Now, Near, Next: How Software Enterprises Can Accelerate Growth in Uncertain Times

December 23, 2022
Contributor: Danika Schmidt

The software market is evolving fast. Build a strategy that can help you adapt quickly in 2023.

Business leaders are rethinking their plans for 2023 in light of the economic challenges such as 40-year high inflation, talent shortages and disruption in global supply chains. In fact, 66% of CFOs plan to increase investment in digital acceleration to build resilience and efficiency. This is welcoming news to software marketers looking to capitalize on existing demand, and those working for established brands tend to benefit when buying committees are more risk-averse. 

However, innovative competitors have an opportunity to earn mindshare when larger enterprises react slowly to shifting customer needs. Research shows that the companies that bounced back strongly from previous recessions did not cut their marketing spend, and in many cases increased it. They did, however, change how they were spending and when they chose to adapt to the changing tides. 

With complex marketing programs, software enterprises should start looking for fast answers to improve budget efficiency and campaign execution. Some insight can be found by using the Now, Near, Next framework.

What is the Now, Near, Next framework?

The Now, Near, Next framework is an agile planning tool used to manage market relevance proactively. It provides marketers with a simple way to assess and adapt strategic initiatives and can be applied to any industry. 

Here’s what takes place during each phase of the framework:

  • Now (0 - 3 months). Understand the context of your current situation and identify the steps you need to take right now.
  • Near (3 - 9 months). Use key insights to assess what could impact your business next and identify what you should focus on over the next several months.
  • Next (9 - 18 months). Plan your position for the future when conditions have changed and where to focus your attention in the long run.
Now, near, next: contextual frames for growth

 Let’s put the framework in action

Now: Get the context you need to keep pipeline growing (0-3 months)
  1. Find leading indicators to identify your most affected segments or buyer personas. If you’re a large portfolio company interacting with thousands of prospects and customers daily, your product marketers may be completing deal and pipeline analyses on a regular basis. To help you find where customer interviews are most needed, answer simple questions such as: Has your average sale price changed for accounts in a specific industry or country? Do you see larger discounts being offered or requested for a specific product? Consider your international expansion strategy and how your approach should be adjusted based on the affected, targeted countries.
  2. Identify your most affected segment or buyer persona and then check in with your sales team. You may find that a particular sales motion, like a blitz campaign, contributed to any unusual data you see. The sales team may also be able to provide some background on their conversations with prospects to help you identify purchase committee changes, competitive landscape shifts or trends in business challenges.
  3. Start listening to customer feedback through call recordings or customer interviews after a closed/lost sales cycle. We recommend having a non-sales function, such as product marketing, complete this activity to listen for shifting market dynamics or adjustments that need to be made in your product positioning. 

Near: Instill confidence in your buyers to win deals (3-9 months)
  1. Use your findings to evaluate what added support (if any) would regain growth trajectory and positive ROI in a segment. We recommend walking through the entire sales and implementation process. Try to find any weaknesses in your ability to improve buyers’ confidence after purchasing your software. You may need to adjust your messaging, fortify customer enablement documentation, develop sales training, add to existing campaigns, update competitive selling assets or update sales engineer materials.
  2. Consider starting an always-on review recruitment program. Building and maintaining your reputation through verified online review sites like Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice can establish your credibility as a software market leader. According to a recent Gartner Digital Markets’ survey, 95% of buyers read reviews on third-party sites before deciding which software to purchase.
  3. Observe your competitors and consider how you stack up. Keeping a close eye on the market will help you highlight how you differentiate, and enable you to plan marketing campaigns and product alterations in the near and next phases. Competitive Comparisons lets you compare your ratings against competitors in factors like ease of use, customer support, and value for money. Highlight favorable ratings in your marketing material to illustrate how customers use your software to solve their business challenges.

Next: Prepare for accelerated growth when markets recover (9-18 months)
  1. Consider pivoting your spend if your improvement plan doesn’t show recovery. Don’t shift away from markets that are underserved in moments when they need your products the most, but consider the forces at play that require you to make tough calls for your mission and customers. You can still maintain a presence through unpaid efforts (such as email and virtual events) and smart selling strategies, particularly if you’re able to work out a strong packing hook or cross-sell message.
  2. As markets recover, speak early and often with appropriate messaging about how you’re preparing for accelerated growth. It will be essential to communicate your vision, long-term value to your core markets, and how you will continue to support your customers through the challenging times and beyond. 

Act now and future-proof your business

While it’s hard to plan for uncertain times, software providers can still prepare. The Now, Near, Next framework enables you to check in with your current and future customers and adapt your marketing and sales strategies to meet the needs of a fast-evolving software market. 

Businesses that are willing to dig deep into customer needs and invest in building their reputation will retain a key position as the markets recover. Adapt quickly to each changing circumstance and you’ll outperform your competitors — wherever the future takes us.

Danika Schmidt

Danika Schmidt is a Product Marketing Manager at Gartner Digital Markets. She leads the go-to-market strategy for Buyer Discovery Intent Data. She leverages 10+ years of tech marketing, sales, and analytics experience to fuel growth. Connect with Danika on Linkedin.

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