At the time of this article there are approximately 8,500 diagnosed cases of Coronavirus and 104 deaths in the United States and rising. I’m a GenXer, like a boomer only younger and with most of my hair. I have a couple 401(k) accounts that have lost more than 32% of their value in the last two weeks as the stock market continues to free-fall and drag us into another recession. I have experienced, survived, and adapted to some of the biggest economic downturns our country has experienced in the past 23 years. Based on my experience having survived challenging times, I have included 7 tips to recession-proof your marketing and navigate COVID-19 (the Coronavirus).
As a cold war kid, I remember the pending annihilation of nuclear doom of which Ronald Reagan reminded us daily. There was even a made-for-TV movie about it called ‘The Day After’ which shared with us how horrible a nuclear war and nuclear winter would be for all of us. Fortunately, that never came to pass, but I did experience these financial crises.
- Stock Market Crash of 1987, Black Monday. Back in the ‘80s, the stock market was barely over 2000 points at its peak. On Black Monday, October 1987 it crashed and visions of the 1929 stock market crash danced through our heads. We survived and this event was nothing compared to what was to come.
- Y2K was an event that was supposed to affect us similarly to how we are currently being affected by the Coronavirus. Our computers were going to shut down and we would all be Amish and live mid-19th century style. Like today, people were stocking up and preparing for it. There were countdowns to the pending apocalypse and families hoarding toilet paper and other household supplies. Y2K didn’t happen like predicted, but it is still remembered as one of the reasons people aren’t taking this pandemic seriously.
- 9/11 – After we all survived Y2K, the unthinkable occurred less than two years later when 9/11 – September 11, 2001 – impacted all our lives and our country and economy were knocked to its knees. Wall Street was shut down, stocks dropped and more impactful, marketing and advertising as we know it changed forever. Airlines, tourism and large companies cut their advertising spending to near zero, and other industries followed suit. This ripple effect resulted in the closing and consolidation of hundreds of advertising agencies around the country. Clients became more focused on the measurability and ROI that digital marketing delivered compared to traditional advertising and the death of Yellow Pages, newspaper, and radio was written on the wall.
- The Great Recession was a combination of the job market crashing, along with both the stock market and housing market. There were unprecedented bailouts of financial institutions and Fortune 100 companies. This event was a leading factor that expanded homelessness in our nation. After unemployment benefits ended for many, they still did not have a job yet and were not counted in our system as “unemployed.”
When I was in college at Portland State University in the ‘90s, I had a marketing professor who shared the thoughts of marketing futurist Faith Popcorn. She was famous for terming the term cocooning, where people would withdraw from society into their own ecosystems. Some people did this (we call them introverts), however, decades later, her prediction is coming true in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Today we face daily press conferences from the president and his COVID-19 crisis team. Schools are closed, flights cancelled, life as we know it is interrupted as we receive daily briefings on new restrictions we face as a society to help prevent the spread of this pandemic. This isn’t the end of the world as we know it, but it is certainly changing.
Here are 7 tips to survive the pending recession caused by COVID-19
Tip 1: Be Prepared
If you’re in the hospitality, tourism, or restaurant business, you are already laying off parts of your workforce. For the rest of us there is not much time to quickly evaluate all of your marketing channels and optimize your best performers and pause or sunset underachievers. Digital marketing is going to get you the best measurable results to drive leads, sales, and revenue so defending headcount for your digital team is a priority. Like in the Great Recession, traditional marketing will take a hit due to the lack of measurability.
Tip 2: Fight for your Marketing Budget
The bean counters are coming for you. In a recession, marketing is usually the first to get cut. Prove your value by sharing the measurable results of your marketing efforts and your marketing team. Brands that increase advertising spend during a recession, when competitors cut back, can improve market share. With the ever-changing news cycle advertising and being active on your social media channels lets your customers know you are still around and providing your product or service. Maybe your company is helping deliver food or providing some assistance to the community, that information needs to be shared because we are all in this together and contributing to your community is the right thing to do. If you prepared and already identified the poor performing marketing channels, you can offer those as spending cuts to your CFO so you can focus or double-down on the higher performing channels.
Tip 3: Align Sales and Marketing
Smart organizations know they need both a marketing department and a sales department. As headcount is reduced, now is the time for the sales and marketing teams to start working together. If your company or organization has a reputation for friction between sales and marketing, that will be one of the first areas of staff reduction. Work together, drive leads, and close deals and everyone wins until this crisis is behind us.
Tip 4: Get Creative
Marketing is the most creative side of business and one of the reasons we got into this career. Creativity will help you solve your current challenges and adapt to the changing marketplace. Eliminate any redundancies in your marketing. Are you sending printed material and email? Eliminate or pause the printing for email. Create PDFs, as opposed to printed materials. Look at your marketing plan and processes to see what you can change to increase efficiencies and effectiveness. Remember, during the Great Recession was when Netflix gambled on their new streaming service and it paid off, as we are all sharing our favorite Netflix shows and movies to watch while we are social distancing.
Tip 5: Cut the Right Costs
Companies need to evaluate which costs to cut when we are in these economic times. Bean counters always go to marketing first, but data proves that cutting marketing underperforms during a recession. Companies that cut manufacturing and administrative costs do well in a recession. Cutting ad spend and the marketing team will cause more damage than a typical recession. A reduction in ad spend will also reduce your income and force companies to make painful price cuts that continue to reduce revenue and force layoffs.
Tip 6: Turn to Technology
Do you use marketing automation? Do you have a CRM? There are better and more cost-effective solutions your company needs to consider. Do you really need an enterprise solution for an SMB? Maybe your predecessor was oversold on a solution that goes beyond your needs – now is the time to change. Evaluate AI technology to assist in customer service or improve the sales cycle. Ensure all of your marketing efforts are measurable, and build out data reports to the C-Suite using free platforms like Google Data Studio.
Tip 7: Be Resilient
We have been told to keep our social distance, hunker down, and be resilient. The same can be said for you and your marketing team. Your market is changing and evolving as I write this article, change is unavoidable, and you need to prepare for uncertain times. Anticipate the decisions and reactions from the C-Suite, back-up your efforts with measurable data and you will persevere. Be willing to try new things and invest your marketing dollars differently.
This too shall pass, but be smart and show compassion, and we all will get through this.