There’s immense pressure on revenue teams to bring in new business—to focus energy on filling the pipeline with leads and converting them as quickly as possible.
Typically, companies will drum up new customers with short-term tactics, quick wins, and a bag full of tricks that’d make a carny blush. Now’s the time you’ll see prestige brands test out aggressive discounting, or questionable scarcity tactics get added to buyer flows. (Must… click… buy… before… countdown… timer… expires!)
On one level, all this behavior makes sense.
Survival mode kicks in, and companies start jettisoning anything not immediately showing returns. For B2B marketers, it can be smart to refocus from building brand equity to activities that generate revenue and stop the bleed. (Live to grow another day, right? )
Even in good times, it’s five to 25 times more expensive to find a new customer than to keep an existing one. Selling when budgets are actively being set on fire? It burns, let me tell ya.
So how do you do it better?
Put the focus on your customers first
For many businesses, driving results during a downturn should begin closer to home—with existing customers. This helps you weather the headwinds, regenerates cash reserves, and keeps you competing.
As John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz put it in an article for the Harvard Business Review published after the Great Recession of 2008, companies ignore this resource at their peril:
In the middle of an economic downturn, it’s more important than ever to remember that loyal customers are the primary, enduring source of cash flow and organic growth. Marketing isn’t optional—it’s a “good cost,” essential to bringing in revenues from these key customers and others.
Starting with your existing customer protects the revenue base you already have. You can then use that space of safety to generate net new business without sacrificing longer-term growth goals or slide your brand straight into the bargain bin.
This can be done without too much additional investment. You’ve done the hard work of acquiring these customers, after all. You’ve already created the content. Now’s the time to build account-based content campaigns that decrease the impacts of churn, reinforce your product's value, and even take advantage of opportunities for upselling.
Repurposing and personalizing content for ABM
First, let’s be doubly clear: it’s not necessary to create swathes of new content. You may need to fill a gap or two, sure, but it’ll be meaningful work. If you’ve been at it for a while, chances are you have more than enough content to support solid customer retention and expansion efforts through ABM campaigns. This means the potential ROI here is pretty sweet.
A lot of companies are turning to account-based marketing for customer-facing purposes these days—and for good reason. These campaigns are quicker and easier to implement than in-product solutions, they’re highly adaptable and targeted, and they work. The trick is to ensure you’re delivering the right content to the right customer at the right time.
So, how do you begin?
1. Gather the data you need
Data is the lynchpin of any good strategy. How you select, present, and personalize your content should be informed by what you know about your customers and their behavior.
While demographics (gender, age, profession, etc.) and firmographics (industry, location, revenue, company size, etc.) are often enough for broader market segmentation, effective account-based marketing requires clearer behavioral and psychographic insights.
The good news is that even smaller teams can quickly access more robust data by putting the right tools in place. Using data sources like RollWorks, for instance, you start by tracking signals like dips in product engagement or low product adoption score.
If you have time, I’d also recommend running voice-of-customer and exit interviews, sending out customer surveys, and having chats with your sales reps and customer service teams. Qualitative sources often reveal themes that get missed otherwise—and can help set the tone for your ABM campaigns.
2. Interpret signals and categorize customers
Contrary to popular belief, numbers don’t speak for themselves. (They’re dumb, in the dictionary sense of the word.) It’s up to you to make sense of the data and begin sussing out intent. There’s a lot you can do here, but here are two big questions to start answering:
Which customers are sitting on the fence?
Since your first priority is protecting revenue, you need to identify churn risk. These customers should be your absolute priority. Has engagement with your product dipped? Has your support team seen multiple complaints? Have they peeked at your cancellation policy recently?
You can also use the data to identify customers most receptive to expansion. For example, which customers are repeatedly hitting their account limits? Which customers are seeing massive, measurable success? Which customers are leaving very positive reviews and glowing NPS scores? Which customers are in verticals that may actually be thriving during a downturn?
What’s the relative value of each customer?
You likely have too many customers to cover the field. Now that you know which customers to target, understanding the impact of each customer on your bottom line should be next in helping you prioritize. It also informs whether you want to take a one-to-one, one-to-few, or one-to-many approach.
3. Audit and tag your content
Now that you’ve identified the right customers—and you’re starting to get a sense of where they are in the lifecycle—do an audit of all the content you might include in your campaign to determine what’ll work best. Creating a tagging structure lets you quickly get a bird’s eye view that’ll let you map and remap it to suit customer groups and campaign goals.
Tagging can be done in a spreadsheet, by using pivot tables or a matrix in a tool like Airtable, directly in most bog-standard CMS, or in a content experience platform. A platform like Uberflip gives you access to content analytics data to further optimize by identifying what tagged content performs best for what groups of customers.
Here’s a simple tagging formula to start with:
Tags for your audiences. Tag for personas, ICPs, roles, or other identifying features by which you want to group your customers.
