The question is no longer “if” the recession is coming, but when (and how long will it last). At least that’s the temperature check coming from experts like Bank of America chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett:
“Inflation shock” worsening, “rate shock” just beginning, “recession shock” coming.
It’s not surprising that many CEOs and CFOs are considering budget cuts—if they haven’t made them already. Per usual in an economic downturn, marketing gets the short end of the stick.
Beware Random Slashing of Marketing
Budgeting has always been a primary sticking point when it comes to marketing. With the looming recession, decisions around marketing investment are going to need to be even more convincing.
Yet, those conversations need to take the long view on spending and profitability. If you must make marketing budget cuts, there’s a way to do it that cuts the fat—not the muscle.
1) Retention may be the smartest strategy… right now.
Which customers/audiences make the most sense to focus on: your existing customers or prospects? Unfortunately, it’s probably not both.
Retention became an important strategy at the pandemic’s outset. Instead of trying to keep current customers and acquire new ones, companies focused spend on the audiences they already “owned” via previous inbound and outbound efforts. If they were wise, they knew not to spread themselves too thin. In some cases, this approach kept businesses afloat until they could find their pandemic bearings.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be a forever strategy. It can absolutely be a for now one.
2) Audit what you have, and use it.
For some companies, today’s messaging cannot be the same as it was pre-2020. Different stories need to be told.
What likely hasn’t changed is your company’s value proposition. Does the value you provide still get the job done, two-plus years later? Do your content assets from pre-pandemic times communicate that value with a 2022 tone?
Marketing gets the short end of the stick.
You may need to allocate resources to refine the message, but those assets are profitable tools—and they’re paid for. They can also be repurposed into new, more diverse channels with minimal expenditure. For example, if you have powerful content that’s worked on your blog or website, it can be re-deployed into a LinkedIn newsletter or an email campaign to your database.
As they say, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Dress him up and take him out on the town!
3) If you’re not cutting your marketing budget, it’s still crucial to spend wisely.
Kudos to companies that have a strong understanding of marketing’s long-term role in generating revenue and value. But, there’s still something to be said about responsible spending.
For example, if you’re thinking about rebranding, is now the best time? Have you done the deep-dive analysis to justify this spend? If you’re not getting a lot of traffic to your website, a complete overhaul may not be the answer.
It’s super-valuable to understand where the gaps in your marketing efforts lie—and the appropriate ways to fill them. Sometimes that involves bringing in outside counsel. Which, if your CEO is not averse to spending, might be the way to go. An outside perspective often brings clarity.
Smart Spending in Uncertain Times
It didn’t take a pandemic to highlight marketing’s place in the rank order of business priorities. I’ve seen more than my fair share of random slashing over the years. But, the impact of COVID-19 and where it’s taken us, now requires special consideration.
If you’re looking for some creative solutions to maximize your marketing investment, here are some ways I can help:
- See my videos on marketing strategy on our YouTube channel—and don’t forget to subscribe so you get the new ones in your inbox. In particular, check out this one: How to Recession-Proof Your Marketing Investment.
- We’ve launched a newsletter on LinkedIn with a deep dive on topics we’re all thinking about. Take a look here.
- If your team needs a strategy primer to finesse your current strategy roadmap, get in touch so we can set up time to discuss timing and cost so you're in good shape throughout the rest of Q2 and into Q3.