As 2023 dawns, uncertainty is in the air. Just like for most of 2022, the economy is sending conflicting signals with inflation beginning to fade, but with interest rates high and many economic indicators signifying that a slowdown could be on the horizon.
At the same time, the new year is a time of hope, opportunity, and excitement. We’re all looking toward the future, imagining what we might be able to accomplish with a smart strategy, a good team, and some stick-to-it-ness when it comes to execution.
I choose to embrace the potential of the new year over the uncertainty of the economy. I hope you will too. But even as we do this, we can’t do so with naivete or rose-colored glasses. We’re going to have to navigate real headwinds in the coming months, and doing that requires clear eyes and a focus on the right things.
With this in mind, I wanted to start out 2023 by discussing three imperatives that I believe all B2B marketers must focus on in the coming year to drive near- and long-term growth.
1) Protecting Marketing Spend in the Face of Economic Uncertainty
I don’t have a crystal ball about how bad the economy will get or whether a recession is inevitable. I do know, however, that the number of economists expecting a recession is growing. I also know that high interest rates and/or inflation will impact the economy in the coming year.
As a result, every finance department is sharpening their pencils and reviewing every single expense to prepare for the uncertainty ahead. This is to be expected, it’s also prudent. But, it also needs to be done carefully.
Marketing is a common target for budget cuts during tough economic times, but the Walker Index that was recently highlighted by Jennifer Bately over at Marketing Profs provides an interesting counterpoint to these reflexive marketing cuts that most CMOs are having to defend against right now. Bately writes:
Did you see that? Companies that maintain a customer-centric approach (which I and Bately argue includes those who value and invest in marketing) experience less impact from the downturn and recover faster.
The key takeaways here are these:
If you’re an owner, CFO, or other budget decision-maker, think twice before cutting your marketing budget. Budget cuts to your marketing, brand, or even sales function are likely to make the revenue picture even worse.
If you’re a CMO, it’s time to stand up and fight for that budget. Feel free to use the points from the Marketing Prof article above as well as these insights from the Harvard Business Review.
2) Navigating Marketing Content Creation in the Age of Chat GPT
Over the holidays, I saw numerous articles about the way Chat GPT is bringing about the demise of writing (see this article about the end of student essays as an example). And there is no denying, the tech is powerful. In fact, I prompted it to write this blog post for me, and here’s what I got in response.
My work is done here … just kidding.
But seriously, there’s no denying that artificial intelligence (AI)-driven natural language processing is going to drive a paradigm shift in our culture. We’re either going to have or begin to have conversations about the value that learning to write plays in a child’s education, how to make sure kids are learning to write when they have access to these tools, and even more relevant to our profession, what the role of the copywriter is in this brave new world.
When I was talking to my wife about Chat GPT the other night, she admitted to being unsettled by it. And I agree with her. But I also think that we marketers need to push through that knot we feel in our stomachs (especially if you’ve spent portions of your life earning your living writing copy, like me) and think seriously about how to leverage it.
At A Brave New, we’re having conversations and testing how we can use tools like Jasper.ai to write more first drafts of simple content, like digital media ads and social media posts, so that our writers have more time to focus on the more consequential content. Even this little change could revolutionize the way we can structure our budgets and make more of an impact for clients.
But, if the solution is to just embrace AI content creation, this wouldn’t be much of a challenge; I’d just refer all of you to Jasper.ai. There are thornier issues that we need to address before it’s possible to dive in. The two biggest that you must think through and guard against if you’re going to leverage AI content creation in your marketing program are these:How are you going to guard against inaccurate or offensive information? AI is learning facts from the internet, which is full of disinformation. (Here’s a deep dive into the topic from the New York Times.) This means that your content always needs a fact check, no matter who’s creating it.
What are the ethics of relying on AI to create longer form content that is essentially being taken from across the internet and reformulated into “original content” for you to utilize. How are you going to check against plagiarism, etc.
Copywriters won’t be going out of business in 2023, but the time is now to start thinking about how this will transform their work, because it will, it’s only a (rather short) matter of time.
3) Focusing on Your Unique Value from Your Customer’s Perspective
In times of economic uncertainty, there’s always pressure to focus on the near term to the exclusion of everything else. This is merited. Companies are trying to shore up their revenue streams and ensure they’re prepared for any turbulence to come.
Despite this pressure to drive quick wins, it’s imperative that we not lose sight of what makes growth possible. In my keynote, I make the argument that the best way to safeguard the future of your company is by developing a unique brand. This simple statement is profound but never more true than in a recession.
Great brands do a few things well:They start by building a deep understanding of their customers and their needs, desires, and motivations. They think beyond the purely functional benefits or products/services that are a good fit for that audience. They think about the emotions that drive them to make a purchase (especially in the B2B space)
They then take the time to unpack the unique essence that lies at the core of what they are as a company. In short, they take the time to define what they want to be remembered for.
They craft a brand narrative and experience that meets their customers where they are at, while clearly conveying and reinforcing the unique memory at the center of their brand. This ensures that buyers will build connections with the brand and turn to them to make a purchase when funds are available.
Whether you have already done this work, or need to do it, this is the best investment your company can make in the face of a downturn. Clearly understanding who your customers are, who you are, and where the magic points of overlap are will empower you to invest in the right types of marketing right now to drive immediate sales, create messaging that lands with your audience, and build connections that will be resilient not just through this recession but into the future.
Every Challenge Is an Opportunity, Let’s Take Ours
As I close out this post, I want to encourage you to keep going and stay focused. In the midst of every challenge (economic or otherwise) there are new opportunities to drive growth and connect with your customers in new ways. By protecting your budget, embracing new technology, and focusing on your long-term success, you lay a foundation for success this year and long into the future.
The future is all of ours to go out and build. Let’s get to it!
To learn more about how A Brave New can help you drive success in 2023, download our guide to generating the right leads now.
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