Tags for stages in the customer journey. Again, you may want to develop your own taxonomy here too. For instance, “High-Risk Retention.”
Tags for channels. What are the channels this content will be distributed on?
Tags for anything relevant to your ABM campaigns. You can tag your content by specific verticals, a tiering system for customer value, specific features, etc.
While your focus today should be on existing customers, you’ll want to tag in such a way (for instance, also tagging for stages in the buyer journey) that the work now also supports the market-facing campaigns you create tomorrow.
4. Start personalizing content experience using tags
Sorting by tags, you’ve got the info to quickly and easily build out streams of personalized content destinations. Let’s say, for instance, a member of your team wants to address a small group of CMOs in the medical industry at high risk of churning and who haven’t adopted a feature relevant to their use cases. Pull all that together in a few clicks.
Remember that adding a customer’s name and calling it a day just doesn’t cut it anymore. Alongside the content itself, you can personalize titles, descriptions, body text, and CTAs with relevant details with Uberflip. (This can even be done at scale, dynamically, pairing it with Rollworks.) And if you’re sharing the stream to help them solve a particular problem, let ‘em know.
Let’s explore why value is the key to getting this done during a downturn.
Emphasize value (and ROI) to fight churn
“Do more with less” is a phrase you’ll likely hear a lot from your boss in the coming year. But don’t forget that your customers are hearing it too. As you read this, they may be taking a hard look at that vendor list or tech stack.
How do you make the cut? Bring value back.
Now’s the time to reinforce why they chose you in the first place and encourage them to re-engage with your product (and company) so they can feel that value for themselves. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Take a hard look at feature adoption
If you’ve got product intel, you can specifically target customer groups who’re underusing certain features and work to engage them.
It’s simple enough to build ABM campaigns that activate the content they need because chances are you’ve created it either for the market or as part of release activities. You might provide a case study that shows off the results of a similar company. Or you could share a playbook, repurpose a few graphs from your latest report, or include a bite-size explainer video from the top of the funnel.
For exceptional customers, recording a short walkthrough video using Loom or a similar tool is a great way to add a little personality. Just remember to drive home specific outcomes by the feature rather than the tech itself.
Reinforce or re-contextualize core messaging
It may have been a while since a customer converted. The person who originally approved your tool may be long gone. The economy looks very different than it did five years ago. Whole industries and businesses adapt and change. Heck, your product may be entirely different.
An ABM campaign focused on a return to value is a great way to remind them of the reasons they fell in love with you in the first place—or to reposition that product to highlight more up-to-date benefits. Evaluate your customers against your current ideal customer profiles and deliver content that shows how your product solves the specific challenges they may be facing today. (Like a down economy, to get a little meta here.)
Emphasize integration and workflow
Remember the tech stack that your customer is currently re-evaluating? Well, how do you fit in? If you offer a point solution, or even if you’re a platform with limited coverage, one way to demonstrate value is to attach yourself to the rest of the stack. Does product data show you they’ve recently migrated? Show ‘em how you help by repurposing launch material or adapting help center content to a problem they might be looking to solve.
Integrations are more common in some industries than others, but the same principle can be applied to standalone B2B tools. Knowing your customer's workflow and how you support them is key. Using AMB content streams to call out challenges and offer a solution—or demonstrate a way to use the product they may not have thought of.
Again, you should be looking at these approaches through the lens of the specific customers or groups of customers you’ve already identified, and building out streams of content you think is right for each, using your tagging structure to help you repurpose content at scale.
Maximizing revenue generation from existing accounts
Retention is a no-brainer. But there’s a bigger prize: even in tough economic times, don’t forget it’s also quite possible to start filling the demand gap through account expansion, so long as you remain focused on value and ROI. They’re about to cut my mic, so I’ll leave you with a couple of ideas:
Upgrade customers based on their needs. Use the data you’ve gathered on your customers to upsell at the right time. Are they seeing results but frequently hitting the limits on their account? After looking at their goals, do they have access to all the higher-tier features to get it done? If so, engage them by bundling a free guide, some bite-sized videos, and a case study of another customer in a similar industry. Include a CTA to book time with your team to get started.
Look for opportunities to cross-sell. Admittedly, this depends a lot on your offerings and can be quite delicate. Look for existing customers who fit the ICPs for other products that you offer, or who leave behavioral clues that they may be looking for solutions. Again, build a stream of content that shows how your products work in concert to provide better ROI than adopting other point solutions. You can emphasize time or cost savings, but don’t forget to tie it back to the bottom line too—because that’s where it hurts.
A positive side effect of all your customer-focused ABM efforts is that they also protect your brand in hard times by reinforcing the promises you made in the first place. You’re unlikely to sacrifice tomorrow for today. This, in turn, sets you up to drive better results on the go-to-market front when the timing is right.