Sailors approach the end of summer with relief and caution. As the days grow shorter, the high season draws to a close, leaving time to make delayed repairs and improvements but also signaling the approach of hurricane season.

As businesses prepare for 2023, the forecast is unusually uncertain. Global conflict and supply-side inflation threaten recession, even as many sectors thrive and employment remains high. While the economy captures companies’ immediate attention, their ultimate success will depend more on their ability to respond to changing post-pandemic buying behaviors. Addressing changing buying behaviors was the number one priority of B2B marketing decision-makers in Forrester’s Marketing Survey, 2022.

In the face of uncertainty, portfolio marketers need to return to their most essential function: providing the company with insights into markets and buyers. Facing uncertain seas, portfolio marketers can’t afford to head for shelter. Instead, they need to climb the lookout and guide their companies to open water where there’s room to maneuver around obstacles and find tailwinds.

In 2023, we recommend that portfolio marketing leaders invest in audience-centric approaches to help their organizations respond to economic uncertainty and build the efficiency and effectiveness that will guide their organizations in responding to changing buyer behaviors. Portfolio marketers need to:

  • Monitor markets to spot faulty assumptions and correct course. In times of crisis, we have a bias to take action when what our organizations often need is to glean better understanding. Don’t take the conventional wisdom for granted that, in a downturn, companies focus on cost or delay hiring. Instead, consider these to be hypotheses, and poll your customers to validate how they are responding. Help the CMO fulfill their mission to drive business strategy. Scrutinize campaign, product launch, and go-to-market plans to see if they address the right audience priorities given changing markets, and recalibrate messaging to address changing buyer needs.
  • Staff dedicated “solution” roles to create a leaner go-to-market strategy. It may seem counterintuitive to add new roles in times of change, but adopting a more audience-centric approach can help portfolio marketers streamline the company’s go-to-market strategy and manage change more effectively. Map offerings to “solutions” based on the needs of an audience segment — typically an industry, company size, department, role, or use case. Defining audience-centric solutions will more effectively capture buyer interest around their specific emerging needs.
  • Spearhead initiatives to drive value in the buying experience. Buyers are quickly coming to expect their B2B buying experience to be as responsive as their consumer experience. Unfortunately, our organizations are often divided by functional silos, with each marketing and sales channel struggling to consume and respond to a wave of new signals. With its unique insight into buyer needs, behaviors, and preferences, portfolio marketing is in a position to drive alignment on how to fulfill these new buyer expectations. Coordinate efforts to gather insights scattered across the organization and begin creating a more effective and valuable buyer experience.
  • Stop trying to make everyone happy. As a very cross-functional role, portfolio marketing is continually tasked with driving alignment across the organization. Teams often create charters and checklists to create predictable interlocks and manage the expectations of other functions. In times of change, portfolio marketers will see increased demand for tactical execution just as the need to step up strategically rises. To be successful in steering the company through change, portfolio marketers need to renegotiate their role and resign themselves to leaving some coworkers dissatisfied. Push back on requests to create materials and instead be sure to invest the time necessary to enable partners in campaign, content, demand, sales, and customer success so they may create effective and aligned tactics independently.

Clients can access our complete set of recommendations for where to invest, where to pull back, and where to experiment in our 2023 planning guide for portfolio marketing. If you are not yet a client and would like to learn more, please reach out.