Hmmmm…I think starting the day with a global market free fall and a “recession obsessed” media is not a good start to the day for anyone — especially marketing people. As companies experience recession-like symptoms of shrinking revenues and margins, marketing budgets will be the first to get slashed. Why? Because marketing is always the biggest line item of discretionary spending for any company. As a result, marketing is the first place a CFO goes when he or she needs to reduce the budget to immediately offset crippling financials. The harsh reality is that most CMOs do not get a reprieve on targeted objectives just because their budget is cut. The expectation is for the marketing exec to figure out how to do more with less. Sound familiar?
Here are a few suggested recession marketing strategies that will help ensure targeted objectives are not at risk based on a reduced budget:
1. Live in reality: Start by accepting the revised budget handed down by the CFO and refrain from all whining normally associated with the reduction. Why? Because the numbers are the numbers are the numbers. If the financial situation cannot support the existing budget, get over it and move on. You will garner more respect by rolling up your sleeves and immediately revising your plans than you will by droning on about how much you need the money. It is what it is and exhibiting leadership in a time of economic challenge will elevate your net worth and produce better results for the company.
2. Outsource marketing services: When I was the CMO on the client side, I was always a big fan of outsourcing marketing services. Like most outsourcing models, you can secure top talent at tremendous savings by not putting them on your payroll and incurring the burdened costs associated with the headcount. Less expenses for marketing headcount leaves more money for marketing programs. An outsourced model can be easily turned off or extended without any Reduction in Force (RIF) implications. If possible, look for a fully-integrated marketing outsource provider. Life is a whole lot easier to manage through a single point of contact versus the drag of managing a public relations agency, marketing agency, advertising agency, freelancers and/or consultants. The outsourced team is also more agile than internal resources because they do not get bogged down with internal distractions. This option will also give you the flexibility to bring the resources in house in the future as budget constraints subside.
3. Vote advertising off the island: Cut your advertising budget first and look to leverage public relations (PR) to garner a presence in the advertising’s targeted media outlets. PR is one of the lowest cost, highest ROI marketing initiatives on the planet. Moreover, PR comes with fantastic credibility, unlike the jaded response associated with ads. A good example would be to get your security company included in a 2-minute 40-second NBC Nightly News segment on identity theft. To buy the same media for advertising would cost $280,000+. Because of the inherent credibility associated with the media outlet and PR (vs. advertising), the publicity value of the hit would be more than $840,000. The ROI from that single media hit would be 7X the cost of a year’s worth of PR. Imagine how that ROI increases exponentially after one year’s worth of media coverage.
4. Leverage Web 2.0: There is such a thing as a free lunch and it is being served up by players like Facebook, Digg and Ning. From social networking to social news to social tagging and more, there are dozens of opportunities for low to no cost initiatives in the wonderful world of Web 2.0.
5. Start an epidemic: “Viral Marketing” is a ridiculously overused and misused buzz term. Creating a video and putting it on YouTube is not viral marketing. It’s actually needle-in-the-haystack marketing. A video becomes “viral” when it gets passed on person-to-person to a whole lot of people. In a B2B environment that may be thousands of people or more. In a B2C environment that may be hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. Check out the consumer-focused Cleaning Hunk viral video that swept across the internet like wildfire. For an example of a successful B2B viral clip check out BicBac (click on the animated one with the funny characters). Viral isn’t expensive, it just requires exceptional creativity and outrageous humor.
What recession marketing strategies have worked for you?