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

December 14, 2022
Contributor: Danika Schmidt

Building a plan for operational excellence is more essential than ever in 2023.

With 40-year high inflation, talent shortages, and disruption in global supply chains, even the most experienced business leaders are feeling the pressure. However, demand for software is expected to grow in 2023 as businesses accelerate plans to overcome new challenges and increase their resilience. 

To outpace competitors despite these leaner times, venture capitalists expect startups to continue to hit growth targets and demonstrate operational excellence. In comparison to larger software enterprises, startups have a clear advantage that is also familiar territory: the ability to remain agile.

An actionable plan is crucial to stay on top of the quickly changing business dynamics of your customers. Such an actionable plan can be developed 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 proactively manage market relevance. It provides marketers a simple way to quickly assess and adapt strategic initiatives and can be applied to any industry.

Now, near, next: contextual frames for growth

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 to adapt.
  • 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.

Let’s put the framework in action

Now: Get the context you need to keep pipeline growing

  1. Gather insights about how your customers’ challenges are shifting by conducting a win/loss analysis or connecting with your client advisory board. 
  2. Use win/loss insights to create a contingency plan. Consult with investors to learn how recovery lessons from the last recession can be applied to your plan. 
  3. Document new use cases, define your core set, and align positive business outcomes to each. Highlight the features that best address your customers' challenges and how they can accelerate growth with your software. 
  4. Personalize positive business outcomes to target geographies, industries, or a market segment you serve well. Select a core set for scalability.  

Near: Instill confidence in your buyers to win deals

  1. Match target account lists to your core segments and get your message in the hands of business leaders that are still making investments in digital transformation with intent data.
  2. Get the social proof you need to sell against category leaders in a risk-averse economy. Build out a customer case study, testimonial, and reviews library, and include any third-party research about your core segments. 
  3. Use software reviews to validate the features and benefits referenced in your sales and marketing materials to build credibility with buyers.
  4. Turn loyal customers into brand advocates by showcasing the great work they do.

Next: Prepare for accelerated growth when markets recover 

  1. Share your vision for when economic conditions improve to highlight your long-term value. Create customer webinars to showcase how you can support customers through the recovery or put your CEO in the spotlight to share how your own business is navigating the economy.
  2. Learn about your customers by listening to recorded calls and reading customer reviews. Reviews are a great resource to monitor real-time shifts in customer sentiment and expectations. 
  3. Optimize your marketing spend by investing in proven, long-term strategies like account-based marketing and the application of buyer intent data. Software providers can use intent data to boost conversions as well as reduce customer churn.

Turn defense into offense in 2023 (and beyond)

Over the last several months, startup marketers have expressed that they feel like they’re living moment-to-moment. It can be difficult to take a step back and map a staged action plan to outpace the competition. Startup marketers can adapt quickly by listening to their ideal buyers, instilling confidence in new prospects and loyal customers, and optimizing proven strategies. 

There are reasons for software startups to be optimistic in 2023. Research shows that products created during a recession have both higher long-term survival chances and higher sales revenue. But to grow during uncertain times, you need to show excellence in the way you plan.

Use the Now, Near, Next framework to plan with agility and purpose and become a key player once the markets recover.

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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