Should you cut back on your Marketing during this current crisis?

Clearly, the decisions you make now about your Marketing will significantly influence how well you are able to take advantage of the upturn at the end of all of this…


Written by Andrew Shelton, an experienced Marketing Consultant, who has personally have been involved in helping companies with their Marketing during recessions and difficult economic times in the UK since the early 80’s

I know that you will have a lot to deal with at the moment (to be honest, we do as well at Shelton Associates) but I’m sure that one of the decisions you will be making soon, when the dust settles a bit, is what to do about your marketing in this current environment! Should you stop it, should you increase it, just focus on digital marketing etc….

Clearly, all of this will depend on a range of factors, including the type of business you are, the customer groups you deal with, financial resources etc, but inevitably, what to do about your Marketing Campaigns and Budgets is a decision that you will have to address at some point-probably sooner rather than later!

For many years in my early career (in various Marketing Consultancy Roles) I seemed to be starting many of the Marketing Reports I was writing for clients at the time with the opening phrase ‘During the current recession…’. It almost seemed to be the natural way of the world to me in those days. Of course, those recessions over the years were caused by a range of factors such as the Global Oil Crisis in the mid 70’s, Monetarism in the early 80’s, ‘Black Wednesday etc in the early 90’s, the Banking Crisis in 2008 etc. What we are going through at the moment is quite different, but ultimately the results could be the same and how we deal with both the immediate impacts of Covid-19 and the after effects will be determined by a whole range of factors, but what we do about our Marketing, will be certainly be a key one!

Historically, in my experience, Marketing expenditure was one on the first activities to be cut by companies trading in difficult times as it was seen to be an ‘easy area’ to reduce spending on in the short-term.

But over many years, the lessons seemed to have been learnt that cutting back on your marketing in a recession/difficult trading environment turns out to be a false economy. Indeed, maintaining expenditure and possibly in some cases increasing it, tends to both protect your current position and helps to ensure that you come out of the recession better equipped to take advantage of an eventual upturn.

Now of course everyone’s circumstances are different and it is clear that difficult, and pragmatic decisions will need to be made by individual businesses over the next few weeks and months. Frankly, nothing could have prepared us for what we are going through at the moment, as we have clearly not seen anything like it before, but here a few thoughts about what to consider doing with your own business, based on my own individual experience of helping companies with their marketing over the past 40 years.

Three Distinct Marketing stages to Consider

As I see it, it looks like we have 3 different stages to consider and deal with in the coming weeks and months and our marketing will undoubtedly need to be different for each stage. I have summarised these these below:

Stage 1-The Immediate Crisis-What to do about my Marketing Activity now and for the next few weeks/months?

Although some decisions will need to be made quickly, this is not a time for ‘knee-jerk’ reactions, but a time for calm consideration of the options and then implementing well-thought through Actions-It is also time to get done all of those important jobs that you have been putting off doing (updating the website, cleansing your database, sorting out your CRM etc, which don’t necessarily involve expenditure) and investing time in developing the key skills which will not only help you to survive the immediate difficulties, but will help you through the ‘Aftermath’ and the ‘Recovery’ stages. No point sitting around ‘wringing our hands’, let’s get started now with these key actions underway!

Stage 2-The Aftermath-What to consider once this immediate crisis is over.

Once the Immediate crisis is over, the problems won’t be over, but your business will be in a much better position to cope with what happens next, if you have used your time wisely in Stage 1. We will be many months and possibly years in The Aftermath, I suspect, as we all deal with the new world we will find ourselves in. We will no doubt be different people on the ‘other side’ and the way we do business I’m sure will be different to what we have been used to as well. In what ways, who can say, but we will have our plans in place, have developed new key business skills and be much better equipped to try and thrive in this new business environment.

Stage 3 -The Recovery-How to be in a position to benefit once the recovery starts

By successfully navigating the Immediate Crisis and The Aftermath, you should by definition be in a stronger position to succeed in the Recovery Stage. I am tempted to say when things get back to ‘normal’, but I suspect that may not happen for a long time as Government grants and handouts are replaced by increased and new Government taxes as ‘Payback Time’ arrives!

Developing your Covid-19 Marketing Plans

Some of you may know, that I have been involved in helping SMEs develop Marketing Plans for many years now and whilst plans have always needed to be flexible and continually reviewed, this is evidently going to be increasingly important now and in the future!

Frankly, no-one knows how long This Immediate Crisis will last, never mind what happens afterwards. This doesn’t mean though that we can’t think through and plan what needs to be done in each of these stages beforehand and just start implementing the various activities when appropriate!

