+ Point of view

Could budget cuts be the best thing that ever happened to your marketing?

Written by Gary O'Sullivan

Periods of uncertainty have the potential to either set your brand apart from the rest or make you wallow in an identity crisis. What was true pre-crisis is not necessarily true now – consumer spending on luxury goods and cars has taken a nosedive, physical events and networking are non existent and yet some brands are doing miraculous things helping people access essential services remotely and continually flowing FMCG to the hands of consumers. While marketing budgets have taken a slash, and teams have been reduced in many cases, businesses are finding new ways to refocus on their customers and disrupt the status quo. In the face of all this innovation, why shouldn’t you be telling the world about the great things you are doing?

Where’s the value in marketing?
The value of marketing is under constant review as organisations search for better ways to link marketing spend to return on investment. The quest for increasing returns has led to the proliferation of CRM tools, marketing automation and social advertising campaign software. Relevant data that can target marketing towards the right buyer, at the right place at the right time is worth its weight in gold.

Despite promises of a single pane of glass by multiple leading vendors, Alice in Direct Marketing hasn’t found the looking glass that leads to Wonderland. All this means is that marketing teams are spending more on tech, more time on data analysis and have become overworked flitting from various tools. Many marketing teams are facing more pressure to deliver more with less so should look at partners and services that provide strategic value and allow them to focus on their core roles. Marketing teams need to make the best use of people and tech to succeed.

What do I need to do?
How you manage the cut in budgets depends on the industry you work in and the size and ambition of your organisation. International enterprise technology companies have looked to shore up revenue with existing clients and offer heavy discounts and 0% payment options for committing to longer contracts. These organisations are also exploring new global markets to find similar buyer personas to their home territories. For these organisations clarity of messaging is key – new customers that don’t necessarily speak English as a first language need to know what you are offering, why it can help them and why they shouldn’t go with the competition or a domestic supplier who, literally, speaks their language. 

For a startup or scale up, any revenue at all is good revenue when you have seen nascent profits obliterated by cuts in customer spending. The COVID-19 epidemic has caused many businesses to pivot to extend their runway to the next funding round. Breweries have moved to making hand sanitiser, IoT companies have become social distancing tech firms and freelance recruitment apps have refocused on specific sectors like events where redundancies have been most severe. Organisations like these need lean, effective marketing strategies that clearly announce their new offering to the market and deliver solid ROI on marketing spend.

However, there are some overall tips teams of all sizes can follow to drive success in the ‘new normal’:

Know what you stand for – Whether a scale up pivoting to a new business model or an enterprise expanding to international markets, you should know what makes you different, not better, and maximise this to its full potential. Slack started as a failed video game before it became a collaboration tool. Focus on what makes you unique and the value you provide the market and nail your POV to make sure it sings this from the rafters. 

Make ‘nurture’ second nature – The increased working from home means that people are more accessible than ever before, but deals are getting harder to close. While a long conversation is normally a good indicator of likely success, buyers are facing an uphill battle securing further budget from the CFO before year end. In addition to conversations sales teams should offer detailed campaign plans focused on SMART objectives, contextual analysis and competitor profiling to progress conversations in the buyer lifecycle from engagement through to conversion. Marketing teams need to provide this ammunition.

Drive value – Internet usage has exploded over the course of the last few months, but competition for eyes between companies has decreased as more organisations reign in marketing spend. This means that social advertising is relatively cheap at the moment, but this in isolation won’t move the needle. Marketing teams should maximise value by creating integrated campaigns spanning owned, earned and paid media. Compelling content can be atomised and reused effectively across paid channels, while the fact that A/B testing these messages is relatively inexpensive means it’s easier to identify your key customers.

A crisis is never easy and saying it will be better in the long run might sound like an awkward conversation with a friend after a break up but history has proven it to be true. Benjamin Disreali said “There is no education like adversity” and for organisations learning their lessons now in this crisi there will be greater opportunity at the other end.