It's undeniable that businesses are facing economic uncertainty in 2023. Here's what marketing tools to tap into to navigate the challenges ahead. Photo via Getty Images

All indications point to a fair amount of economic uncertainty in the coming months. I think a lot of B-to-B companies, across many industries, are going to retrench in their spending, and deals will likely be harder to close because more approvals will be required. Still, there are going to be those companies who will continue to grow because they are using the right go to market strategies and tactics.

Here are some of the things for high growth company management teams to consider doing.

Invest in a CRM tool — and the time to set it up

A customer relations management, or CRM, tool is an essential component of data measurement — and every company needs to closely track those key performance indicators towards revenue and growth goals.

A CRM tool doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many low initial investment options such as Hubspot, SharpSpring, and others. The investment then becomes the staff or consultant time to set it up correctly so that it meets a company’s needs and to continue to monitor it.

How much time is spent depends on what you want the system to do. Some companies run their website out of a CRM platform, or send automated emails, or do their other social media through it. Others only use it to track their contacts and sales.

Data may show desired progress — or it may show stagnation — and a team needs to be able to analyze information expediently to reformulate a plan, or pivot to a new one, if needed.

Prioritize the digital toolkit

While companies have a lot of different digital marketing tools at their disposal, there are five basic elements to consider optimizing. If the resources aren’t available to tackle them all at once, the management team needs to determine their top priorities.

Website design and content: Think about this as a company’s virtual lobby. A well-designed website with relevant content is essential for attracting new business. Ranking well in organic web searches — SEO — is also a very important component.

Social media: LinkedIn, with its business focus, is a great place to start. Companies can share their story, interact with potential investors, and build relationships with potential clients.

Email marketing: An email marketing newsletter is the logical step after developing a compelling company website. The content should benefit the reader. What can you do for them?

Content marketing: Blog posts, videos and ebooks are just some of the value added content you can share with potential investors and clients. What makes your company different from your competitors?

Paid advertising: Companies can use paid advertising to target potential new customers through online channels such as search engines and social media. The nice thing about paid advertising is that the attribution is there — companies can pinpoint exactly what messaging resonated with a potential client.

Let goals drive strategy

SEO and digital ads are not the solution for every company. Some companies need to make only a handful of deals each year to reach revenue goals. Broad-based digital marketing is not the best strategy for these players. What is? Often content.

The internet has given potential customers unparalleled ability to comparison shop. They want to know what a company does differently than its competitors. Whether a service or product is cheaper or faster or easier to work with. So tell them.

In addition to web content, speaking opportunities at conferences are a powerful way for companies to position themselves as differentiated in a given marketplace.

On the flip side, high volume players who require a lot of smaller deals would do very well with a far-reaching digital outreach approach.

Listen to experts

No one is an expert in all areas. And they shouldn’t try to be. Whether that is financial analysis or digital marketing, hiring the right people to fill in any deficiencies is the smart move.

Trying to wing it through effort and good intentions is often frustrating for everyone. With digital marketing and lead generation, a lack of expertise can sometimes result in implementing a product or service that’s not really going to generate the expected results.

If a company spends big money on a digital marketing tactic, and it fails to land new business, then the assumption might be that digital marketing doesn’t work. That’s often not the case. It was simply the wrong tool for the job. An expert would help pinpoint the correct one.

Measure success first by revenue

Digital marketing should primarily be responsible for moving potential customers down the sales funnel. And sales revenue is the best evidence that the marketing was effective.

There has always been that push and pull with sales and marketing about what actions actually contribute to closing a deal but a good CRM tool will help.

There are other ways to measure the success of any campaign:

  • The number of visitors to a company’s website or social media page
  • The level of engagement a campaign generates or the amount of time a prospect engages with content
  • The number of leads generated, along with the quality of that lead
  • The return on investment

Continued growth starts with goal setting and coming up with a marketing and business development strategy that fits the unique needs of a business. This works most effectively when a company’s management team ensures that marketing and sales are working in lockstep. They are two sides of the same coin and need to see themselves that way to maximize results and therefore profit.

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Libby Covington is partner at Houston-based The Craig Group, a strategic digital marketing solutions consulting firm. Her specialty is in understanding how sales and marketing work together effectively.

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Houston family's $20M donation drives neurodegeneration research

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Neurodegeneration is one of the cruelest ways to age, but one Houston family is sharing its wealth to invigorate research with the goal of eradicating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This month, Laurence Belfer announced that his family, led by oil tycoon Robert Belfer, had donated an additional $20 million to the Belfer Neurodegeneration Consortium, a multi-institutional initiative that targets the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

This latest sum brings the family’s donations to BNDC to $53.5 million over a little more than a decade. The Belfer family’s recent donation will be matched by institutional philanthropic efforts, meaning BNDC will actually be $40 million richer.

BNDC was formed in 2012 to help scientists gain stronger awareness of neurodegenerative disease biology and its potential treatments. It incorporates not only The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, but also Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It is the BNDC’s lofty objective to develop five new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders over the next 10 years, with two treatments to demonstrate clinical efficacy.

“Our goal is ambitious, but having access to the vast clinical trial expertise at MD Anderson ensures our therapeutics can improve the lives of patients everywhere,” BNDC Executive Director Jim Ray says in a press release. “The key elements for success are in place: a powerful research model, a winning collaborative team and a robust translational pipeline, all in the right place at the right time.”

It may seem out of place that this research is happening at MD Anderson, but scientists are delving into the intersection between cancer and neurological disease through the hospital’s Cancer Neuroscience Program.

“Since the consortium was formed, we have made tremendous progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases and in translating those findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients,” Ray continues. “Yet, we still have more work to do. Alzheimer's disease is already the most expensive disease in the United States. As our population continues to age, addressing quality-of-life issues and other challenges of treating and living with age-associated diseases must become a priority.”

And for the magnanimous Belfer family, it already is.

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.