Are You Caught in a Feast-Famine Cycle?

The feast-famine cycle is a phenomenon in B2B marketing and sales where businesses oscillate between periods of abundant work or sales (the feast) and times of scarcity (the famine). It’s a common challenge that can significantly impact the stability and predictability of revenue streams.

Compounded with the wider market unpredictability we’ve seen across industries in recent years, it has become increasingly important for B2B marketing and sales teams to recognize when this is happening and know how to manage it effectively to keep business growth consistent. Without a clear grasp of this cycle, teams may find themselves unprepared for downturns and stuck in reactive strategies.

You might be thinking: How can you get out of a feast-famine cycle? If you’re executing your strategies well, can you really control the demand that exists for your products and services?

The short answer is no—you can’t control market demand—but you can become a master at tracking your market’s dynamics and developing resilient strategies to withstand fluctuations. In this guide, we’ll tell you how to do it.

Quick Takeaways:

  • The feast-famine cycle in B2B marketing and sales leads to unpredictable highs and lows in demand, affecting revenue stability.
  • Common triggers include market trends, seasonality, client concentration, and inconsistent marketing efforts.
  • Root causes of the cycle often stem from lack of consistent lead generation, overreliance on a few big clients, and inadequate sales pipeline management.
  • Strategies to break the cycle include diversifying lead sources, implementing consistent sales and marketing processes, leveraging CRM technology, and focusing on client retention.
  • Transitioning from reactive to proactive management is essential for mitigating the feast-famine cycle and achieving sustainable growth.

Understanding Feast-Famine Cycles

The feast-famine cycle is a recurring pattern of unpredictable highs and lows in demand, sales, and workload that B2B businesses often experience. During the “feast” periods, companies enjoy a surge in demand, leading to increased sales and revenue. Conversely, the “famine” periods are marked by a significant drop in demand, resulting in decreased sales and revenue. 

The cycle looks like this, and it repeats over time:

Graph showing what a feast-famine cycle looks like in B2B marketing and sales

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This cycle can lead to a rollercoaster of financial and operational challenges, affecting everything from cash flow management to strategic planning.

Common triggers of the feast-famine cycle include:

  • Market Trends: Shifts in industry trends or consumer preferences can suddenly increase or decrease demand for certain products or services.
  • Seasonality: Many B2B businesses face seasonal fluctuations that predictably affect their sales and workload.
  • Client Concentration: Overreliance on a small number of large clients can lead to significant fluctuations if one or more clients reduce their orders or cease their business.
  • Inconsistent Marketing Efforts: Sporadic marketing activities can lead to irregular lead generation, contributing to the cycle.

Symptoms of the feast-famine cycle in sales and marketing efforts include:

  • Revenue Volatility: Sharp fluctuations in revenue, making it difficult to forecast and budget effectively.
  • Resource Misalignment: During feast periods, resources are stretched thin, while during famine periods, there’s underutilization of resources.
  • Strategic Short-sightedness: The urgency to address immediate needs during famine periods often leads to neglecting long-term strategy development.

Understanding these triggers and symptoms is crucial for B2B businesses to anticipate and mitigate the impacts of the feast-famine cycle. By recognizing the signs early, companies can implement strategies to smooth out the highs and lows, leading to more stable and predictable growth.

Identifying Root Causes of a Feast-Famine Cycle

Feast-famine cycles often stem from a few core issues that, if addressed, can significantly reduce the cycle’s severity and frequency. Identifying and understanding these root causes is the first step toward establishing a more stable and predictable business environment.

Common root causes that lead businesses to experience feast-famine cycles include:

Lack of Consistent Lead Generation Strategies

The absence of a steady, reliable strategy for lead generation is one of the primary reasons businesses get stuck in the feast-famine loop. Without a continuous influx of new leads, businesses are vulnerable as they rely heavily on sporadic opportunities that may suddenly dry up.

