There’s no question that companies have a lot to balance these days: the war in Ukraine; inflation/stagflation; supply chain challenges; stock market volatility; tightening company valuations. These events call for careful consideration by brands across industries as outcomes impact nearly every facet of their businesses – and marketing is no exception.
We’ve seen this movie before – periods of tremendous growth followed by budget tightening, a few speed bumps and, in some cases, contraction. Everyone from business consultants to investors are quick to issue warnings during challenging times: Exercise caution. Tighten the financial and operational belts. Hunker down. Ride out the rough patch.
But for marketers, there’s a fine line between reacting to macro-economic forces and demonstrating fiscal (and brand) responsibility. What is seemingly prudent for the balance sheet and short-term execution is not always best for long-term brand goals, customer trust and the sales pipeline.
So, how can CMOs and marketing managers make the case to “keep the marketing lights on” as their companies brace for economic uncertainty? We’re sharing seven reasons why maintaining PR and marketing during a downturn will help your brand come out on top.
- Slamming the Brakes Causes Accidents. We saw countless brands do exactly that when COVID hit. They instituted deep and immediate marketing cuts – to internal staff as well as agency partner budgets – only to realize they had overreacted instead of slowing down and assessing the road ahead. Those who stayed the course enjoyed a seamless acceleration into the fast lane as they remained top of mind to their customers. Those hitting the brakes found themselves climbing a steep and slippery slope back into the race. Some never recovered.
- It’s the Perfect Time to Increase Mindshare + Market Share. During extremely challenging periods – the Dot Com bust, the post-9/11 malaise, the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 outbreak – many leading and lasting brands were forged and fortified. Competition thins in times of crisis. The opportunity for innovation and leadership is ripe for those who can both bring it to market and create demand. When others pull back on PR, search marketing and brand awareness, forward-looking organizations can increase their share of voice with strategic investments. With less competition taking center stage, you’ll have a greater share of the media spotlight with more opportunities to establish growth and market leadership, build pipeline, and attract top talent.
- Communication Is Critical During Tough Times. Esteemed VC firm, Sequoia Capital, issued a stern warning to its portfolio companies to rein in expenses, but noted “communication” at the very top of its “pillars of leadership” when advising on how to respond to this “crucible moment.” No argument here, as clear, transparent and honest communication with internal/external stakeholders has never been more important. Communication is like oxygen to brands – it’s not something you can turn on and off haphazardly. Any brand unable to honestly and effectively communicate during difficult times risks harming their reputation permanently.
- PR Is Extremely Cost Effective. Earned media is one of the most cost-effective marketing disciplines – not to mention the most credible. It provides an external endorsement for your brand’s mission, products and services, customer support, and company culture. Awareness through positive media coverage can have a far greater short-term impact – and staying power – than any slow stretch of business. There’s no better way to ensure your stakeholders, both internally and externally, know that your business is thriving now.
- Build Trust Now, Grow Later. No company has ever successfully cut its way to growth. This is a commonly heard mantra from the investment community. Consistent communication coupled with strategic investment will allow you to continue to generate demand while building trust and confidence in your brand, your products and your services. No company has ever successfully cut its way to growth. Focusing on delivering value – through content, guides, communication, and more – will help you outgrow, outlast and outexecute your competitors.
- Marketing Supports Your Loyal Customers. During recessions, it’s more imperative than ever to remember that loyal, recurring customers are every business’s primary and enduring wellspring of consistent cash flow and organic growth. Marketing isn’t optional – it’s a fundamental cost of doing business, essential to generating revenues from key existing customers and creating revenue-producing relationships with new ones.
- Your Sales Team Will Thank You. What do salespeople care most about? Leads and closing deals, of course. Modern marketing is as much about driving sales as it is about building brands. Targeted demand gen programs coupled with smart PR campaigns are critical and hugely effectively for driving leads, which drive sales.
Reducing marketing budget can hinder your sales team’s ability to attract and close deals, as buyers will have fewer resources to reference when doing their research – fewer positive articles about your product; fewer user reviews about your service quality; less educational content on your brand. If your marketing engine is running efficiently, you can thrive while others pull back – and that is how you get through tough times.
Keep Your Marketing Programs Going
Uncertain times call for strategic, creative and cost-conscious thinking to ensure your brand stays on track to reach both its short- and long-term goals. Making tough decisions is inevitable and businesses need to prioritize essential spend, like paying salaries, benefits, overhead and more – there’s no arguing that. However, deeming what’s essential versus what’s “nice-to-have” leaves much room for debate. For companies to successfully stay in front of buyers, they must build long-term brand affinity and trust to position themselves for long-term growth beyond any downturn — and they must carefully evaluate the essential value of brand building.
If you’re ready to take a deep dive into your brand and where it stands in today’s market, reach out below!