Economic uncertainty is on everyone’s mind—we feel it as consumers, we feel it as businesses. Supply chains continue to be strained, the demand to find and keep good people is challenging and inflation is reducing our purchasing power.
In turn, budgets tighten and remaining conservative is prudent. But the demand for marketing results is clearly still a priority, and not all markets and industries are seeing a downturn.
Recessions happen – it’s Economics 101.
Powerhouse tech firms like IBM, Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe all started during a downturn. Even Hubspot in the early days faced a downturn right when they were ready to hit the gas on growth. Instead of halting their marketing and sales efforts, they doubled down on core value propositions that made sense for the times – cost and resource efficiency gains.
Even Harvard Business Review warns, Don’t Cut Your Marketing Budget in a Recession, but rather rethink the strategies and focus of the budget – whether that is related to product/service offers, different messaging, campaign optimizations, or outsourcing instead of hiring.
Can you reduce the risk of your marketing investment?
There’s always the risk of overcompensating – making drastic and hasty decisions without forethought. Instead, it’s work to craft the smart strategies and opportunities that can continue to drive business.
Just like the best financial investment advice to ‘roll with the ebbs and flows’, don’t look only at profitability from a short-term lens. Here are 6 marketing strategies that can drive positive impact despite an economic downturn.
Marketing is often the first budget companies look to cut in anticipation of a belt-tightening. Consider whether ‘slashing’ instead of reworking is the better direction. When marketing is cut too severely, needed demand generation comes to a halt, and the time to restart and recoup puts you behind in the long term. A healthy pipeline is always a necessity, regardless of economic factors.
Sounds simple, but spending “smarter” is the better course of action. What programming is delivering a better return on investment (ROI)? Are there necessary shifts to be made to double-down on campaigns that deliver the best results? Evaluate the ‘musts’ vs. the ‘wants’ from the sales teams. Try to optimize headcount by potentially outsourcing functions to marketing firms that have the capability to align with your goals and pivot whenever necessary.
Do you need to rework or refocus on alternative value props? Take your customers’ struggles to heart – they are feeling the pressure too… how will you best alleviate that pain NOW? How will you be preparing them for a better future state? What worked before may not work as well now.
Many companies focus on a few (or single) industries that historically have borne fruit. Great strategy for limited marketing budgets, but is this strategy now riskier? If your bread and butter industry is expected to be hard hit, you will be too. Bridge out and spread the risk—you may also uncover the seeds of brand new opportunities moving forward.
It’s worthwhile to do a segmentation strategy and analysis – put some data behind the decisions of where to target. Then pilot and scale, still within the original budget, but with less inherent risk.
Now is a good time to brainstorm on new ways to keep customers engaging – and ensuring they are getting the most out of your product(s) or service(s). Marketing can play a key role, working side by side with sales and support teams. Expand to new touch points within the organization, offer to do a lunch and learn, provide insights you’ve seen work with other customers. The same content you provide to new prospects may be just as useful to your existing customers – so share it where applicable.
Come up with high-value, low commitment offers, explore new discount opportunities or ‘light’ product versions. Offer workshops or strategic consultations or assessments. These are easier to promote, more enticing, and can pave the way for longer term commitments, without requiring large capital outlays for new prospects.
Evaluate existing relationships and selling partnerships – are they performing or are you putting resources toward a meager payback? New partnerships, whether alliances, tech partnerships, or reseller relationships can be expanded – especially if the segmentation strategy you are deploying involves new markets. Co-marketing also extends your reach and pooling budgets makes programming more cost effective.
A downturn can mean an upswing
All the above strategies shouldn’t just be considered when the economy is down – it’s just smarter marketing all the way around. Continuing to maintain momentum through difficult times is challenging, but you’ll set yourself up to hit a home run—not stalled out at first base if you remain steadfast in your marketing efforts despite the obstacles.
Need some help with thoughtful planning for how to maximize your marketing investment even during tough times? Happy to talk it through.