Pivot or persevere? Knowing when to change your marketing strategy

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With business goals, customer sentiment and economic conditions constantly evolving, flexibility in B2B marketing is more important than ever. In response to continually changing circumstances, B2B marketers find themselves navigating shifting sands, frequently adjusting their strategies to stay ahead of the competition.

Arguably the biggest event to have had a profound effect in recent years is the COVID-19 pandemic. In its wake, we witnessed a huge transformation in B2B marketing. Take, for instance, the rise of Self-Serve B2B. Post-COVID, 83% of B2B buyers reported that they preferred self-service ecommerce features. This is in stark contrast to more traditional, pre-COVID sales methods, such as cold calls and emails, which relied heavily on personal interaction and account management by representatives. Today’s buyers prefer direct, interactive control over their purchasing journey.

Additionally, the surge in digital marketing post-COVID has driven up competition and costs, particularly in terms of CPCs. As brands vie for attention in an increasingly crowded digital space, the cost of clicks continues to climb, presenting a substantial challenge for marketers, as identified in our 2024 Marketing Roadmap for Tech & Telco.

Multichannel Marketing has also evolved significantly post-COVID – there are more mediums to reach customers than ever before. From social media and email marketing to advancements in technology and AI, the possibilities are endless. Google found that 95% of customers will use more than one channel when making a purchasing decision, and a Salesforce survey revealed that 89% of business buyers think brands should understand their unique needs and expectations across multiple channels.

So, with all these market forces at play, it’s no wonder that sometimes campaigns don’t perform quite as well as anticipated. When a campaign is underperforming, the natural response is to reassess and modify. But how do you know when it’s time to pivot, and how can you ensure your pivot is successful?

Determining when and how to pivot is a challenge for marketers. Making significant changes without careful consideration is a huge risk – it’s a delicate balance of timing, judgement, and strategic direction. To help navigate this challenge, we’ve compiled the following guide to help you make an informed decision on whether to persevere with your current strategy or pivot towards a new direction.

Setting Clear Goals

In an ideal world, every campaign starts with clearly defined objectives and measurable goals. With clear benchmarks in place, you can effectively monitor and analyse campaign performance, providing the insights needed to make strategic adjustments and stay on course. However, the reality is often far more complex. What happens when these goals aren’t established from the outset, or when you inherit a campaign that lacks a clear direction?

Setting goals for building brand awareness also presents its own set of challenges, especially across multiple marketing channels. As marketers, our job is to find the places where our audience pays attention and to figure out how our brand can be present in those spaces – this is particularly tricky to set goals against.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. One of the key challenges in setting brand awareness goals is measuring long term impact. This is where leading vs. lagging indicators can help. Studies have shown that online actions such as search volume, website sessions and social media engagement can serve as early predictors of future brand health and purchasing preference.

So, while setting clear objectives from the very beginning is ideal, the reality often requires more flexibility. Whether retrofitting goals, inheriting campaigns, or setting metrics for brand awareness, the key is to remain adaptable, and data driven.

Monitoring and Analysing Campaign Performance

In a world where every click, view, and engagement counts, gathering data and analysing campaign performance metrics are vital when deciding whether to persevere with your current strategy or pivot towards a new direction.

This process becomes even more important when working with an agency partner. Transparency in reporting and clarity about KPIs ensure alignment and accountability throughout the campaign lifecycle.

Knowing what metrics count in a world where attribution is increasingly complex, it’s easy to get lost in the data. This is where it’s useful to understand the distinction between input and output KPIs. While input KPIs measure the resources and effort invested in a campaign, output KPIs reveal the results achieved. Understanding this difference is crucial, as input KPIs can serve as early indicators of success, particularly in campaigns with longer payback cycles. However, marketers should be wary of changing strategy based solely on input KPIs that lack a clear correlation with output metrics.

Measuring the effectiveness of TOFU and brand-building efforts presents a further challenge for marketers, as outlined in SparkToro’s insightful article. Yet, despite the “infuriating labyrinth of incomplete metrics” it remains possible to gauge brand interest and sales lift over time, with experimentation and segmentation. To gain a holistic view of marketing results, it’s vital to track metrics consistently across a longer time period.

