The true proving field of business isn’t really how well you perform during the good times. It’s how you navigate your way through times of challenging economic uncertainty. Recessions or declining economies often bring out the duck-and-cover mentality in most of us, and for good reason. Fear. Fear that we must manage every resource to the penny and cut everything “non-essential” or “nice to have”.  While it’s true that we should always look for ways to make our organizations more efficient and effective, there are strategic ways to think this through that could put your organization on top when the smoke clears.

An Economic Downturn Could Be an Opportunity for Your Organization

I’m speaking specifically about marketing, and what it means to your company. For most companies, there are three pillars of management; Operations, Finance, and Growth (sales and marketing). Sales and marketing aren’t always combined, but they’re inextricably linked. The decisions made in your operations and finance departments impact how marketing and sales react. More importantly, they affect how marketing and sales continue to support the operation’s goals.

Consider this; during tough economic times, are there fewer buyers than there were before? No, there aren’t. They may not be in a ready-to-buy mode like they were before, but they’re still out there. It’s still marketing and sales job to make sure when they do decide, your brand is top of mind.

Here are 7 ideas to help you navigate a down economy and maximize your investments in marketing:

  1. Be measurable.

    Marketers need to leverage channels that have strong analytics and demonstrate this to their executive team. Spending on traditional media such as print and radio can be difficult to measure in the best of times. Consider mixing in more measurable activities like digital media where click-through rates can be managed. Inbound Marketing, where lead acquisition, conversion and close rates can all be managed, is another great option. 
  2. Measure differently.

    If you’re used to tracking your success by attributing marketing to revenue, now might be the time to search for new metrics. The most powerful metric being market share. Earning additional market share even though revenue is declining is a recipe for success when the economy bounces back. For some industries, this is easier than others. Specifically, where there is widely available industry data that you can measure against. If this data doesn’t exist, consider measuring social media impact compared to your competitors using tools like Hubspot. Other measurable indicators to pay attention to are; net new leads, net promoter score, website traffic, and churn.
  3. Adjust your mix.

    Every marketer has a slightly unique mix of marketing channels that they use in their plan. Carefully review your roster and put more emphasis on more measurable channels while adjusting your traditional categories. That doesn’t mean reducing the frequency of advertising, but consider changing some 30-second spots to 15-second, or full-page ads to ½ page. Don’t over commit to any one single channel so you can stay agile in your decision making.
  4. Look for opportunities and bargains.

    It’s safe to say that if the economy is recessed or depressed, everyone is feeling the sting — including publishers. Have an honest conversation about your budget constraints and ask them to be a part of the solution. They value loyalty and term, so often stretching your plans out a little further can help you save a few bucks if the publisher knows you’re in it for the long haul.
  5. Avoid fire sales.

    Often publishers will reach out to their buyers and inform them of last-minute deals, or extra space at extreme discounts. It may seem like a good deal but these impulse buys can throw your master plan out of whack, leaving you short at the end of the year. If the ad buy isn’t part of the original plan, likely there isn’t much of a strategy tied to it.
  6. Maintain your marketing posture and stay positive.

    Use positive, inspiring language in your key messaging and rise above the mood. Consumers are looking for leaders and confidence when making a buying decision, not just rock bottom pricing and quick sales. Avoid using aggressive price cuts or discounts, or other desperation measures to move inventory. It’s better to add value to your products or services by enhancing them with future incentives (ie: Buy now, save 10% on your next order), or even increasing warranty or support for your products longer to give consumers more confidence.
  7. Stay true to your values.

    Above all else, abide by your company core values and weather the storm. If one of your values is to ‘Create Exceptional Guest Experiences’, don’t cut corners by laying off the staff that create those experiences. Or by hiring cheaper labour hoping one day they can meet your values. Bolster your team by reminding them why you’re in business (specifically related to your core values) and reinforce your commitment to weather the storm together.

Without a doubt, recessions come, and recessions go. Every economy goes through cycles. For those who have been in business for 10 years or more, you’ve probably experienced these times before. You know that once the economy improves, it won’t be long before we’re having this same discussion again. Be agile, be measurable, and be remarkable!

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