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BD and Marketing in a Crisis

In the past few weeks I’ve heard at least three people say, ‘we’re cutting back on marketing’ or, ‘budgets are frozen for that type of thing’.

When times get (or look like they might get) tough, marketing, and perhaps to a lesser extent, business development are overheads a business thinks it might be able to manage without.

However, whether you are simply well-read, a marketing expert, or have studied business at any level, you will know that this is the last thing we are told to do. It feels counter-intuitive, but you should consider increasing your marketing spend.

Why? Studies have proven it’s the right thing to do:

  • In the 1920s, the Harvard Business review reported that businesses who continued to advertise in a recession increased turnover by 20% through that period.
  • Similarly, in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and 80s, studies demonstrated similar results for varying recessions.
  • In the 1990s, consumer brands Jif and Kraft continued marketing and experienced sales growth of 57% and 70% respectively.

But *why* is this counter-intuitive move the right thing to do?

The explanations for the above phenomena are logical but multiple:

A natural human reaction to fear is to stop. A kind of ‘fight or flight’ response. And one thing is certain about the current situation, fear is in abundance. So business operators slam on the brakes and exercise prudence. Cut overhead spending and minimise risk. There’s some logic to this, but if all your competitors suddenly stop marketing and you don’t, guess which brand will be immediately more visible?

Second, if your business continues marketing, you can project an impression of stability. People will have confidence in a brand which continues to communicate. As Su Butcher recently observed, good and clear communication will help people through a crisis. Sadly, clear communication is not something we’ve seen from our leaders. This is particularly true for the construction industry. So far the government have issued at least four different pieces of advice on social distancing for construction!

The ‘share of mind’ effect – is crucial. Similar to the first point, but in this case, increased prominence can create a clearer space in your prospective client’s mind for your brand or service. Most people in business have remarked that they’ve won work just by being the last person someone met. With fewer people ‘in the room’, there will be more chance you and your business will be remembered by your prospects.

Keep your head…

It’s no coincidence that around 60% of Fortune 500 companies started during a recession. They were effectively knocking at an open door. You don’t have to be out selling, you might be doing your best to help people. The work being done by some of the brilliant contractors to support the NHS at the moment is fantastic to see. Law firms are helping their clients with webinars and online ‘clinics’. Marketing need not be an expensive or elaborate undertaking.

And if you’re still not sure you should be marketing, remember what Rudyard Kipling said…

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too”

Keep up the good work, and with good communication, resolve and quality marketing, we’ll get through this together. Panic buying toilet roll is not helpful, but continuing to promote your business is a very good idea.