Thursday, March 19, 2009

Marketing - an unnecesssary expense or a needed investment?

So the economy continues to twist and turn in the wind, and every responsible business, large or small, is looking for ways to conserve cash, do more with less, combine efforts, put things off, invest in only what matters. The title of today's post is provactive at best, and dangerous when you are sitting in my seat at worst.

One of the first areas to often be "cut" when things get tough is marketing. Proclamations get made like, "we don't need to be advertising right now because nobody's buying XYZ." or "Our competitors all cut back their media spend months ago, we don't need to be out there so much."

If marketing is seen as advertising, or promotion, this can be a logical argument. Though, when times are tough it's the right time to go after market share so when they are back your company is positioned to win.

This is the time, and the opportunity, for marketers everywhere to remember what their job really is, and to start practicing it with more conviction if they have gotten fat and lazy and spent time during the good years chasing the latest greatest creative application of their brand, or the newest media seen as the panacea.

When you are pushed to cut marketing, think of it this way...

Upstream marketing is the business of marketing that entails analyzing customers, competitors, and company characteristics; identifying strengths and opportunities as well as weaknesses and threats; and targeting the most profitable segments - thereby identifying potential sources of cash flow. Magic to every CFO's ears right?

Downstream marketing involves differentiating your company's products and services in consumers' minds and delivering the unique value promised by those offerings - thereby harvesting cash flow. More magic right? Sometimes this is reduced to the pretty pictures stuff that is seen as the discretionary expense. If you don't do this "on purpose" that's a relegation you probably deserve.

So, for the few marketers who are giving me the pleasure of writing this post, and reading this perspective, think about it. Do what you can to contribute to these areas now, and show marketing to be the business discipline it is - beyond all the "expense" associated with advertising and promotion. This is about your best thinking, and using what you know about your customers, competitors and business to contribute to positive cash flow.

It's a fun time to try some new stuff, take some risks, and see just how much you know and can learn by thinking deeper.


  1. Well, one can look at Walmart who is posting profits in a time of market turmoil. They stepped up their marketing efforts to position themselves within these troubling times. Whatever the market condition you have to keep talking to your consumers, because like you say, if you stop talking they'll start listening to someone else!

  2. We're finding companies locally are struggling with how to remain afloat and are looking inward toward refining their systems and in some cases redefining marking efforts (more along the lines of strategic planning). The expense is an investment, I think some companies are getting that. The economy forcing them to think creatively.

  3. There is no better time than a tough one like now to retool your approach and get aligned internally about how you do what you do.
    This doesn't and shouldn't be a big consultant expense, this should just be deeper thinking where you ask yourself who your buyers are, what their needs are today and how will you develop products and services to meet them, differentiating your company in the process.

  4. Great post. Thanks for reminding us of things to do rather than the things to cry about.