Hi, I’m James. Thanks for checking out Building Momentum: a newsletter to help startup founders and marketers accelerate SaaS growth through product marketing.

Businesses are tightening their belts, spending less money on anything that isn’t a core requirement. We’ve seen some big layoffs over the last few months, with more probably to come. What does this mean for product marketers?

Whilst marketing teams are generally the first to go when businesses think about ‘rightsizing’ and cutting budgets, product marketing usually slips through relatively unscathed. Our strategic, cross-functional, multi-skilled approach means that we can shape-shift into the gaps filled by other cuts – unlike single-skilled, specialist roles.

But what should product marketing teams focus on when the business world is going through a downturn?

Customer retention and expansion

Churn kills SaaS business economics, especially in environments where new business wins are falling.

I’ll bet that most product marketings teams are rarely involved in supporting account management and customer success teams, but that’s a big miss.

If you know the initial buyer journey that your customers go through, you can also expand to cover the context and triggers that encourage expansion post-sale too. Identifying the needs, questions, and motivations that drive expansion means you can then develop the collateral, enablement, and campaigns that will have maximum impact.

And perhaps, working with product teams, there are quick wins that help you to take additional revenue off the table through expansion. For example, if your pricing is per-seat, then perhaps there’s an opportunity for chargeable “light user” roles for folks that don’t need a full seat but want access.

Positioning to evolving value

We’ve all heard that it’s better to be a painkiller than a vitamin. While it’s not always as clearcut as that, it rings true.

Yesterday, your customers were looking to power growth. Today, those same customers are looking to sustain revenue, or cut costs. Your message should adapt as required.

At a previous HR tech employer prior to the pandemic, we had positioned on solving the biggest problem our customers had: making diverse hires. When coronavirus hit, our customers couldn’t run in-person recruiting events, so our message shifted to solve the new problem: prioritising thousands of applications, and still trying to make diverse hires.

Our mission and reason for being didn’t change. Our product didn’t change. But we evolved our top-of-funnel positioning to capture the immediate pain our prospects were experiencing.

If you’re not sure what your customers are struggling with now, ask your sales team or listen to Gong recordings. Even better, set up a continual customer and market insights interview process.

Supporting pipeline generation

Revenue is going to be harder to come by, regardless of how skilled your sales team is and how big your brand is.

So do what you can to support marketing and sales.

Start backwards from closing. Perhaps there are opportunities where new collateral or targeted enablement can help close more. Maybe competitive messaging needs a boost to cut through or elevate conversations away from price.

Maybe you can help SDRs to explore new outbound hooks, or work with email marketers to improve nurture sequences to drive more urgency. Maybe there’s an unexplored audience or an unworked angle to help increase MQLs.

There are always new customer insights that can be understood, shared, and implemented.

Making efficiencies

As it happens, product marketers aren’t really a frivolous bunch. We don’t have big software budgets, agency retainers to pay, and usually our teams are pretty lean. So there’s not a lot for us to ‘make efficiencies’ from.

Instead, we can cut back on adjacent activities that cost us attention without delivering impact.

You’ll probably know where these are already, you just don’t want to admit them. Projects that were a good idea once, but no longer make sense. Processes that you’ve continued for so long… but can’t remember why.

One tip: step back and look holistically at the top business priority. Does all the work you’re doing still support that goal? If not, it’s time to rethink.

Diamonds are forever, but downturns are temporary

Don’t give up on your core messaging, core GTM motions just because it’s not working as well as expected today. Don’t throw away all the evidence of product/market fit you have.

Instead, evolve with your customers. Do they still plan to get back to business as usual – or is this going to be a permanent new normal?

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought – find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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