Updated: Mar 25, 2020
COVID-19 has led to an unprecedented business impact. While I have never seen anything like this, I have been helping clients navigate economic downturns for decades. I’ve also noticed a trend: when times get tough and companies have to control costs, marketing often tops the list of budget cuts.
I think it's is a good idea.
“What? A marketing guy says cut your marketing budget?” Yep. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and you are going to have to make tough decisions in every aspect of your business. You might have to layoff or furlough people, cut management pay, close locations, and in general cut every expense you can to save your company. Although I agree with cutting your marketing budget, I don’t recommend stopping altogether. Your sales and marketing efforts can be one of the levers you pull to help save your company. Here are some of my thoughts on making the most of a drastically cut sales and marketing budget.
Don’t panic. Strategize.
Revenue targets for the year are going to be hard for many companies to reach. Not many people planned on a global pandemic when they made plans for 2020, so it is important to look closely at your marketing spend. Cut everything that does not match your current reality, and focus your reduced sales and marketing resources on the things that will make the biggest impact in the future. If you planned to launch a new product or service, you don’t have to stop the launch, but you need to ask yourself, “Will this product still be relevant on the other side of this?” If the answer is yes, use this time to refine the positioning, pricing, and messaging for the offering to match the new post-COVID-19 world. If your new offerings don’t make sense in this new reality, can you position them so that they do? If not, put them on the back burner.
When there is a drastic change in the market, there are also opportunities to maintain revenue. A few examples include Ford offering to make ventilators, Bacardi making sanitizer, and local restaurants closing their dining rooms and pivoting to takeout. Changes in business aren’t optimal, but they show how getting creative can keep you in the conversation. Adaptability helps you make the most of the opportunities that are available.
Social distancing means meeting people face to face may be off limits for your sales people, but that doesn’t mean you have to be disconnected. Your clients and prospects are at home for days on end. Leveraging social media to communicate with them can be a powerful strategy. Another plus of social media is that it is relatively inexpensive. You probably already have a following on your social media channels. Now is the time to communicate with your contacts for free, and boosting your content through paid ads to reach new prospects is fairly affordable.
Stay close to your customers.
Keep in close contact with your customers, and support them as much as you can. After all, they were with you in the good times, so it’s a must that you help them when things get tough. As of late I’ve been working to help my clients pivot and make the most of the opportunities that are out there, going way beyond the hours I agreed to work in our contract. I want to add value that supersedes what they are paying me. You should be doing the same for your clients—going above and beyond, even if it means a decline in your profitability.
Steal market share.
It sounds harsh, but when the market shrinks, you need to get more than your fair share if you are going to keep your people employed. Are your competitors turtling up and getting conservative in their sales and marketing efforts? Now is the time to reach out to their customer base. Jack Welch said it the best: “I love recessions. That is when market share moves.” He was right. You will want to do everything in your power to make sure it moves in your favor. You surely have some advantages over your competitors—exploit them. Call them out, and go after your competitor’s client list and serve them better than your competitors can.
My final chirp: Come out the other side—on top.
As scary as COVID-19 is, one thing is certain: it will pass. Viruses run their course. So do what you can until the worst is over. Strategize on how to address the market and aggressively get your business back on track, your employees back to work, and reach the business goals you set at the beginning of the year. If you wait to start planning, you are going to be too far behind.
To give back to the B2B community that has been so good to me, I’m happy to provide a free two-hour, no-obligation consultation via video chat to help any business-to-business company plan for life after this outbreak. I can’t promise we will be able to solve all the world’s problems in two hours, but I can promise there won’t be any sales pitch from me, Just give me a call, and I’ll try my best to give you some sage advice about making the most of this market.
In the meantime, be careful, be safe, and be healthy. Times are uncertain, but we will get through this together.