Whatever we do, we all need to make sure that we have got a business at the end of all of this….

I have no doubt that most of you will be taking stock at the moment generally and considering how you continue to market your business. We are, of course as well….

Clearly there are clearly some sectors and businesses which are doing extremely well in this first phase of the crisis, including Supermarkets, ecommerce businesses as well as those selling products on Amazon where many of our clients are reporting booming sales at the moment! So thinking laterally and looking for other markets and routes to market for your products can be a good starting point for you. If appropriate, you could, for example, be up and selling on Amazon very quickly. This may be a short-term tactical measure, but it may also turn out to be a new important strategic direction for your business in the future…..

Other sectors of business may not so lucky and it is those businesses that I have identified as the main audience for this article.

Should I cut back on my marketing now?

Well, I’m afraid at this stage, until we find out more, the answer is going to be ‘maybe’ but not necessarily…

I realise that it is very tempting in this ‘Stage 1-The Immediate Crisis’, to ‘baton down the hatches’ and cut back all but the essential spending, which in some cases may be essential to survival, but in others may turn out to be ‘False economy’, depending on circumstances

Before you do anything though, you should perhaps look upon this as an opportunity to properly review the marketing activity that you were doing Before Corona to see if it had been working.

Ultimately, this will come down to, looking at each marketing area you have been spending money on and assessing whether or not it has worked- by which I mean, did it generate Leads, Enquiries and Sales! Sometimes we get into the habit of spending money on some areas of Marketing because ‘we have always done it’ or because it is happening in the background being undertaken by someone else and at least we are therefore ‘doing something about our marketing’. Or course, this raises other issues, such as ‘I don’t have the systems in place to tell whether my marketing is working or not’ or ‘just because this form of marketing worked Before Corona doesn’t mean that it will work at the moment or in the brave new world we will be all facing once this immediate crisis if over’ and at the moment, to be honest, we don’t have the answer to some of these questions. This current situation now though does concentrate our minds and gives us greater encouragement to identify what we should already have known ie: which of our marketing activities are working, which are not and just as importantly have we got the systems in place to tell whether they are working or not!

Your marketing activity may or may not be reduced, but it will probably be different!

Of course, it doesn’t go to say that what worked Before Corona with your Marketing will still work now!

Once you have evaluated and re-planned your marketing for the immediate situation and beyond, you will need to test different types of campaigns and platforms/approaches to see what works for you now! Thankfully, with Digital Marketing tools these days, it is more than possible to do this quickly and relatively cheaply and then put more investment behind the campaigns that have been proven to work!

I am planning to follow up this article with some more direct, practical Marketing advice and assistance about what we should be doing about our marketing at the moment, but here are a few initial thoughts below:

· As we have been discussing, this is an opportunity to review you current Marketing Activities to see what has been working and not working-just as importantly, can you tell!

· Try not to take knee-jerk reactions- develop your Marketing Plans for Stage 1-The Immediate Crisis and then take Actions, based on well-considered analysis

· Undertake those key activities that you need to do that will make your business more resilient and more able to get through the initial stages and flourish later on-let’s be honest, you probably already know what these are and could make a list right now!

· Train, Train, Train! Use this initial time to develop your key skills in a wide range of areas, which will of course include marketing (LinkedIn, Facebook, CRM, Email Marketing, YouTube, Instagram, etc) as well as Zoom, our new best friend, for Meetings and Webinars to ‘spread the word’ about what you do etc.

· Clearly, Digital Marketing is going to be crucial in promoting your business and maybe now is time fully exploit its potential for your business. Make those changes to your website that you have been meaning to do! LinkedIn has seen traffic grow considerably in recent weeks and is an ideal B2B tool for establishing business relationships that will last well beyond this current crisis and Facebook lead generation ads are just as important today as they ever have been-possibly more.

· Don’t forget the phone though! It has been an under-used tool in this digital age and perhaps many of us have forgotten the power of the phone! Now is the time though to embrace the power of the phone again as a business tool and ’Let your fingers do the walking’!

· If you are not involved in eCommerce at the moment-could you be? Clearly there are significant opportunities here at the moment. Even if you don’t have a product at the moment, could you develop a training programme based around your skills that you could then ‘package’ into a product and then sell on-line?

· Even more specifically, you could start selling your products on Amazon, if appropriate, which could potentially generate you significant sales and another ‘Route to Market’. Alternately you could set up a separate business and start selling other people’s products on Amazon which can be very profitable as well!

I hope you have found these initial thoughts useful and am offering a FREE chat about the marketing issues you and your are currently facing.

Book a Free Chat with Andrew Shelton.

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