Is marketing really important in a recession?

Don’t follow the herd – it might just be an opportunity!

Offering a 360 degree business advice and consultancy alongside accountancy is quite an eye opener.

Having worked in marketing for more years than I care to remember, I can’t help but feel that in a lot of small businesses marketing is treated as a ‘fair weather friend’ – great to have when the going is good, profits are being made and business is steady. But when times get tough things are different.

It seems that in a difficult economic climate marketing is treated as the ‘poor relation’ in terms of time, resource and investment, even though it is usually recognised as being ‘important’.  Strangely enough, this doesn’t surprise me. Coming from a background in large corporates and not-for-profit organisations, they too can treat marketing in the same way, even though the investment in resource, staff, and suppliers is usually more forthcoming initially. But they’re not so different when times are harder.

In a recession as now (and I’ve been through a few others in the ‘80’s and late ‘90’s too) marketing is almost always the first area to get scrutinised as an unnecessary luxury where budget cuts can be made.  Brave indeed is the company (large or small) who maintains their marketing budget and resource throughout tough economic times.

Of course it’s an easy way to show immediate savings to the finance team/accountants and earn swift brownie points in so doing. But is it really the right thing to do?

Think about it for a moment…. All your competitors will either be doing the same thing or thinking about doing it. Some poor businesses will not survive at all. Less spend on marketing and advertising means less ‘media noise’ from your competition, which means that if you maintain your marketing presence you should get more value for money!  Media owners are desperate to keep advertisers so rates can be negotiated more competitively as fewer advertisers are chasing space. So, a better cost per response for your media spend in a more open market! Isn’t this what marketing folk dream of?  (The finance manager and accountants should be happier too, because the budget is being used more effectively).  And yes, consumers will be tightening their belts and spending less, but in most cases still have to buy/use essentials whether products or services, so they are still looking for value for money, good service and reassurance that they will be spending wisely. How are you going to tell them, if not through your marketing and advertising?

The other consideration is that stopping or cutting back on marketing and advertising means that eventually when things improve and you want to start activity again, you have no benchmark to tell you what’s working, what sort of response you are getting, and have to start over again in terms of re-establishing your position in the market place.  Not a comfortable place to be and you will probably end up spending more than you did before just to try to get back to anywhere near where you were before cutbacks.

From smaller businesses we hear regularly that they are focussed on ‘Keeping things going’… ‘We’re concentrating on getting the work done’… ‘We haven’t got time for marketing as we’re too busy’.

Of course this is a challenge but it can easily turn into fire fighting, simply getting from day to day and keeping the business afloat without thinking about the longer term, the need to bring in new customers and look after the ones you already have.  But if you’re busy without doing any significant marketing, how much more busy could you be if you did? Making the time to stop and focus on marketing can be a challenge, but be brave and consider the longer payback. It might just be the right time to make the investment.

Do you want to discuss this in more detail? Contact us, we’re happy to help.    

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