Metrics like Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) payback period and sales velocity offer invaluable insights into the health of your marketing campaign, also. A lengthy CAC payback period could signal high acquisition costs or low Lifetime Value (LTV), prompting a reassessment of targeting, messaging, or channel mix. If both CAC and LTV are poor, a more comprehensive pivot in your marketing strategy may be necessary, addressing both acquisition and retention efforts.

By analysing sales velocity across various touchpoints, you can pinpoint inefficiencies and identify areas for improvement – for example, a low sales velocity may indicate bottlenecks in your marketing and sales processes, such as poor lead quality, ineffective nurturing, an underperforming sales team or simply the increasing complexity of the sales cycle in your market. Analysing sales velocity by channel, campaign or customer segment can help you further diagnose the issue and work out where changes may be required across sales and marketing responsibilities.

By regularly assessing campaign performance, you can evaluate whether your results align with the marketing goals you set out to achieve in the first place. If there are discrepancies between your objectives and actual outcomes, it could indicate that it’s time to pivot.

Strategies for Effective Decision-Making and Adaptation

As we’ve established in the previous section, consistently monitoring campaign metrics is vital for detecting underperformance and identifying areas for improvement. Understanding where the greatest engagement and opportunity lie can help inform decisions regarding the reallocation of budget and resources. Such data-driven decisions prove far more effective in steering campaigns in the right direction.

But how do you know when it’s the right time to change direction?

One key indicator that it may be time to pivot is if you’ve hit a ‘performance plateau’ or if growth has stalled. This plateau often stems from an over-reliance on performance-oriented marketing. Brands may find that the success of their traditional mix of search, social, and display advertising levels off, leaving them searching for new ways to grow. If it seems that you can’t drive any more volume through paid channels by increasing spend, it might be time to shift the balance towards brand-building activities and pivoting to a more balanced marketing approach.

While data can reveal potential areas for improvement, it’s essential to not hastily abandon current approaches without careful consideration. Before making any decisions, it’s sensible to evaluate the duration of your current approach. Have you given the campaign enough time to provide sufficient performance data?

Rushing to conclusions prematurely can impede progress, so allowing your campaign ample time to generate results is key. Remember, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to determining the right timing for a pivot. Each campaign is unique, influenced by various factors such as industry dynamics, target audience behaviour, and other external factors. What works for one campaign may not work for another. Therefore, exercising patience and allowing sufficient time for your strategies to unfold and produce meaningful results is essential before making any significant changes.

At the start of your campaign, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure you’re well-prepared to pivot effectively if and when necessary.

Flexibility in strategic planning from the outset allows for adjustments and course corrections as new opportunities or challenges arise. As we discussed at the start of this article, business goals, customer sentiment, and economic conditions are constantly evolving, so anticipating shifts in the market enables timely adjustments to strategies, ensuring continued relevance and effectiveness.

Additionally, encouraging a culture of agility within your marketing department empowers your team to respond quickly to changing market dynamics and evolving customer behaviours. Embracing adaptability enables your team to navigate these challenges and proactively seize emerging opportunities.

In Conclusion

With so many moving parts in B2B marketing, agility and adaptability are essential for staying ahead of the curve – especially where campaign performance is concerned. As we’ve explored throughout this article, setting clear goals where possible, monitoring campaign performance, and utilising data-driven insights all play an important part in knowing when to pivot your marketing strategy.

Additionally, by encouraging a culture of flexibility and agility within your marketing department, you can respond quickly to changing market dynamics and consumer behaviours, ensuring your strategies remain relevant and effective.

Don’t be afraid to pivot when necessary, but do so thoughtfully and strategically. While it’s tempting to jump ship at the first sign of underperformance, sometimes all it takes is a little time and tweaking to see results. Improvements to campaign performance often come from the small, strategic pivots made along the way.

If you would like help in implementing some of the ideas discussed in this article, onebite’s team of specialist B2B marketers have extensive experience in helping tech and telco brands launch, refine, and amplify campaigns that generate long-term demand for sustainable, commercial success. Feel free to get in touch to arrange a time for an informal chat. We’d love to hear from you.

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