Three Februarys ago, the rug was pulled out from under our feet and the world that we knew changed forever; the pandemic struck worldwide, economies were forced to come to a halt and markets had a rather abrupt crash landing by 16 March 2020.
As nations grappled with pandemic protocols, digitisation accelerated across eCommerce, teleconferencing, to EdTech and gaming and more, while markets made a hurried V-shaped recovery.
What followed was an 18-month period of quantitative easing, cash infusion into market, record levels of startup funding, unicorn-decacorn level valuations, hiring sprees, and massive marketing spends to fuel growth at all costs. The economy around us seemed to be experiencing a gold rush until it wasn’t.
By this time last year, inflationary pressures had begun to cripple markets; interest rate hikes had caused markets to panic sell; an ongoing war had to led to a supply chain and energy crises; the funding euphoria had begun to evaporate; startups had pressed a pause on the growth pedal; the tables on layoff were being rapidly populated and by the last quarter of 2022, marketing spends had entered cautious territories given the looming possibilities of a recession.
For marketers, the turbulence is further amplified as halts in marketing spends and accelerated restarts rather pronouncedly. Yet, it has not been all doom and gloom, especially when one considers the technological advances made and the foundational opportunities that it has created
Amidst the ongoing funding winter, tighter economic conditions, and the looming recessionary environment, how should businesses transform their marketing investment and operations?
Demand & expect more outcomes from your marketing investments
Marketing as a function has evolved significantly in the last decade and it would be remiss of a business leader to not expect and orchestrate it to drive business outcomes such as better unit economics by:
- focusing on higher Lifetime Value (LTV) -to- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) ratios through efficient & media spends;
- driving higher sales conversion rates through personalised and sequenced brand storytelling and ensuring lower drop-offs in the funnel through smoother, native systems integration;
- effective retention and referrals through relevant and incentivised loyalty programs;
- improving Net Promoter Scores (NPS) through better designed omnichannel customer experiences
- implementing a better management information system for the board that provides near real-time measurement and attribution analysis that is based on a single source of truth and provides leaders with a common language to make timely decisions based on a data-driven approach.
A good starting point to do all of the above would be to conduct a thorough audit of your current, total marketing investments and engage in zero-based budgeting to create a tailor-made plan for the upcoming 24 months.
Drive higher utilisation of marketing technologies through capability building
Whilst everyone is raving about and experimenting with technologies such as ChatGPT, Lensa and VR headsets, to make the most of these platforms as a business, I would recommend you to:
- focus on specific customer use cases that can be enhanced or solved using these technologies than being enamored by these new shiny toys
- invest in training your staff in better utilising and implementing these technologies to solve for the above use cases as AI cannot automatically solve your business problems just yet.
Remember that tools like ChatGPT are only as good as the people who are well-trained to use them commercially and the quality of the questions they frame and ask.
Invest in organic brand building by leveraging content, stakeholder communities and making search engines your best friends.
Contrary to popular belief, this is the best time to invest in building your brand to be better prepared to capitalise on the eventual economic upturn and from my past experience, the three best ways to do so would be to:
- creating a brand storytelling playbook through multi-format, original and curated content
- encourage, urge, and incentivise different stakeholders such as employees, partners and even customers to organically share your branded content through public social media channels, email distribution lists and private chat apps
- invest in search engine optimization (SEO) for a relevant basket of 15-20 keywords for higher SERP rankings, better visibility, click-through rates and organic traffic.
One can only hope that the economic upcycle will embrace us within the next 12 months and the “funding winter” will transition into a spring phase soon, but as a marketer or a business, hope cannot be our strategy and we need to buckle up, look ahead, be optimistic and focus on controlling the variables that we have leverage over, and be prepared to capitalise on the good times that lie ahead!