Following a prior economic boom, the recession of the early 1990s was primarily caused by high-interest rates, falling house prices, and an overvalued exchange rate. More recently, the Great Recession of the 2000s was marked as the most severe economic and financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Fast forward to today and we’re experiencing something very different. An unforeseen global health pandemic causing entire industries to grind to a complete halt. COVID-19 has shaken the world, leaving organizations struggling to survive and companies around the world re-thinking their marketing strategies.
At the center of this chaos is marketing teams, playing a vital role in working out new ways to promote products and services, drive sales, target customers and convey the right messaging. The difficulty, however, is successfully achieving this while working with scaled-back budgets and dispersed teams.
With finances front of mind, organizations have had no choice but to cut budgets across all departments. Unfortunately, marketing has taken quite the hit, with a recent report showing overall budgets have dropped at the fastest rate since the global financial recession, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suffering the biggest reductions since 2009, marketing professionals are having to reconsider every single tactic, platform and campaign, in order to get a clear picture of return on investment.
They need to know whether an activity is worth doing – and spending precious money and resources on – or if it can be dropped to free up time and budget for other priorities.
While there are bound to be long-term consequences, the immediate impact of reduced budgets has resulted in a focus on performance as a matter of urgency. No longer able to resort to their usual ways of working, marketers have had to get creative.
Priorities and key performance indicators have shifted, with innovation becoming essential to those wanting to survive the current climate. This has meant testing both online and offline strategies meticulously, in order to find out what is having the most impact with audiences.
In the midst of the pandemic, working from home is no longer a sought-after employee benefit, but a non-negotiable standard.
As a result, entire marketing teams have been forced to come to grips with communicating and managing workloads via project management and video platforms.
Regardless of where employees are working, the need for seamless collaboration and alignment has become all the more important. Without the office environment and face-to-face interactions to rely on, employees must remain fully connected in order to maintain the same levels of productivity that they are accustomed to.
The majority of marketing activity not only relies on the entire department being aligned, but also regularly involves external agencies, suppliers and freelancers.
In order to achieve the collaboration that is needed to plan, launch and report on a campaign, technology will be crucial – particularly, platforms and solutions that offer greater consistency and a shared knowledge of what others are working on.
With the number of remote workforces expected to increase even after lockdown, and many businesses discovering they can work just as effectively away from the physical office, it’s likely that some organizations will decide to introduce new policies around flexible working.
In order to prepare for this, companies need to be able to support staff with the right technologies, leading to enhanced productivity and improved results.
As finances continue to come under strict scrutiny, we’re already seeing a slow in new hires and promotions. The same restrictions also apply to technology investment, with CIOs ceasing spend on non-essential tools and software.
Many will have already spent more than anticipated in a bid to enable and support the shift to remote working, therefore planned innovations – most likely set out as part of wider digital transformation initiatives – will be delayed or cancelled altogether.
With recruitment and tech spend on hold, now is as good a time as any to have existing members of the workforce re-train and upskill for the future.
Skills such as demand generation and digital media will escalate, while those previously focused on field marketing or events may need to consider gaining new experience.
Despite causing initial headaches, it’s likely that going through these challenges will help marketers in the long run. By using this time to collect and analyse data on the success of various activities and tactics, future strategies can be developed based on real insights.
When budgets begin to increase, marketing departments will be able to hit the ground running with campaigns that could end up being more successful than the old ones.
By increasing transparency across teams, each individual is aware of how they are contributing to a project, the role they should be playing, and what is expected of them.
This can help highlight where there may be skills gaps that need to be filled once the economy picks back up. While it’s not easy to say exactly how the epidemic will impact the marketing industry in the long run, the downturn has been extreme.
There’s a chance we may not see a full economic recovery for years to come, but there is no doubt that those quickest to adopt change will come out on top.
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