Mar 23, 2020

Five strategies for marketers to thrive in this downturn.

By Ward Pennebaker

As we grapple with the impact of the COVID-19, we are seeing:

  • Companies are slashing budgets and laying off workers.
  • Most individuals who are still employed are being asked to work remotely.
  • Marketing budgets are being slashed.
  • Without information, customers are assuming the worst.
  • Marketers are dusting off their Jack Welch recession quotes, such as: “I love recessions. Recessions are when market share moves.”

We are officially in a deepening recession: Citizens are in quarantine, markets are paralyzed, and stocks are in free fall. These are unprecedented times, but previous severe recessions have taught us a lot about what companies can do to be better prepared for the inevitable uptick. Your marketing strategy is more important than ever before. Because Jack Welch was right. Recessions are opportunities for companies and individuals to make a significant impact. Let’s look at five strategies to help you through this downturn:

  1. Earn a seat at the strategy table.

    If you’ve been excluded from the company strategy table or not stepped up to take your place, now is the time to prove your worth.

    That means demonstrating your understanding of the business. CEOs want marketers and communicators who grasp the big picture and can provide ideas bigger and more creative than a new ad campaign. To earn (or keep) a seat at the strategy table, you need to bring market insights, customer insights and competitive insights. You need to be able to talk about where the industry is going, and where the opportunities are for your company.

  2. Now's the time to spring into action.

    In recessions, some people tend to put on their invisibility cloak, while others try to look busy. Neither wins points with CEOs. While your competitors are hunkered down, you can:

    • Conduct customer research that tells you something valuable and actionable.
    • Audit your current marketing efforts and materials to find out what’s working and what’s not.
    • Develop actionable strategies to engage and inform your diverse stakeholders.
    • Proactively look for opportunities to forge alliances and partnerships. This expands your footprint and hidden opportunities.
    • Re-evaluate, rework and re-energize those marketing efforts that have gotten stale or irrelevant.
  3. Uncover market openings.

    Not your job? Think again. It’s the perfect way to grab a seat at your company’s strategy table.

    Now is not the time to think in terms of what you currently offer the market. This is the time to understand what the market needs that you can deliver. Look beyond your traditional customer base by opening your blinders to see who else you should be talking to. Customers have big problems, and they are desperate from professional solutions. The secret is to change your perspective. Think outside-in, not inside out.

  4. Sharpen your digital marketing.

    Your marketing budget has been slashed, so doing things the way you've always done them is off the table. Customers and prospects aren't in the office, so that channel is disrupted. The answer? Digital.

    Customers are spending more time than ever on-line, and as demand for paid advertising drops, rates do as well. Fine tune your digital strategy to stay in front of all of your stakeholders while competitors retrench.

  5. Reach out to experts for help.

    You don’t have to know everything, but you do need the ability to learn. Too often people are afraid to ask for advice. A recent study by a Harvard Business School professor concluded that people who seek advice are perceived as more competent than those who don’t. And are ultimately more successful.

As someone who’s survived numerous recessions over the past four decades, nothing about them is fun. I’ve worried about and been humbled by each downturn. But I’ve also learned that the companies and people who look at recessions as opportunities—not death sentences—tend to emerge stronger and more successful.

Together we’ll get through this one, just like the others.

Hear Ward speak to the Business Marketing Association about marketing in a downturn.

Watch Ward's talk.

Like this article? There's more where it came from.

Enter your email and we'll send you updates as soon as we publish them.

Don't worry, we won't share your information with anyone else, and if we get too annoying, you can opt out at any time.