“We are navigating uncertain times.” How often have you heard some variation of this phrase in the last three years? It’s been used to explain everything from layoffs to schedule changes to service disruptions, and — while it may be true — it’s getting exhausting. I think it’s fair to say that we’re all looking for more “certain times.”
Perhaps more certainty and predictability lie in the future, but they remain to be seen. Right now, everyone (especially those in marketing) needs to focus on navigating uncertainty.
Adjust Investment Strategies for Uncertain Times
In the past year, we have seen the tide shift from a general policy of “grow at all costs” to “show profitability.” This means that companies’ investment strategy needs to focus on protecting the bottom line, and if the correction is not done gradually over time, the marketing budget is the most exposed to cuts and pullbacks.
This is usually because of two reasons:
- A structural adjustment like laying off part of your staff comes with expensive severance packages and therefore requires time to show an impact on the bottom line.
- Because companies that need to prioritize revenue and profits in the short term are often willing to forgo a medium to long-term impact for immediate relief, favoring sales costs that can bring immediate revenue vs. marketing expenditures that bring both short, medium, and long-term benefits.
This is the reason why companies that are seeing a softening demand (i.e., topline decline) or are anticipating a market contraction, tend to cut media and marketing budgets before reducing sales costs.
The problem is that if this pullback is done too abruptly, inbound demand will soften to the point where your sales efforts become less effective and will therefore worsen the company’s need to cut costs to maintain margins. Moreover, if your disinvestment strategy is more drastic than your competitors, the market share loss will make a later recovery 2-3x more expensive than the initial savings.
At this point, people may be tempted to suggest that to prevent this tricky situation, companies should have been more conservative in bolstering costs during a growth period. Still, we need to remember that limiting spend in a moment of growth also presents the opportunity cost of losing “fair” market share with respect to the market and competition.
Since we can’t go back in time, let’s discuss how companies can navigate a worsening financial outlook and how marketing and finance departments can partner together to adjust their investment strategy to manage the current environment.Continue reading