Home > Marketing > 3 Studies to Help You Keep Your Marketing Budget and Fend Off Reactionary Cuts [UML]

3 Studies to Help You Keep Your Marketing Budget and Fend Off Reactionary Cuts [UML]

You can’t control the constraints imposed by the Coronavirus, but you can make a case to keep your marketing budget

It’s a challenging time to be a marketer. You’ve got more constraints than ever.


First, there’s a clear need to be sensitive about messaging and promotion. Second, the business is chasing after your budget with a saw. And finally, you’re expected to hit the same targets you forecasted with a bigger budget and fewer constraints.

It’s amazing how fast our world can change, but there is a growing body of knowledge for how to market in troubling times. As I look out across my peers in B2B marketing, for many of us, this is our third trip to recession rodeo – after the dot-com bust and financial crisis of 2008.

We have more studies, more data and more experience both in designing and measuring marketing and marketing in a downturn. And that’s the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing Links [UML].

As I’m wont to do on the occasional Saturday, I’ve picked three links with data to help you fend off reactionary budget cuts, wrapped them in insight, and presented them here for your perusal.

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1. The long-term sales opportunity of marketing now

“We are seeing a lot of short-term, reactionary behaviors in response to the virus,” wrote Nancy Smith in a contribution to AdAge. She’s the CEO of Analytics Partners, a marketing analytics software and consulting company.

Companies are pulling back on marketing spending when investment now is an opportunity, she suggests:

“Studies show that companies that protect marketing budgets during recessions tend to do much better in the ensuing recovery period.”

What sort of studies?

She says her company has analyzed “billions of dollars in marketing spend across more than 700 brands in over 45 countries” and can draw some specific sales findings like this:

“Media spending contributes to short-term growth and longer-term brand building, even during a recession. On average, brands that increased media investment realized roughly a 17 percent growth in incremental sales, and more than half saw subsequent improvements in year-over-year ROIs over a two-year period during the recession.”

That’s a solid case for why you should absolutely, positively not cut your marketing and PR budget right now.

Read more: Don’t panic – adapt to strengthen your brand for a recession via AdAge

2. Marketing is still investing in paid search

Most marketers say the Coronavirus has caused them to shift spending, according to a survey of 203 marketers by Advertiser Perceptions. The survey was conducted in mid-March and was reviewed by the data site MarketingCharts.

There were some predictable findings:

“…a great deal of media such as display (47%), paid social (45%), digital video (43%), linear broadcast TV (41%) and linear cable TV (34%) have been paused, cancelled or pulled budget from…”

But also some surprises:

“…only about one-quarter (24%) of advertisers have pulled back the reins with paid search. Indeed, paid search is the channel for which the largest share (24%) of advertisers are retaining or even increasing budgets.”

The conclusion suggests there is light at the end of the tunnel:

“Decreased ad spend as a result of the coronavirus outbreak is expected to have the biggest impact in Q2, with optimism prevailing and more than half (57%) of advertisers feeling it will have only a minor or no impact in Q4.”

I see the decline in paid social as a short-term opportunity – if PR has a little paid social budget like it should.

Read more: Data Hub on Coronavirus and Marketing via MarketingCharts  

3. Marketing plans to invest in organic search too

Most marketers expect to see budget cuts. Several surveys show this, including a survey of 317 marketers by Conductor, as reported by Greg Sterling.

I had to laugh at this finding:

“Despite this, 68% said that their goals would remain the same (32%) or increase (36%).”

How does the math work on that? If it takes two cups of flour to make a loaf of bread, you can’t eliminate one cup and still expect the cook to produce a full loaf. By way of analogy, marketing is planting the wheat and tending the field to harvest enough to produce two cups of flour to make the loaf. If you cut the seeds now, you’re going to be hungry later.

Marketing is a long game and some of those long-game tactics, once they get running, are the most efficient and productive:

“Organic search was seen by 66% as these marketers’ top-performing channel last year, followed by paid search (50%) and email (50%).”

Organic search traffic is targeted marketing that, like wheat, takes time to cultivate. The Conductor survey suggests marketers are looking to reallocate some of their spending here:

“Conductor VP of Digital Strategies Patrick Reinhart made the point in a call with me that investing in SEO now (“planting the seeds and building for the future”) will pay significant dividends when the crisis is over.”

Read more: SEO will be a primary focus for marketers during the downturn, says survey via Search Engine Land

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Content Marketing: Is Now a Good Time to Double Down? [Coronavirus]

Image credits: Pixabay and respective studies

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