Ah, the annual planning process. Whether you love or hate it, it is part of the job for any B2B go-to-marketer. The mission — assess current marketing efforts, set goals for the upcoming year, and develop a roadmap for achieving those goals. Reasonable, yes. Easy, absolutely not. Your job is to grow the pipeline, increase conversion rates, and ultimately boost revenue. But how do you do that with market forces creating so much instability?
While some strategies and tactics may be more repeatable, the process can be daunting in times of economic uncertainty. Where do you start? How do you model? Where do you place your bets?
Take a deep breath. You’ve got this. Here are five proven strategies to help you develop the plan and exceed your goals.
How to increase your conversion rates in 2023
1. Reassess your audience in light of the economy
The market has changed. Assume your buyer’s environment has changed, too. Ask yourself:
- Have your buyer’s challenges or goals changed?
- Has the buying committee changed?
- Are you still targeting the right roles?
- Are your key industries being affected more than others?
- How does your product or service fit in today’s economy?
- If you have multiple products, are any more impactful in the current situation?
When developing your annual strategy, start with your audience, their needs, and goals — and ensure you are adapting your strategy year-over-year based on their priorities.
Your pipeline is one of your top resources. Start by looking at the deals that closed in the last quarter and those in later stages. Who is the primary champion? What stakeholders are involved? What was the pain that brought them to you? What initiative did the purchase fit into? And what was the key to helping them make a confident buying decision?
Do this with your wins and losses — especially those that ended in no decision — and look for commonalities.
Adapting quickly to your buyers’ changing needs and preferences shows them you understand them. That sets you up to produce quality leads with buyers who are in-market for your solutions and, ultimately, increase the likelihood of closing deals.
2. Conduct a content audit
As we just covered, your buyers’ situations have likely changed. Is your content still on target? Does your message still work? Is the tone appropriate?
You have invested in content over the years, but as the market shifts, all investments are not equal. Content does the selling when your sellers are not in the room. To ensure your content sets your team up for success, make it relevant and accessible. Ask yourself:
- Does my content address the pains my audience is facing in light of the economy?
- Will a reader believe my content is outdated, or will it feel current?
- Do I have content for every stage of the journey?
- Can my revenue teams easily find and assemble the latest, approved content?
- How is my team notified about new or updated content?
- How much time does my team spend looking for content?
- Are my marketers spending time creating custom sales collateral for individual deals?
Now is a great time to interview sellers and see what messaging and customer-facing assets are working versus not. Review content insights — understand time on page and shares by both buyers and sellers. And look at the personas that are consuming the content.
Once you have current content mapped (or removed), identify the gaps and priorities for the team. When it comes to content, your strategy should always be to create once and use it many times.
3. Make it easy to align human and digital engagement
We’re at a stage where buyers have more control of the journey than ever before, especially in B2B. You can fight it, or you can embrace it. We’ve all heard that 80% of the buyer’s journey happens in digital channels, but these digital engagements are falling short, creating a huge opportunity. According to Gartner, B2B buyers are 22% more likely to regret digital commerce purchases.
Buyers are risk-averse and overwhelmed. They are slow to make a decision and fast to abandon. What can sellers and marketers do?
Remove the gates and make it easy for your buyers to self-educate. You’ve created the content. Now let your buyers more easily access it. And don’t stop there. As your buyer engages more, they open the door for the seller to get involved. If they are in the market, they will welcome a prepared seller who understands the buyer, what content they’ve consumed, what that content signals, etc.
You can do this by ensuring your sellers get insights into when and what your buyers are consuming — not just that they are on your website but understanding if they are focused on top-of-funnel content or technical. Are they going back to the content again and again or sharing it with others?
4. Focus on value
During a recession, people are even more cautious with their spending — yet, if a solution solves a real pain, they will purchase. To appeal to this mindset, you must clearly communicate the value your product or service provides.
It’s not enough to have stats and testimonials on your website. You need to personalize the buying experience and make it relatable to the prospect.
Seeing an increase in “no show” or “went dark” is a signal deals are stalling. Your prospects didn’t just ghost you. They decided you couldn’t solve their problems. There was a lot of talking, but results and time to value were unclear.
Get ahead of that by modeling their goals into formal documents or business value calculators — tools that give your buyer confidence and allow them to co-sell to other stakeholders and budget owners. You can do this at every stage with maturity models or value assessments that drive top-of-funnel leads, cost of doing nothing and ROI calculators mid-funnel, and realized value assessments post-sales.
5. Don’t neglect your current customers
We’ve all seen the data that it’s much harder to win a new customer than keep a current one. That mindset is never more important than in an economic downturn.
Not only is customer retention key, but these accounts also present an opportunity for expansion — customers often turn to those they already have a relationship with rather than invest in other vendors.
Create channels for education, optimization, and feedback. Share helpful resources and deliver unique and personalized experiences, such as workshops or training exclusive to your base.
Key takeaway: optimize annual planning to drive more conversions
Annual planning is putting a stake in the ground. But in times of uncertainty, monitor your progress and adjust as needed. Stay agile, experiment, and diversify your channels.
Most importantly, track the data, and don’t be afraid to reset your plan as new opportunities or challenges arise or shift budget and resources to different initiatives if you don’t see the results you expected.
For other ideas to inform your annual planning, check out our latest on-demand webinar Top 5 predictions for B2B revenue teams in 2023 with featured guest speaker and Forrester analyst Rick Bradberry.