(Don’t) Stop Advertising & Marketing

March 25, 2020

Stop Advertising & Marketing! Stop Business Development & Sales!

It’s ok, nobody had a thorough plan for what’s happening right now. If you’re like most of the agency and media ad sales execs that I’ve spoken to over the past two weeks, it was like we were all racing down the open highway with the wind in our hair and someone jumped on the brakes, not just pressed them – they smashed the brake pedal right through the firewall leaving huge black tire marks that stretched down the road until they ultimately stopped and you had a chance to look around, surrounded in smoke wondering ‘what just happened’? 

Some teams were more prepared or well-positioned for this than others. But it’s too late to look back now and wish you’d done something different then. Time to deal with it. What have you done already, and what’s your plan for tomorrow? Will your clients also stop all marketing and advertising? How are you advising them? Will you stop all of your business development and sales efforts? Then what? Your plan for the year might be toast, what you do tomorrow matters.

It’s clear that this new market reality will reshape the business and connected marketing and advertising landscape that we knew. It’s inevitable that some companies will fold, others will not. The decisions made by you and the clients that you advise today have real and relatively immediate consequences. 

Perhaps this will be a one or two-quarter recession, maybe longer? If so, it would be the first since the “great recession” that ended more than a decade ago. There were winners and losers then, just like there will be now. Fear was the culprit then, and its fear driving the market again. The market can handle bad news. What it can’t handle is uncertainty. Uncertainty is driving fear on four wheels today, manifesting in marketing and ad spend ‘pauses’ or ‘cuts’ and stop work on business development and sales for many. Should it?

Studies going back nearly a century point out the advantages of maintaining or even increasing marketing sales efforts during a weaker economy. Advertisers and agencies that maintained or grew their marketing investments increased sales volume and market share during the recession, and in many cases had explosive growth afterward. As a wise old Aussie bloke once said, “When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.” The same can be said for new business development and sales efforts. 

Why? 

  1. Noise Level. In almost all product and service categories the noise level has already dropped as your competitors cut back on their outreach and sales activities. We’ve seen this in almost all brand-side measured media channels since March 9th, from social spend to digital display and broadcast activity. Business development outreach almost entirely ceased that week, and then increased the w/o March 16th as teams figured out the logistics of remote / work-from-home realities and got on with the task at hand. Were you one of them now back on the highway, or are you still floundering on the fringe?

    Sensitivity marketing, value adds and acts of goodwill over hard-ball sales and marketing tactics is certainly called for in today’s climate. If you haven’t pivoted your outreach to this type of ‘here to serve’ messaging. Start now. You’re already a week behind your direct competitors. How much share-of-voice (SOV) have you lost already or will lose by your hesitation to act? Be brave, be bold and get after it.
  2. Positioning. You can use this opportunity (that might be a necessity), to reposition a brand, your firm or introduce a new product or service. Working exclusively in the travel and hospitality market or for an experiential agency or live events group? Adaptability and investment in repositioning and new offerings is in many cases going to be a make or break.

    I was on a call last week with an experiential agency that works for hotels and airlines – they’re not feeling beaten down and sorry. These guys knew what was important and what they could control, and they went for it. They’re on fire! They’ve increased marketing and business development efforts, being proactive and taking innovative digital solutions to their clients, shopping those ideas to others in the same category (and completely new verticals) as of Monday last week. Some incredible ideas for major hotel groups and airlines that already secured new projects and new business meetings with the gaming and toy industry. Incredibly motivating stuff!

A quick google search online will uncover a plethora of articles and blogs dedicated to this topic with case studies and insights galore. And all the articles agree that companies that enter a recession or depression with a reasonably healthy balance sheet, who take swift, decisive action and who increase marketing and business development efforts instead of recoiling, fare far better during a slowdown, with many that become industry giants because of it.

The concept is relatively easy to grasp; even when times are tight, people don’t completely stop hearing your message or spending. They simply look for better deals. When companies slow or stop their marketing and ad spending, they vanish from the buyer’s mind. And even if they don’t disappear completely, subconsciously, buyers begin to entertain doubts about them; they perceive the brands as weak or fading, and will often gravitate to the competitor who is maintaining or increasing their ad spending. It’s simple really – if two people are talking to you, and one stops and leaves the room…. you’re only going to listen to and be influenced by the one who stays and continues talking.

Perhaps if you haven’t already, keep thinking AND start talking! 

Don’t stop advertising and marketing. Don’t stop business development and sales.

It will need to be different. It will need you to participate. It will need your entire team. Climb back in that car, set a new plan, start it up and hit the gas! They’ll be a few bumps I’m sure. But better those than a carcass of a once beautiful car rusting away on the side of the road as others speed by with a smile.

If you need help riffing on a new plan, new companies or categories to target, my team and I at Winmo are here to serve. 

Got a story to share? We’d love to listen too.

 

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