• A sudden disruption to the market can test the limits of a marketing operations team, delivering both risk and opportunity
  • Organizations that have achieved a data-driven marketing process have greater flexibility to remain aggressive in the face of unexpected challenges
  • Companies that are still pursuing a data-driven culture may determine the time is right to invest in this culture

In part one of this post, I compared the reactions needed from a marketing operations team in a time of sudden market disruption to the rapid reactions needed from the driver of a car when nature throws an obstacle in their path. When the unexpected occurs, companies with a data-driven marketing culture are better prepared to outmaneuver events … and the competition. In this blog post, I discuss marketing operations considerations around existing B2B marketing spend during a sudden disruption, first for companies with an established data-driven marketing process and then for those still pursuing one.

Considerations for Data-Driven Organizations

For companies that are already operating in a data-driven marketing culture, your planning and investment to this point have given you a tremendous toolset to address change. Many key traits that differentiate a data-driven operation — fewer data silos, increased analytics capability, sophisticated attribution models, and a greater emphasis on pre-engagement behavioral data — are directly applicable to managing a sudden market change.

Organizations like yours are built to provide immediate and specific feedback, making it safer to remain aggressive where opportunities arise while still reducing risk with more targeted adjustments. Here are some key considerations as you plan:

  • Verify goal alignment. Clear, aligned, and measurable company goals are the foundation of any data-driven plan. When a major disruption occurs, marketing goals might need to change. It is critical that goals remain aligned with sales, service, and product development, even as they are updating goals themselves.
  • Don’t overcorrect. Avoid the temptation to react on emotion when your market receives a shock. Rely on the data in your systems. Start with obvious adjustments (like reducing the impact of cancelled events), but allow your analytics to confirm more subtle shifts, like deemphasizing affected personas or making changes to planned content or tone. Your experience should allow you to anticipate the reactions of your key buyer personas, but be sure your data confirms them before you make changes. Expect some surprises, and remain confident in your plan when results continue to support it.
  • Identify anomalies early. Monitor early indicators of changes in behavior or demand and escalate them rapidly. Customer data platforms capable of consolidating behavioral and profile data in real time may identify unusual patterns of activity weeks before traditional metrics like customer orders, marketing qualified leads or cost per lead. You may be able to target unexpected opportunities along with avoiding risk.
  • Aggressively adapt channel spend. Look to opportunistically adjust your investment mix by marketing channel. As described in the SiriusDecisions Tactic Performance Model, organizations that evaluate tactic-level results by taking into account their intended audience and purpose are more successful in reaching their goals. Success can’t always be measured in terms of ROI, especially if market forces are making sales more difficult. This might be the time to double down on relationship building rather than demand creation. You may also need to reevaluate expected costs as demand for certain channels drops or increases and the market adapts.

Additional Considerations While Still Developing Your Process

For less mature marketing organizations still progressing toward a more data-driven approach, all the same considerations apply — with two significant differences:

  • Understand your gaps. You may not yet have the infrastructure in place to deliver insights at the same speed or level of granularity that data-driven organizations can achieve. With less visibility to the road ahead, you may need to take a more cautious approach. Focus on your earliest indicators of disruption, but be realistic about your current level of insight and where the data may not arrive fast enough to wait.
  • Consider redirecting spend internally. Is it possible that this sudden disruption could signal an opportunity to focus inward and close some of those gaps you’ve identified above? It may seem counterintuitive to request an investment in improving your data, technology, or analytics capabilities in a time of increased risk, but a sudden drop in market potential may change your opportunity cost calculation.

If the effectiveness of your existing marketing spend is dropping, the math may have changed. Every dollar spent may provide less value today than it did when you were planning. On the other hand, your internal investment dollars may be just as impactful to your organization’s long-term health as they ever were. You may even get more impact from each dollar if you can receive more attractive pricing from vendors as they see their own market slowing.

Of course, you should still avoid taking on too much risk in long-term expenses on the basis of a short-term change, but the math may make sense to leadership now in a way it didn’t before, and it may help pave the road for success during and after the emergency. Data-driven marketing may never achieve the sophistication required to turn your operations into a “self-driving car.” But reacting quickly to define sudden change, highlight dangers, recommend adjustments, and clarify focus may deliver the traction control and assisted braking your company needs to avoid a collision.

For a deeper dive into how your business can respond to these challenges, Forrester SiriusDecisions clients can connect with the Marketing Operations research team for guidance and access to the full library of published research available on this topic.