Marketing in a Recession…Is Good Marketing

As much attention as Q4 gets, Q1 is the all-important quarter for B2B companies. In normal times, marketing teams are flush with budget and brimming with optimism, opportunities convert at higher rates, and ambitious new goals mean companies are looking for new products and services to beef up their efforts.

In abnormal times with a recession looming and budgets and teams shrinking, with uncertainty abounding, how should you change your marketing approach? 

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You shouldn’t…as long as your marketing is fundamentally sound. Marketing in a recession is no different than marketing in a normal economy; you need to be accountable for dollars spent turning to dollars earned. In a booming economy, a lot of venture-backed marketers focus on sucking the air out of the room and playing a market share game rather than staying true to marketing fundamentals, and they hope that there are enough wins to smooth out the imperfections. In a recession, the margin for error narrows to razor-thin, and a return to basics is essential; get back to fundamentals, be accountable for every dollar, focus on what you can prove, and make sure you’re not taking unnecessary risks. If there’s a significant shift from the norm, it would be to focus on the middle and bottom of the funnel and plan for how you will attack the top of the funnel when budget opens up.  

You still need to reach your most relevant audiences. You still need to build an authentic brand and nurture your best customer segments and build community. You still need to minimize investments in channels where you can’t prove ROI. You still need to tie advertising spend to pipeline outcomes and revenue. You still need to look for opportunities to get more bang for your buck as competitors wax and wane, and you still need to execute. 

What does execution look like in a recession? It looks like it should at all times.

Check and double-check ad copy. Make sure your lead routing hygiene is clean. Make sure you are closing the loop with your sales team to understand where your best leads are coming from. Align yourself tightly with other teams’ calendars (e.g. promo calendars) to make sure you don’t waste a single click on expired offers, or outdated copy that’s no longer relevant. 

As a recession looms, I’m reminded of a quote from Littlefinger in Game of Thrones: “Chaos isn’t a pit; chaos is a ladder.” Economic uncertainty can be much the same. Some will fall into the pit, and others will batten down the hatches and wait for things to blow over. For those who manage the next couple quarters properly, the economic uncertainty can be the ladder they need to leapfrog some of their more conservative competitors.

You can decide if the next couple quarters are a pit or ladder. The height of your climb will come down to how well you execute and how true you are to your marketing fundamentals.

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