. But that’s ok, there are many ways you can get creative in b2b. If you are a SaaS startup or scale-up, you are free to be as fun and creative as you want. It won’t damage your credibility, I promise.
Think about what you can do that no one is doing right now. Having less budget might force your team to think outside-the-box. The objective is to make an impact so your audiences will remember you.
This isn’t about following playbooks – au contraire, this is about daring to do things differently to create a memorable brand experience.
Can your team dance, can your customers sing, can you create a rap about your brand and products, can your team make the best memes out there, can you use AI? Can you go the extra mile at events – booth or no booth, can you create a unique brand experience – dress everyone up in brand colors, have the most unique swag? Flash mob anyone?
Winning the competition for attention is the first step in winning a share of your audiences’ wallets – make sure they know you exist!
- Be generous with your advice and share your knowledge.
Now is the time to give. For free.
Don’t gate the value you offer behind forms. Give without asking for anything in return (yet) Because budgets are tight, buyers might not be ready to buy today. But you need to prep for when they are and make sure they think of you then.
There is an opportunity right now for you to show you understand their pain To show you care. To show you are by their side (through the highs and lows). To become their trusted advisor. Focus your content on practical insights based on their pain points and your experience. Free tools, free templates, free frameworks. Ask us anything, free consulting.
Find out where your audience hangs out and make sure to be there – a podcast, a video series, or Reddit conversations. Think about it as contributing to your audience community rather than self-promotion.
Make it easy for your audiences to get better at their jobs in a very concrete way. Don’t focus on immediate results – I know that’s hard – focus on building a relationship, a community of followers, and fans who find value in the content you share.
- Get social.
No budget to make your brand visible everywhere on social? Transform your employees into your brand ambassadors. People follow people, people buy from people.
Your employees are your best assets when it comes to getting in front of your audiences in the most authentic, personal way. From your CEO to your best subject matter experts to your most personable sellers, there are infinite stories waiting to be told. They have the knowledge; they are the experts. Encourage them to get out there and share, engage, and build relationships. Beyond social selling, empower your employees to build their own personal brands. Work with them to create authentic content. Put them in front of the camera, have them answer the questions your target audiences are asking, and have them show how your product works. You don’t need a big budget and ultra-slick videos anymore, between the pandemic and the rise of social media in professional settings (hi LinkedIn!), video marketing is exploding, and it is about time you catch that train before all your competitors do. Train your employees on how to use social, make your marketing assets available to them, and create micro videos for those platforms – not to drive them to our website but for them to see you there every day and again remember you exist when they are ready to buy.
We have all heard the 2023 message “do more with less”. I’ll say do less, for more impact. This isn’t the time to speed up the rat race and try to send us all into burnout; it is the time to pause, think, build your brand foundations, and get smart on getting your brand in front of the right audiences, in a more genuine, relatable way. It is a time to be targeted, creative, and smart with our brand-building activities. It is about building relationships and making sure building your brand is the responsibility of everyone in your company.