It's become a cliche, but yeah, these are unprecedented times. At least politically, economically, socially, and "pandemic-ly," to name a few.
The combination of these factors over the past few months has led to an incredible amount of uncertainty regarding consumer confidence and how brands should approach their marketing
Add to this the fact that during periods of uncertainty, there is always belt-tightening, and marketing budgets are often among the first areas of focus. Yet, the sales and growth goals assigned to most CMOs tend to remain unchanged.
Strange how that happens.
The idea of doing more with less is possible (we help brands get more out of their marketing all the time). But not everyone understands the value behind marketing and that it's not some isolated piece of their business that won't have associated risks and consequences when "turned off."
Since marketing budgets will inevitably be viewed as non-essential when things get rough, brands must be strategic in terms of where and when cuts occur.
Revisiting the Consumer Journey
We often joke that whenever there's mention of personas or segmentation with a new client, the room becomes tense because everyone has a persona horror story from previous experience.
Either the process was too complicated, the methodology was wrong, there was no executive buy-in, too many cooks were in the kitchen, or most commonly: there was no plan in place for how to use the personas once developed.
The tension usually goes away when we explain how our process differs and demonstrate how we use personas to map the consumer decision journey.
In this process, we consider what your key personas and segments are doing, thinking, struggling with, and sharing at each stage of their shopping journey.
Knowing this information allows you to make educated decisions regarding where to invest, what content to produce, and identify your brands' biggest strengths and weaknesses along the way.
Similar to your personas and audience segments, your consumer journey maps should be considered living documents.
You must revisit them often–and especially during times like these.
Consider the following headlines:
The decision around marketing in this environment isn't whether to advertise or not advertise nor should it be how much budget to decrease and where.
Your decision should hinge on one question: does our marketing still meet our audience's needs at this moment? As you determine that, consider the following tips:
Reevaluate Your Audience Personas
Consumers reevaluate their needs and priorities. Products and services such as restaurants, travel, and clothing can quickly shift from essential to expendable.
Historically, consumers become more price-sensitive and less brand loyal during recessions and other periods of uncertainty. They will often seek out their favorite products and brands at reduced prices or settle for low-cost alternatives.
Knowing this, you must ask if the value proposition you're using in your marketing still applies. Where are your segments struggling physically, economically, and mentally? How is this impacting where their persona and your marketing intersect?
Identify and Cut Low-Performing Initiatives
We believe in data-driven marketing campaigns precisely for this very reason. You must quickly identify what is working, why, and how to push or pull back without everything coming apart.
That said, understand that you aren't comparing apples-to-apples when making your final decision. Campaigns focused on the evaluation stage of the consumer decision journey will inevitably have a higher conversion rate than an awareness ad, for example. However, that evaluation stage has likely been set-up for success by more expensive marketing earlier in the process.
Apply your campaign metrics to your revised journey map and evaluate your marketing holistically.
What metrics are most important at this time?
How is the competition reacting?
What are the if/then scenarios and levers available to you for optimization?
How will changes to your audience, impact your marketing, products, or services in the long-term?
Narrow & Deepen
When reducing your marketing budget, be careful not to spread your marketing too thin. Reducing your spending across channels can hurt performance and make it difficult to measure success since there will be fewer data points. Instead, consider reducing the number of channels so you can invest more deeply and meaningfully in the ones that matter most.
If given the time, you could list several inefficient processes and technologies you currently face week-to-week or day-to-day.
Whether external or internal, the inefficiencies may have had good intentions like software subscriptions that seemed great during the demo phase, or an overly inclusive creative review process leading to unnecessary and costly rounds of revision.
Whatever the case, reexamine your processes and tools against your "new" needs, and streamline where you can to reduce cost and waste.
Extend the Life of Your Content
Content is a vital part of building out your customer journey–especially where marketing automation is involved–and good content requires time and budget.
Focus on getting more from the content you currently have.
Update existing blog posts, POVs, and white papers.
Leverage elements of your existing content to create new social posts, emails, and videos.
Take a trending topic and offer your take on it through a podcast interview or written Q&A format.
It's tempting to think of your existing content as old news or having served its purpose; however, a quick update to the content and format may go a long way.
Avoid A Herd Mentality
There's a Warren Buffet quote that applies perfectly to this concept: "Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."
He's referring to investments, but we would argue that this advice applies to your marketing as well.
Whether pandemic or economic related, difficult times lead to fewer advertisers in the market, which results in lower costs and less noise, so rather than following the crowd, consider taking advantage.
If you must reduce your marketing spend, pay attention to your competitors, and consider reducing your presence just enough to stay ahead or remain in the conversation. This way, you'll maintain your competitive edge and potentially extend your reach, while others make budget mistakes that damage their brand in the long-term.