B2B Marketing Zone

Driving Revenue In a Volatile Economy

Driving Revenue In a Volatile Economy

Driving Revenue In a Volatile Economy

We’ve just gone through a tough election where both the economy and jobs were top concerns. And everyone agreed that small and mid-sized businesses are the engine behind our economy, the great hope for accelerating us out of this recession. So how are these businesses doing? Are they doing the right things in marketing and sales to increase their revenue so that they can increase employment? Ultimately, are they the engine to give our economy lift-off?

We recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to research how small and medium-sized businesses were adapting their marketing methods in response to the current economic uncertainty. We asked Forrester to determine exactly how SMBs are responding to the recent recession and economic climate, and evaluate the business activities, processes and perceptions of those companies.

Here’s a snapshot of the results; you can also read the whole report.

  1. The tough economy has impacted all SMBs. That’s not a surprise, but the way different companies have dealt with it is. Some have fared much better than others, and these have typically been the “Top Performers” (those whose revenues have exceeded their own goals in the last fiscal year).
  2. SMBs are spread thin, and are more focused on traditional marketing and sales techniques than larger enterprises. When asked what tactics they are using for customer acquisition, more than half said they used 13+ different tactics. And when asked to rank the use of activities to acquire new customers, SMBs showed a marked preference for traditional face-to-face techniques: personal networking, tradeshows and seminars topped the list. Digital and online techniques were woefully lacking.
  3. A clear dichotomy exists between the Top Performers and the rest of the pack. The Top Performers are spending time and effort on strategy, techniques and technology to get outsized returns. For example, a relatively high proportion of them engage in activities such as lead nurturing, and measuring lead quality and acceptance rates. Not surprisingly, a much larger proportion of them are using CRM and marketing automation technologies.

There’s a treasure trove of data in this report that gives you insight into the challenges faced by SMBs. More importantly, it’s clear how Top Performers are able to thrive in these tough times, using strategies others can easily deploy.

Access the complete Forrester Consulting report, “Driving SMB Revenue in a Tough Economy.”


Forrester Analyst Lori Wizdo will share how Top Performers succeed in a webinar discussing the report  November 29 at 11:00 am Pacific: “How SMB Marketers Can Thrive in Tough Times.” Register for this free webinar now.


Atri is responsible for all things marketing at Act-On and has been CMO since early 2012. He's been associated with Act-On since its founding and was an early customer as well as an adviser to the company before he joined. Atri has over 20 years of experience in marketing, product management, business development, and engineering at high-growth innovative companies, from start-up ventures to large public companies. Prior to Act-On, he was VP & GM of the User Authentication business at Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC). Before that, he was Senior Vice President of Marketing at McAfee, Inc. (now part of Intel), and CMO of Secure Computing until its purchase by McAfee. Atri was also the first head of Marketing at Responsys, where he helped create its initial business plan, raise several rounds of funding, and establish that company as a pioneer SaaS application for email marketing. He has also held senior marketing roles at CipherTrust, Netscape, and Clarify. Atri holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer science from Washington State University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Tim

    It seems that research always goes against the knee-jerk reaction of many companies in a downturn. A downturn is never a time to cut marketing, it is a time to maintain and even increase spending in some instances. It is a time to capitalize on the opportunities that come with a decrease in marketing from the competition. However, it is also a time to fine-tune your efforts and be smarter with your spend, instead of just spending more for the sake of spending more.

    Strategy is almost always the difference between the top-performers and the rest of the pack. This study shows that. Thanks for passing this along.

  • I advise everyone to download the full report. It is full of really strong information. We are a B2B and it has been a real process changing our focus and putting the resources in the right areas, but we have increased our warm leads tremendously using some of the tactics mentioned above and in the report.

  • It leads into what our organization is seeing for themselves. Having started to invest in the marketing infrastructure and utilizing more of the automation tools. We are looking forward to some great things in the coming year and have already gotten a good leg up on it.
    The full report definitely gives great in-depth information across all areas for an intensive look at what you can use now and where it will impact you later.

  • It’s not surprising that the top performers are doing the most digital as well as traditional methods. I think the main reason that the other less successful businesses don’t is simply due to manpower and knowledge. People just don’t have time or resources to get ahead and be proactive with their campaigns. The ones that have stayed on top of that from the beginning are always going to thrive.

  • Return on Luck (ROL) — I consider this concept the most important new biz term in 2012 (and maybe the century so far). Coined by Jim Collins in his bestseller Great by Choice (must read book!), he’s the first to scientifically study the impact of luck – good and bad – on companies. The key is not to squander the good luck that comes your way; and to turn bad luck into an advantage. His book is full of other powerful insights as well – and the first to focus on the success of firms from start-up – established firms. Now is the time to get lucky! Cheers, Chris K.

  • Atri Chatterjee

    Great comments here by everyone.

    Here are a couple of observations about Top Performers in the report and my interpretation of the virtuous cycle that they create.

    1) Top Performers are focusing more on converting leads into revenue while Bottom Performers are trying to eke out more from existing customers and budgets

    2) Top Performers are bigger users of Digital and automation which means they are most likely measuring things better and optimizing their programs

    3) They are beating revenue plan (by definition as Top Performers)

    4) As a result, they have more money to spend since their revenue is up so correspondingly have more money to spend on marketing to keep the engine going

    5) As a result of items 1 through 4 above and I’m sure several other factors, they are either holding budgets constant or investing more even in the Great Recession (Almost 2 out of 3 maintained or increased marketing budgets during the recession).

  • I think the tough economy is forcing marketers to think outside of the box to reach their audience and get their message through the noise.

    Unfortunately when you are slow or refuse to incorporate innovations in marketing (ex. social media) into your business strategy, you are forced to revert back to such tradition marketing and sales technique that you are comfortable with but might not be as successful.

  • Stephanie

    I am with a high-tech start-up where our sales model, initially,
    was based on working through channel partners. Because our products compete
    with companies like IBM, HP and Dell, we quickly realized they weren’t getting
    the attention they deserved. We hired 3 sales directors to drive those leads
    through the channel to actual sales. Additionally, lead generation is a big
    part of our sales and marketing strategy. Identifying who is on our website,
    how long, looking at which products, and who referred them, allows us to better
    follow-up with those who may become potential clients and create affective
    campaigns to reach them. The following is a great article on why some start-ups


    Despite being a start-up during a five year recession with
    fortune 500 competitors, we have achieved 75 to 100 percent revenue growth over
    the past four years and expect that trend to continue.

  • Sarah

    For any company to fare well in this economy (and moving forward) they must focus more on personal interactions. People are far more likely to work with a company they know and trust, than a large faceless corporation. Just as you would network with your peers, you should network with your consumer base. Develop a relationship and you’ll keep their business even if prices are a little higher.

  • Lead generation is always going to be a key factor in any organization to survive in either a struggling or boom economy…with that being said Content is always going to be King in this digital age. You want to make sure your site is a lead generating machine…you’ll want all sorts of opt-ins to get suspects/prospects interested in your brand. Once you have them opted into your brand start feeding them a nurture campaign to continue pushing them to Marketing Qualified for your sales folks. This should be a well oiled machine…as the economy continues to struggle and budgets shrink year-over-year you’ll need to invest more time/energy into digital marketing where these tools are normally “free” but need valuable content to drive that traffic.

  • Monica Seely

    Thanks to Act-On we now use the lead scoring to better qualify leads before handing off to sales. According to this study that puts us in league with the top performers which is a good sign. Where we struggle is the utilizing the automation because we simply do not have enough content to justify it. As a previous poster noted, Content is King, but the trouble is finding it!