Overreliance on a Few Big Clients

Depending too much on a small number of large clients can be risky. If one or more of these clients decides to reduce their orders or switch to a competitor, the impact on the business can be dramatic, thrusting it into a famine period. Diversifying the client base is essential to mitigate this risk.

Inadequate Sales Pipeline Management

Effective management of the sales pipeline is crucial for avoiding the feast-famine cycle. Many B2B teams fail to maintain a healthy pipeline by not nurturing leads, failing to follow up with prospects, or neglecting to invest in customer retention. This leads to a boom-and-bust cycle during which the business alternates between periods of high activity and significant downturns.

Addressing these root causes requires implementing real strategic changes in how leads are generated, managed, and converted into long-term clients. By focusing on consistent lead generation, diversifying the client base, and improving pipeline management, B2B teams can build a more stable and sustainable business model that is less susceptible to the feast-famine cycle.

Strategies to Break the Cycle

Breaking the feast-famine cycle requires a proactive approach to stabilize operations and ensure a more consistent flow of business. B2B marketing and sales teams can adopt actionable strategies like the ones outlined below to mitigate the cycle’s impact and foster sustainable growth.

1. Diversify Lead Sources

Relying on a single channel for leads is a risky strategy that often contributes to the feast-famine cycle. By diversifying lead sources, businesses can reduce their vulnerability to market fluctuations and industry trends. This can include online and offline lead sources such as email marketing, social media, organic search, trade shows, and referrals.

Lists of online and offline lead sources that can mitigate the risk of a feast-famine cycle.

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A multi-channel approach ensures a steadier stream of leads over time, buffering against downturns in any single source.

2. Implement Consistent Sales and Marketing Processes

Consistency is key in avoiding the feast-famine cycle. Establishing and adhering to a regular schedule of sales and marketing activities helps maintain visibility and engagement with potential and existing clients. This could mean setting up regular email campaigns, social media updates, and lead nurturing efforts to ensure your business remains top of mind for prospects.

Effective sales training and sales enablement strategies also ensure your marketing and sales teams are equipped to deliver consistent, brand-aligned sales experiences to prospects in your pipeline.

3. Leverage Technology for Better CRM

Advanced CRM tools can significantly improve how leads and clients are managed. They enable teams to track interactions, follow up effectively, and identify opportunities for upselling or cross-selling in a streamlined way. By leveraging CRM data, businesses can better understand customer needs, forecast demand, and tailor their offerings accordingly, leading to more consistent sales.

4. Focusing on Client Retention Alongside Acquisition

While acquiring new clients is essential, retaining existing ones provides a stable revenue base that can buffer against the feast-famine cycle. It’s also cost effective—it costs 5-25X more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Prioritizing retention, especially for SaaS companies and others who depend on recurring income, can stabilize revenue and make your business better able to withstand fluctuations in new market demand.

It costs 5-25x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing client

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Implementing focused strategies for client retention, such as loyalty programs, regular check-ins, and personalized service, can enhance customer satisfaction and reduce churn. By balancing efforts between acquisition and retention, businesses can achieve a more stable, predictable revenue stream.

Adopting these strategies to combat the feast-famine cycle requires a shift in mindset from reactive to proactive management. By focusing on diversification, consistency, technology, and retention, B2B marketing and sales teams can mitigate the feast-famine cycle’s effects and pave the way for sustained business growth.

Over to You

Navigating the feast-famine cycle is a common challenge for B2B marketing and sales teams, but with the right strategies, it’s possible to achieve a more stable and predictable business model. 

By diversifying lead sources, implementing consistent sales and marketing processes, leveraging  your CRM system strategically, and focusing on client retention alongside acquisition, businesses can smooth out the highs and lows of the cycle. 

If your team is looking to break free from the feast-famine cycle and drive consistent business growth, RevBoss can help. Our outbound prospecting and lead-gen services are custom-built for SaaS companies, startups, agencies, and other high-growth B2B businesses.

Contact RevBoss today to learn how we can help you win more clients.