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Cutting marketing in a crisis? Stop right now

customer experience services

It’s easy to see why some organisations are cutting marketing in line with dropping sales in this challenging period of COVID-19. But those organisations that ‘value’ a marketer’s role by tying outcomes only to sales, are making a huge mistake.

Marketing, at its core, is about driving demand for an organisations’ product and increasing brand recognition and value. While some marketers are scored by a direct, immediate, and causal linkage with sales, this represents only a small portion of what marketing is really about.

Marketing is not only about sales. It’s about long-term brand recognition and growth, which in turn facilitates sales and customer loyalty. According to Bynder, over 70% of brand managers consider building an audience more important than converting sales.

With channels and consumer spend patterns shifting, marketing’s objective to grow a brand and build loyalty remains the same. Those who pull back on marketing in times of crisis will find themselves behind the competition when normal trading resumes. Those who think ahead, however, can get ahead at this time.

The best way to achieve this is to examine the current offering, contrast it with current consumer expectations and pivot to fill a gap left by shifting demand as well as competitor shrinkage. Now is the time to deep dive into data and see what it is telling you, about your customers, your business, and your competitors. 

One of the most crucial aspects of this will be communicating to the c-suite how important it is to maintain, and even increase, marketing at this time.

Take a step back to leap forward

The knee jerk reaction in challenging times is to cut costs, and marketing is a line item most often on the chopping block because it is seen as an expense. Some CFOs don’t tend to really understand concepts like brand equity or loyalty, they respond better to things like return on investment or sales. 

Often, when marketing is only judged against sales in the short term, marketing is considered a cost, but when marketing is judged against long term growth, the view of the business starts to switch to marketing being regarded as an investment.

In this time, CMOs need to find a way to communicate the value of marketing in terms that CFOs like, but also in the context of future growth.

Marketing Week recently conducted a survey that revealed only 8% of consumers say advertisers should stop advertising. Meanwhile, according to the American Association of Advertising Agencies, only 15% of consumers don’t want to hear from brands during the current crisis, and in fact 43% find it reassuring to hear from brands at this time. BouceX reports email open rates have increased by 25% and a 1.45% increase in conversion rates.

These are big numbers, and clearly demonstrate there is still a big opportunity for marketing to harness to drive both long term and short term goals.

Do a deep dive

Long-term marketing thinking will mean your brand is poised to take off when isolation lifts. Now is the time to experiment, delve into data, and try out new messaging, audiences, and segments.

As competitors in your space lower activity, they will leave a void which needs to be filled. If it is not filled by your organisation, it will be filled by another. So rather than following the pack and lowering online presence and marketing messaging, why not increase it? Do a dive into your top two competitors: what do you do better than them? Promote it. Now is the time when space is available and rates are low.

Trust is crucial at this time, and as any good marketer knows, trust is vital for long term loyalty. In fact, the Edelman Trust Barometer found trust is as important to consumers as value and quality. Companies that are trusted keep customers longer and can charge a premium for their offerings. 

So engender customer loyalty by offering better value, content, and offerings at this time of uncertainty. Undertake some surveys, do some sentiment analysis – what are your customers telling you? What do they need? What can you provide them that competitors aren’t? Now is the time to really listen.

User experience and pain points

Improving user experience and rectifying customer pain points tend to get regulated to ‘later’ during busy periods – it’s often not seen as a priority. Often, later just never comes. 

During down times is the ideal time to examine your website, service offerings, and customer service feedback, to eliminate friction and improve the user experience. What are the pain points customers are telling you about? And how can you eliminate them? This, in turn, will improve customer sentiment and loyalty, to drive long term value.

Finally, use this time to refine your marketing plan, so you are perfectly placed to up the ante when you can. Be ready. Have a look at your data, find some new segments and audiences. Test some new messaging and perhaps even undertake a survey of your loyal customers. The nuggets of gold that can be gleaned during this time will set a business up for when times are good. 


Tim Beard
Silverbullet’s Managing Director for APAC
With over 25 years’ experience helping organisations implement and manage digital technologies, I assist marketers to understand and unlock the value of their martech and adtech mix, to effectively leverage data and glean new and transformational insights for better ROI.


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