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Mastering the Waves of the Economic Storm: A Guide to Sail Your Marketing Budget

Within our professional and personal circle, we all observe a shared existential dilemma: sales and marketing budgets taking a dizzying plunge, all due to the current economic context. It’s a bit like our figures setting sail without consulting us, and that, indeed, is frustrating!

Let’s take the Canadian economy as a concrete example of the situation mentioned. Inflation, making its impact palpable on sales in various retail sectors, including local restaurants. Faced with this economic reality, many businesses in Canada have chosen to reduce their marketing investments, mistakenly thinking it is the simplest solution. However, this decrease in advertising visibility naturally leads to a decline in sales, thereby contributing to reinforcing the vicious cycle we are dealing with in this economic context.

A strong, growing, and resilient economy – Department of Finance, Government of Canada

So, friends, clients, and partners, I’m throwing you a competitive advice in these challenging times: instead of taking a leap into cutting marketing expenses, why not consider a leap of faith into bolder investments? Remember, 100% of our sales depend on marketing, whether it’s word of mouth, promotions, social media, or even those old traditional media.

An active consumer is already on the verge of igniting a purchase, precisely aware of their needs. Ensure they discover your product. On the flip side, a passive consumer is further up the conversion funnel (TOFU – MOFU – BOFU) and sails in calmer waters where their purchase intentions are less defined, and the opportune moment for action remains uncertain. It’s somewhat akin to being in calm seas, where decision-making takes more time. As a marketing professional, your mission is to provide relevant information, nurture interest, and guide this consumer in the right direction (conversion), all while avoiding the sirens of competition.

Rethinking marketing in times of crisis is a bit like learning to dance the tango with a penguin: it may seem strange, but with the right strategy, it can turn into a stylish dance.

During a recession, marketing takes hits like a smartphone taking a plunge into the toilet. Sales slow down, customer loyalty vanishes faster than an ice cream in the sun, and marketing budgets are squeezed tighter than trying to fit into jeans after the holidays.

Every business is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for growth. It is crucial to understand your market and your business to determine the best strategies for development, expansion, acquisitions, partnerships, investment types, and deployment through marketing.

During a recession, it is crucial for the success of any organization to demonstrate agility in the ability to allocate resources where they are needed.

Les Affaires: Six strategies to position your company for growth during an economic slowdown | Published on 21/12/2022. A text by Mélanie Kfoury, M.Sc., IAS.A, President, Melka Conseil

Well, an economic crisis is also an opportunity to stand out like a unicorn in a world of dull ponies. How? Picture yourself in the midst of an economic slowdown, and your marketing looks more lost than a sock in the washing machine. But hang in there because even in the turbulence of the wash, there are opportunities.

If you continue marketing even during the crisis, your brand could shine like a star in the night. Look at the multinational Reckitt Benckiser – they boosted their advertising spending during the 2008 crisis and achieved profits that even Croesus would have envied.

And let’s talk about taking advantage of the decrease in advertising costs. It’s like buying chocolates after Valentine’s Day; you get the same thing for less. Less competition for advertising space means cheaper media. So, why not take a break from your 30-second commercials and switch to 15-second spots? It’s like the fast-food of marketing – quick, efficient, and cheaper.

Developing relationships with customers during a crisis is like offering an umbrella in the rain. Customers appreciate the human touch, even if they are soaked to the bone. It’s the perfect time to show that you are more than just a business; you are a caring friend, ready to provide practical solutions to the crisis.

And let’s not forget about the economic recovery. It will come, sooner or later, like spring after a long winter. By investing in marketing during the crisis, you are preparing your business to be the rockstar of the recovery. Because when the consumer is ready to whip out their credit card, they will do so for those who have stayed the course through the storm.

Understanding Recession Psychology
During periods of national prosperity, marketers may forget that rising sales aren’t caused by clever advertising and appealing products alone. Purchases depend on consumers’ having disposable income, feeling confident about their future, trusting in business and the economy, and embracing lifestyles and values that encourage consumption.

How to Market in a Downturn by John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz A version of this article appeared in the April 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

John Quelch is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and holds a joint appointment at Harvard School of Public Health as a professor in health policy and management. Katherine E. Jocz is a research associate at Harvard Business School. She is the author, along with other contributors, of the book “Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy” published by Harvard Business Press.

So, cutting the marketing budget? No, thank you. Let’s choose optimization instead. Prioritize high ROI channels and put extra effort into customer retention—it’s like building a sandcastle, it takes time, but it withstands the waves.

Thinking about marketing during a recession is like exercising in winter. It may seem challenging, but it’s what makes you stronger for the coming summers. So, lace up your marketing shoes, put on your brave entrepreneur suit, and dance with the crisis as if it were your quirkiest dance partner (referencing above: dancing the tango with a penguin…). After all, legendary stories often begin this way.

In the face of a situation affecting each of us, it’s an opportune moment to collectively rethink our approach. Let’s consider marketing not as an expense but as an essential investment. By sustaining and boosting our sales, we fortify our position to meet the future.

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