What You Should Do With Your Marketing Budget During Times Of Economic Uncertainty

As a business leader, you know it's important to keep your marketing budget flexible. But with the economy in a state of flux, what should you do with it? Here are nine tips to help you make the most of your marketing budget.

5 min read

This is the first in a multi-part series of posts we'll be writing about marketing your business during times of economic uncertainty.

It is human nature to withdraw during times of uncertainty, the classic “flight” response. Since the dawn of man, humanity has worked to figure out how to store food for times when it isn’t plenty and fortify our shelters for the unpredictable battles. These are smart moves, but there are two sides to the flight-or-fight(or-freeze) tendencies we were handed by our ancestors. When the winds of change are blowing, some people see downward trending graphs as a harbinger of doom and gloom; others see opportunity.

You can learn a lot about someone by how they play card games - Black Jack, Euchre, Cribbage, Poker.  It’s never the most conservative card players who win. You have to be willing to take a risk and tell the dealer, “Hit me,” or tell your Euchre foes and partner, “I’m going alone.” Some of us live by the motto: You can’t win if you don’t bid.  It’s the same in business. If you’re not willing to put some bets on the table, you can guarantee your payback is zero.

During these times of economic uncertainty, which, frankly, seem to happen cyclically and aren’t so unique (remember 2001 and 2008?), how can you stay in the game and best position your business to take advantage of market disruption? Grab your sipping whiskey, put on your lucky bacon socks, and take a look at the hand you’ve been dealt. Here is marketing management and budget advice for changing times:

  1. Always start with your customers. How are their needs changing or how will their needs change? What are their new problems and how can you fix them? Adjust your marketing messages and positioning to help customers understand how what you have or do can help.  
  1. Don’t go quiet in the market during difficult times. This is when your customers need you most. They need to know you are trying to find ways to help them, even during difficult or uncertain times.  
  1. Take a look at your customer strategy. Some customers will have unique opportunities during economic changes. The closer you are to your customers, the better you will be at helping them take advantage of these opportunities.  
  1. Invest in your best bets. Is it time to finally cut loose those anchor products or services to free up marketing money for your better bets? Sometimes an ace is really a joker. Get it out of the deck.
  1. Do you need adjusted or new products because your customers need your help with new problems? Innovation is never more in style than during a crisis.  (COVID, anyone?)
  1. Review your fixed costs. Are some of them preventing you from being nimble in deploying new marketing strategies?
  1. Invest in your best marketing bets. “Moneyball” your marketing returns. Get quantitative and be honest about which activities are showing returns and leading to sales. Stop doing the mediocre ones and lean harder into the ones leading to sales.
  1. Market research is a good investment during changing times. Support your bets with quantitative and qualitative data. It’s more scientific than reading poker faces, although experience and intuition never hurts. It’s like counting cards, but it’s only cheating your business if you don’t do it
  1. Are you fairing financially better than your competition? If yes, are there opportunities to ramp up your marketing to obsolete their offerings and grab customers? The company with the bigger stack of chips can grab customers and acquire key technologies to be positioned beautifully on the upside of the downturn.

To answer the question of how to handle your marketing budget during uncertain economic times, use your resources to find out your customers’ new problems and possible opportunities. Be there with them, and tell them in the most effective ways how you can help. Don’t stop placing marketing bets; use this opportunity to shift money from the underperforming areas. Use this opportunity to innovate your marketing approach. Lean heavier into the growth areas with a better chance to succeed in whatever new normal you can see coming. You can’t predict the future, but you can keep playing, adjusting and leaning on the strengths that got you to the table. You can’t win if you don’t play, and you can’t grow your business if you don’t market to your customers.