This is really important. It’s easy to hear feel-good messages about the benefits of marketing in a recession and think they are true. But you need to believe it. You need to understand how it works. You need to get to the point where you’re
vigorously arguing with stakeholders that now is the time to invest more in sales and marketing than ever before. That there is untapped potential to grow market share via marketing in your industry starting today.

Here’s a graph to get started. See the right hand columns? They represent the companies that increased their marketing investment during recession. They grew. See the other columns? These represent companies that maintained or reduced their marketing spend. Don’t be those companies.

And here are the views of some better qualified people and larger businesses on the topic.

“We have a philosophy and a strategy. When times are tough, you build share.”
A.G. Lafley, CEO, Procter & Gamble

“Winners pulled away from losers during the last recession and widened the profit and market-cap gap during the subsequent expansion, Bain’s analysis of nearly 3,900 companies worldwide shows.”
Tom Holland and Jeff Katzin, Partners, Bain & Company, 2019

“The best performing companies did little expansion during economic booms. They declined to pay up for mergers and acquisitions, using the good times to build up their finances.”
Bill Conerly, Forbes, 2020

“In Argentina, after the recession of 1999 turned into the crisis of 2001, many people had to abandon their preferred brands of consumer goods in favor of economy brands. The premium brands that successfully weathered the storm did so by offering affordable new formats and cheaper packaging, focusing attention on performance and value, and, when the crisis ended, celebrating with positive and upbeat communication.”
Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst, Millward Brown, 2008

“The losing companies tended to follow a few recession dead ends. Some tried to slash and burn their way to the other side, under the misconception that extreme cost-cutting would be enough to survive the storm. They cut R&D across the board, scaled back on sales and marketing activities, laid off valuable talent and ruled out acquisitions. Other lagging companies strayed outside their core business, investing in the latest hot sectors and tools, praying for a winner. Still others tolerated poor results during the downturn, waiting to see what would happen, and then finally took action—too late because they bought the wrong asset or fell behind in product innovation.”
Tom Holland and Jeff Katzin, Partners, Bain & Company, 2019

“The benefit of increasing the marketing spend during an economic downturn is very well manifested in the profit level during the recovery period and afterwards. During recovery, businesses that had cut their market spend during the economic downturn averaged a fall in profits of 0.8%, firms which maintained their market spend had a 0.6% increase in profit while those businesses that increased their marketing spend during recession enjoyed an average increase of 4.3% in profit.”
George Amissah, PhD and Udih Money, PhD, International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2015

If a company fails to maintain its share of mind during an economic downturn, current and future sales are jeopardized. Maintaining “share of mind” costs much less than rebuilding it later.”
George Amissah, PhD and Udih Money, PhD, International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2015

You should assume that your market is going to continue shrinking in the coming months. It’ll be hard to win new customers and generate new opportunities. But if this is true, it will be the case for everyone.

Here’s the reality though. When this is over, and things start to recover, regardless of the speed of recovery, most of these customers will again need to buy what you sell. And when they do, a lot of them will research the market and give their business to who they think can best solve their problem at that time. This will very often not be the company they used to do business with.

Win more of this business than your competitors and you’ll grow back faster than they do. Your market share will have increased and ultimately so will your revenue.

But it starts today by making sure that your prospects (including ex-customers) are aware of you and your offering. This is where marketing comes in. When it comes time to buy, you need to be in the conversation.

Here’s a final thought.

“As companies slash advertising in a downturn, they leave empty space in consumers’ minds for aggressive marketers to make strong inroads.”
Peter Fader, Wharton School, 2008

Do your business a favour, be the aggressive marketer. If you aren’t responsible for setting marketing budgets, share the commentary above with the people who are.

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