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7 Ways to Accelerate Sales in a Down Economy
The answer involves more than just "always be closing."
Posted Jul 7, 2009
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Shrinking budgets. Diminishing staffs. Increasing competition for each sale. In this dynamic economic environment, it's essential to make the most of your resources and opportunities. Put another way: You have to find ways to generate a higher number of better-qualified leads with fewer people and fewer resources.

Downsizing has been an unfortunate result of economic fears, which has made "working smarter" the key to survival -- especially when sales teams still expect the delivery of qualified leads despite a lower headcount and budget woes. In fact, marketing teams now need to generate an even larger pool of qualified leads with fewer resources than they had before.

By far the most cost-effective way to assure the success of an online marketing program is to step beyond generic blasting. Below are seven tips -- back-to-basics ideas -- to help accelerate lead flow and sales without breaking the budget. Many are very easy to execute, without incurring any costs and requiring very little time. (It's worth noting that some of the tips assume that your organization has gone beyond simple batch-and-blast email marketing and has implemented a solution for marketing automation/demand generation built with some degree of intelligence.)

Since you likely have fewer folks to brainstorm ideas, these tips may also provide some insights into taking demand generation to the next level -- ensuring a measure of success that exceeds mere survival. 

1. Target to Increase Accuracy
Make sure the message is customized to the target -- use titles, demographics, and Web-site tracking information to focus on the key needs or pain points of the reader. A C-level prospect cares about different things than a director of technology does. Craft a targeted message that will show how the solution addresses the recipient's specific pain points -- you'll generate a much higher likelihood of response. Focus on one audience per message -- that's more effective than the kitchen-sink method of trying to address all points to all audiences in a single message.

2. Personalize Communication
No one likes to receive junk mail. Personalize your message by name -- and make sure it comes from the sales rep in charge. Generic messages come across as junk mail, preventing viable prospects from taking the next step. Automated demand-generation systems will personalize emails and ensure proper addresses and accurate delivery.

3. Focus Messaging on Value
Nice-to-haves don't sell in a down economy, so you'd better strongly tie every feature to value. Tighter budgets and lower confidence have fundamentally changed buying behavior. Budgets are being scrutinized more than ever, so if the offering doesn't include a strong, near-term value proposition, it'll likely be put on the back burner until things pick up.

4. Mix It Up -- Try Variations of Content
Explore various format options -- live Webinars, white papers, and case studies are not the end-all for reaching potential customers. Try mixing it up with how-to guides, on-demand or podcast Webinars, surveys, topical articles referencing third-party blogs, or top-10 checklists. Want to help identify content preferences? Some demand-generation solutions track actual downloads, pages viewed, and actual time spent on each piece of content by individually named prospects. Follow up with offers tailored to the audience group in an automated fashion. Don't be afraid to be creative.

5. Touch Your Prospects Regularly
Keep nurturing with a constant stream of information -- but don't overdo it. Email prospects every seven to 10 working days as the starting point for B2B communications. Increase frequency in relation to the activity level of each prospect. Make sure the communications are worthy of a prospect's valuable time. Don't forget: Content relevance, quality, and frequency are the biggest influencers over a prospect's decision to opt out. Communicating with prospects too often will send the number of opt-outs off the chart.

6. Expand Coverage at Good Targets
With tight budgets, companies add more layers of management to the decision-making process. One good use of scarce marketing dollars involves expanding your list of prospects to include additional contacts at highly rated targets. Expanding titles and depth at the same company can improve the chances of reaching potential influencers and decision makers. In a down economy, contacts may not stay in one place as long as they used to.

7. Don't Forget to Test Often
Do the homework -- test, test, and test again. Subject lines, email content, the use of specific words, and landing-page layouts should all be thoroughly tested to optimize conversions. Demand-generation systems are essential to optimize your marketing efforts. If you don't know how a prospect responded to a previous campaign, it's hard to do better next time. What you want is a solution that helps create rules, build landing pages, and easily send messages.

Tighter budgets and fewer bodies -- that doesn't have to be a recipe for less-effective marketing. Faced with the challenge of doing more with less, automating your marketing efforts can be the great equalizer. The process begins with a demand-generation system that efficiently customizes, tracks, nurtures, and identifies interested prospects over time, easily providing the marketing and sales teams the information needed to help close sales faster.

About the Author

Jim Meyer (jim.meyer@etrigue.com) is vice president at eTrigue Corp. He has more than 20 years experience marketing products from wireless silicon to consumer electronics.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.
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