A sales and marketing phenomenon I call the “marketing cycle” is similar to general economic cycles as dictated by the law of expansion (growth) and retraction (recession). In economics, business activity ebbs and flows, not always in a predictable way as the global economy is endlessly dynamic. The only thing predictable is that the cycles will repeat eventually over time. In sales and marketing, it’s a bit different in that the cycles are more predictable and result more sharply from specific actions or lack of actions. The challenge is to manage your team’s actions against the headwinds of human nature.
The marketing cycle for most businesses is far more manageable than the overall economic conditions in the country but it is extremely hard to get a handle on, and this is because, well, we’re all human. We tend to concentrate our time and effort on either the most urgent situations or else what we feel like doing; what seems the easiest route to ‘get it done’ in the moment or for the day.
Unpacking the Marketing Cycle
The marketing cycle looks like this:
Business is great. New customers are responding to an effective and sustained marketing campaign. The sales team has been “crushing it” from several months of highly motivated prospecting and lead generation, meetings and closed deals. Business is so good in fact that it’s all hands on deck to service customers and snuff out the fires from so much growth and not quite enough hands to go around. Everyone is busy and cash is flowing.
At this point, management decides it’s better to back off on the marketing campaign a while to better manage growth. This is human nature and seems logical. It’s also the exact moment at which the inevitable ebb in sales that’s so predictable in the marketing cycle begins. But we always fail to grasp it at the time! I’m speaking from my own experience and I’ve witnessed it working in several companies over many years.
When business is great, you focus everything toward serving your current customers, even your marketing messages focus on current users, because it’s the natural thing to do. It’s as if we have “built-in forgetters” concerning new business development when customers and their cash are flowing in volume. And so, the wider market ceases to hear from you and your brand fades from awareness.
At first, you notice that business volume is steady rather than rising. Then you might lose a customer or two through attrition of some kind, maybe to a competitor, and you suddenly realize you and your team have more time on your hands and margins are thinner. Uh oh, Time to fire up the forgotten marketing and selling machines again, with increased urgency and limited funds. And so it goes…
End the Cycle of Sales Urgency (and Stress)!
A few things can be done to minimize the stresses caused by drops in sales that occur as a result of being a victim to the marketing cycle.
- First thing is your product and service quality. You must fulfill your promises or your brand will lose precious market trust. Referrals are precious and result from real quality.
- Second, you need to resist the temptation to focus on operations and production at the expense of keeping marketing campaigns funded and managed. You also need to direct your sales force to keep hunting when business is great, trusting customer service to others in the company.
- Third, if business is good, invest in a new employee or subcontract the support that can dedicate their efforts specifically to the growth side of your business, and don’t back off when business is booming, for a change! You will need all the brand awareness you can get next recession. If sales slow down and revenues decline, keep the marketing and sales effort at full pitch, for a change. Find less critical areas in the business to cut costs, for a change.
Implement these three strategies and see what happens to your revenue curve over the next 2 or 3 years.
Rather than rearranging the deck chairs every time you get really busy, try adding another chair to increase and sustain your crucial marketing activities, for a change!
Applying discipline to managing the marketing cycle in this manner will have the happy effect of keeping business and cash flow strong enough to avoid the anxieties of economic hardship during those inevitable slow periods. You’ll have the assurance that market share and top-of-mind awareness are always in your favor.