Bet you’ve never heard this one before: an economic downturn can be the best time to try breaking into a new market, especially in B2B.
Yes, I’m serious.
It’s a surprisingly well-documented fact that customers are less brand-loyal and more sensitive to making a measurable impact during economic downturns. Twelve years ago, the Harvard Business Review documented that brands accelerating their marketing during recessions ended up with a 27% higher chance of turning into market leaders in their categories after the recession.
These surprising results have been recreated in more recent times, as well. A 2022 study by Analytic Partners appropriately titled “The Rules of Recession-Proofing: How to Maintain Advertising Effectiveness in Challenging Times” found that 60% of the brands that increased media and marketing investment during the last recession saw ROI improvements. In fact, over half of the brands that increased marketing investment saw their ROI growth continue in back-to-back years.
Meanwhile, the study also showed how brands that don’t increase their own marketing investments during recessions could lose almost 15% of their business to competitors who do.
See the opportunity? As a fresh face on the scene, you can show your B2B customers that you’re the plucky new challenger they’ve been waiting for, arriving to save the day in the nick of time.
With this vision in mind, your B2B market entry strategy starts to take shape: Follow these four strategic steps to help your brand stand out from the crowd as the exciting new answer to your audience’s oldest problems.
Determine the decision makers
Figuring out who makes the purchasing decisions in B2B is a bit more complicated than it is in B2C – which is exactly why prioritizing it when you break into a new market is so important.
According to Gartner research, the average B2B buying group consists of six to 10 decision makers, each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently. You need to figure out who these decision makers are, what information they’re likely to bring to the group, and where they’re going to get it.
There’s a reason why account-based marketing is so effective in B2B, specifically: it will give you the information you need to design personalized content and ads that address your decision makers directly.
As you conduct market research and construct your buyer personas, don’t be afraid to deep dive into who these decision makers are. Why are they part of the decision making process? What are their pain points and concerns? How can you speak to these concerns?
The better you get to know the people behind the decision making, the better you’ll understand exactly how to market your B2B solution to them as the new answer to their problems.
Find your unique narrative
Who have your decision makers heard pitches from in the past? Which worked, which didn’t, and why? Most importantly: what can you do differently?
In B2B marketing, innovation has always ruled. This counts double in tough times, when decision makers like yours are looking for something that can challenge the status quo and break them out of a rut.
Finding a new way to stand out from the crowd in your category is how you become memorable. At a time when what was working isn’t working anymore, show up with something fresh.
Just any new angle won’t work, though. Instead, you’ll need to speak to what’s happening to your buyers right now. Leverage your up-to-date research on each decision maker to speak directly to their most pressing pain points. Offer a narrative as to why they’re experiencing those pain points right now and why you can provide a solution they’ve never tried before.
Chances are, your decision makers know what they can and can’t do. You, on the other hand, have a chance to be the new solution they need right now.
Focus on exceptional customer-centric service
Brand positioning and content personalization are extremely important, but they’re also only helping you talk the talk. The moment you have your foot in the door of your new market, you have to prove you can walk the walk.
Your first couple of transactions as a B2B brand in a new market are some of the most important you’ll ever have. As the saying goes, “you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Think of your first customers in a new market as an audition of sorts – and crush it.
In B2B markets, your buy cycle is longer, and your clients typically work with you even after the sale has gone through. This is an opportunity, too. Think of each client you close as a chance to build a long-term connection and mutually beneficial partnership.
Help your new clients be successful with your products or services in any way you can. Find ways to keep in touch with the decision makers you pitched long after the initial close. Connect with them on LinkedIn, send them updates and relevant content frequently, and provide ongoing support whenever possible.
In B2B, every sale is never just a sale. The world of B2B is smaller than we often give it credit for, and word travels fast. Every connection you form and partnership you build has the potential to make or break your industry reputation – so make sure you treat every single one of your new customers like the golden opportunities they are.
Ask for feedback
There’s yet another reason why making connections with your first customers is so important: they can provide the most valuable into your new market that you’ll ever get.
Outside market research can only ever go so far, especially when you don’t have real in-industry experience. Your clients possess hard-won insider knowledge you could probably never uncover on your own. And if your relationship with them is good enough, you can ask them to share it with you!
After a successful close, ask clients you’re proud of for a reflective interview. Ask them what you did right, why they ultimately chose to work with you, how your products or services have been working out for them, and – most importantly – what they want to see from you in the future. You could even go so far as to ask them how you could better appeal to other businesses in your market.
This kind of interview can be mutually beneficial. Build the insights they provide for you into a success story for both brands and encourage them to share it on their social media. You’ll both have the opportunity to benefit from the other’s networks, and you’ll deepen your connection in the process.
Above all: don’t be intimidated. Breaking into a new B2B market is definitely challenging, but it’s also a great opportunity. Done correctly, you’ll make new connections, earn new sources of revenue, and even find a strong new direction for your brand in the process. Good luck!
Learn more about top B2B marketing strategies with expert resources and guidance.