Guest Author: Suganthan Asokan
All founders experience the ups and downs of sales & marketing functions during their entrepreneurial journey. There are times when every campaign your marketing team runs is successful, multiple new deals are being closed daily, prospects are reaching out to you organically and the phone just won’t stop ringing.
But then, there are those other times – when leads are scarce, the pipeline is weak & you’re having difficulty synching the marketing forecasts with the revenue targets.
In private, you’re doubting if your business is slowing, and wondering what is working and what needs to be tweaked to ensure the sunshine & rainbows come back.
Here are 6 tips to rejuvenate your sales & marketing strategy during a lean period.
1. Revisit your ICP
An ideal customer profile (ICP), defines the ‘perfect’ customer, a fictitious company that would be an ideal fit for the problems that your company is solving.
Revisit the below factors to check if there are any changing trends that your ICP is experiencing:
- Geography – the location & region play an important role in determining the success of the sales & marketing outreach. Keep in mind that seasonality, holidays, weather, economic conditions all play a significant role in the effectiveness of your campaigns. Is your ICP being affected by any of these factors?
- Industry – the verticals that you are catering susceptible to new trends & disruption. Are your communications to the ICP informative enough to help them adapt or stay ahead of the curve?
- Budget / Revenue / Company Size: The paying capacity of the company & company size can change over a period of time, the needs & expectations also change accordingly. It is important to re-map your strategy accordingly. A tip would be to check the news reports & publicly available information about the target companies on Crunchbase, Linkedin, etc.
- Years of experience/Position – The decision makers/’customers’ & end-users of the product may keep changing and evolving. You will want to update your outreach strategy accordingly.
These factors are not exhaustive in nature but this will surely help you get started in thinking more deeply about your evolving ICP. Your brand narrative and campaigns should evolve & ‘speak’ the language of what your ICPs are speaking.
2. Optimize your GTM strategy
When you are a founder building a business from scratch, you can’t build a fool-proof plan for every aspect of your GTM strategy, you will have to make fast & smart decisions on the go. Your startup could currently be following Sales led or Marketing led or a Product led Strategy. However, researching and understanding your customer’s journey is an important step to optimize your GTM strategy.
Ok, so lead generation may have slowed down. But you could use this as an opportunity to find an under-served segment in your target audience or try to prospect opportunities where you could “land & expand” – a customer who has the potential to grow into a bigger account over a period of time.
“For companies that start with the Fortune 500 and then try to move down, the difficulty lies in trying to simplify the product for smaller use cases. On the contrary, we can witness much better growth and scale when we start with simple use cases and then add in layers of richer functionality that keeps end-users delighted.” Source
If you want access to mentorship from top Investors, founders, senior leaders, and experts to help scale your startup with the right strategy, join Freshworks’ pay-it-forward initiative for startup founders- The Freshworks for Startups program.
3. Enrich and update your contact data
42% of sales reps feel they don’t have enough information before making a call (Source)
Reliable customer data is crucial for effective sales and marketing campaigns. What’s the state of your lead management system or CRM? Is your data up-to-date?
When the tasks/tags need to be updated manually on the CRM, the sales reps find such tasks cumbersome which leads to errors while updating them. To ensure the ‘sanctity’ of data in your lead management system in such a case will become a very big challenge.
A good CRM empowers the sales reps by automating redundant tasks and providing actionable insights across the customer journey and delivering highly personalized engagement.
Features like Predictive Contact Scoring (which helps you prioritize the leads you interact with by analyzing historical data and assigns a score to every contact), Auto-profile Enrichment ( by which your leads get automatically enriched with their social and publicly listed information), Deduplication (by which the CRM proactively looks for, detects, and displays duplicate leads or contacts in the CRM by matching them based on their identifiers such as name, email, or mobile number) have become essential components of a good CRM.
If you upgrade your CRM today to enrich and update your customer data it will pay off immensely once the lead flow increases.
4. Talk to your customers
While every startup founder likes to be involved in closing big accounts, and underestimated habit of talking to customers at regular intervals is often overlooked. Use this opportunity to chat with customers to understand their feedback better, you will be able to create and conceptualize your communication and outreach strategy better. While this is a simple gesture, this will be highly impactful in your long-term startup journey. These conversations will help you to evolve your customer advocacy beyond just testimonials, and enable you to create case studies and battle cards which would be highly beneficial in winning new businesses operating in the same domain.
You could also use this period to celebrate the people behind the scenes – in your customers’ organizations, talk to functional leaders within their companies about topics like Sales, Marketing, Customer Success, etc. This would give them a platform to showcase their expertise and also be a win-win in generating more brand awareness.
5. Double down on your nurture frameworks
Even though your subscribers may have opted-in to receive communications about your product but over time you would have seen that a segment of the list would have stopped engaging with your email communications. You could use this period to clean up your inactive subscribers who are bringing your overall engagement rate down. You could follow these steps:
- Scrub the email list for duplicate, test leads, and spam contacts.
- Plan reactivation or re-engagement campaigns for segments of the inactive audience.
- Plan opt-down campaigns (moving them to list with reduced frequency of communications) for the “cold” leads (contacts who have been responding sporadically even after the re-engagement campaign).
- For “dead” leads (contacts who do not open, click, or engage in your communications in any form), you can try sending them one last email campaign which could be a feedback/survey to see what could re-engage them. Post this, you should look at removing them from the active list to ensure your future email deliverability and conversion rates are not hurt.
For the leads that you have generated till date, this would be the perfect opportunity to build & optimize customer journey workflows to move the leads further down the funnel.
6. Use barter as a marketing tactic
Barter is well and truly back. While barter as a tactic has been prevalent in advertising and media, the range of corporate barter and credit schemes has been expanding to include co-working spaces, air travel, sales meetings, and the likes.
During the pandemic, when many of the startups were operating with constraints of budgets, increased competition from the same industry, barter became a go-to marketing tactic.
To start off, find companies who share your target audience, reach out to them to co-plan marketing campaigns – webinars, guest articles, podcast interviews, etc.
While it may be tempting to think of bartering as liquidating excess or obsolete inventory or offering trials to your product; to have it as a long-term strategy you should go in with the intention of providing value to your partner’s community rather than being overly salesy.
Such partnerships provide a great platform for experimentation without incurring high costs or pressures of failing. You could test out bartering opportunities in new geographies, companies in allied industries, events, webinars, online media, etc.
Being seen in quality publications and next to well-known brands will also promote your startup by proxy and help you position yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Interested in learning more? Join the Freshworks for Startups program and claim up to $10,000 credits on customer & employee engagement products. Beyond just access to products, you will gain access to Freshworks’ community of VCs, Investors, Customers to scale your business. Sign up here: https://www.freshworks.com/partners/startup-program/gan/
About the Author:
Suganthan Asokan leads Marketing at Freshworks for Startups. He has over 5 years of experience developing and launching campaigns across Technology, Education, Media & Entertainment domains. He is passionate about all things marketing and has hands-on experience in various functions including lead generation campaigns, social media marketing, website management, and CRM. He has been associated with top brands & institutions like Freshworks, SDA Bocconi, The Times of India Group, Accenture.