Is marketing having an existential crisis? 5 tips for marketing during challenging times.

Revenue may be down, your sales team are scrambling, you’re having to make tough decisions about how to stay afloat. Clients have battened down the hatches – what does this mean for your marketing efforts? Do you stop marketing your business? Keep to the bare minimum, or go full-throttle in an attempt to boost revenue?

Marketing spend is usually top of the hitlist when budgets need to be cut. It’s often seen as an easy and obvious place to claw back spend to protect revenues. Of course, marketers will argue that the aim (and outcome) of marketing is to contribute to revenue generation….So what’s the right balance – and what can marketers do if the budgets are suddenly slashed?

The answer, of course, is never straightforward and each business will need an approach that works for their own unique situation. However, there are a few principles that apply to most businesses as they weather the 2020 storm and start the recovery process. I’ve put together a few thoughts for marketers and business leaders to consider as they look ahead to the final quarter of the year and begin to plan marketing budgets for 2021.


  1. Be present

Brand awareness takes time to build, but it can disappear quickly. A holding pattern is not a sin in difficult times, but don’t be too static or quiet. You need to keep reminding people you’re there, even if it’s just through some basic comms, sharing industry news and asking your team to participate in topical online discussions. If you have the ability to do more, then do more. There are still opportunities out there and you need to remain present, or risk longer-term impact, especially if your competitors are still out there making a noise.


  1. Adapt your strategy

Talk with your clients and prospects to find out how things are affecting them. You may need to adapt your marketing strategy to reflect changing buying drivers and client needs. This might even include switching some of the efforts from lead generation to nurture campaigns and relationship management tactics, to make sure you protect your long-term client base. Sales and marketing alignment is absolutely key here, as is working closely with client management teams.


  1. Be smarter with your spend

Any marketer who has ever worked with startups or SME’s can usually teach bigger businesses a thing or two when it comes to marketing on a shoestring. Once you know what you need to focus on from a sales and relationship management point of view, it’s important to sharpen your focus on how best to engage your audience in a cost-effective way. See what you can reshape from the content and insight you already have in your knowledge bank and squeeze every drop of mileage out of it. Look at what free or low-cost channels might work. Make sure that all your marketing efforts are tightly integrated to get the most of out your spend.


  1. Keep in touch with all your stakeholders

For many businesses, the natural instinct is to prioritise and protect client relationships in difficult time which, of course, makes perfect sense. While it’s important to keep your clients close, it’s vital to keep your employees closer. Whether they’re frontline staff, on extended furlough, or elsewhere in the business, your employees are the guardians of your brand and they can influence the success or failure of your business like no-one else. More to the point, they ARE your business – they are the people delivering services to your clients, developing your products and keeping your operations running. They deserve all the attention, support and transparent communication you can offer.

It’s also important to keep communication channels open with all your stakeholders, including partners, suppliers, industry associations and trade media – they can all influence your reputation and your ability to recover from any crisis.


  1. Plan if you can

We’re always encouraged as marketers and business leaders to produce long term plans. And of course that’s still important. But we also have to face the reality that long term planning is also a little unpractical right now for some businesses. We’re facing the most uncertain and changeable times in decades and no market has been left untouched. While existence may be your focus for now, it doesn’t mean that planning goes completely out of the window, but it does mean that marketing ‘for now’ might need to take precedence. Planning still has a place, even if it’s just for a micro-project, or to ensure that your approach is joined up. Monitoring and adapting to the evolving situation is probably the most important tool in your strategic skillset right now. Keeping a close eye on your marketing performance data and audience feedback from is critical – and it will improve your ability to produce well-informed plans for your next steps on the road ahead.


In summary, we may find that we have to go against some of our instincts in how we work in the short term – we will certainly have to become more agile and tack with the waves for a while. But there is still very much a need to sustain marketing efforts. We may just have to ‘market for the moment’ until a clearer path is more achievable.


If you need some objective help in reviewing your marketing approach, or an extra pair of hands on a particular project, get in touch.

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