As marketing leaders focus on preparing for the potential of an economic downturn, the initial focus is often placed on where costs can be reduced quickly, or where resources can be reallocated effectively, all without damaging the long-term capabilities of the marketing organization.

The silver lining for marketing organizations during economic downturns is that recessions can be a time for marketing to find new ways to contribute while also expanding the organization’s view of the value that marketing delivers. These four steps will help CMOs better align the marketing organization to shifting business objectives and efficiently earmark resources for more immediate business impact.

1. Realign To Business Objectives With A Marketing Plan On A Page

Marketing leaders should be prepared to be responsive to quick shifts in business strategy. As the economic environment changes, annual business plans are often pushed aside in order to better adjust to economic reality. Marketing leaders should consider implementing and maintaining a marketing plan on a page to ensure that marketing investment, activities, and goals are aligned with the evolving objectives of the business as they look to weather any potential economic challenges. The key elements of the marketing plan on a page are:

  • Business objectives. These are quantifiable objectives based on what the company wants to achieve given the new economic reality.
  • Marketing approach. This defines how marketing will act to meet the business objectives.
  • Marketing priorities. This is the top focus areas that marketing leadership chooses to prioritize given the economic downturn.
  • Marketing goals. These represent new and quantifiable objectives.
  • Key actions. These are examples of how the plan will be executed.
  • Dependencies and risks. These are the things that must be addressed for the marketing plan to work.

2. Prioritize Customer Marketing Efforts

In a time of recession, prioritize marketing efforts toward elevating customer relationships. In times of uncertainty, our customers are asking different questions and looking for different types of help. Being there for them and helping them maximize the value of their relationship with you will not only protect your existing partnerships but also pave the way for future growth. Customer obsession is always a key business orientation, but in difficult economic times, marketers can most impact business outcomes by engaging with existing customers to demonstrate customer value and support efforts to retain customers.

3. Develop A Marketing Enablement Program

As business needs change, marketing resources will have to be allocated in a manner to reflect the changing strategic focus. This presents a significant personnel challenge for marketing leaders to best match existing personnel to new required competencies and help them become productive quickly. Forrester recommends establishing a marketing enablement program to better facilitate the development of new skills within the marketing team. The Forrester Marketing Enablement Process Model is a great place to start as marketing leaders attempt to develop the skills and capabilities needed to support the business during a difficult economic environment.

  • Assess. Evaluate which marketing teams and roles need to be optimized to support company needs during an economic downturn.
  • Build. Have a documented plan for developing the required skills and capabilities.
  • Execute. Implement training programs and track progress against your objectives.

4. Expand The View Of Marketing’s Value

Marketing goals will often need to change to reflect a new economic reality of a recession. Marketing can add value at every step of the buying process and customer lifecycle, beyond what some stakeholders often expect. In order to best demonstrate marketing’s value to the business, marketing leaders should expand the view of marketing’s value beyond demand creation, looking to marketing KPIs that demonstrate marketing’s contribution in areas such as customer engagement, sales enablement, retention, and market/buyer insights. Use the Forrester B2B Marketing Value Model to reevaluate and expand how the business assesses marketing’s impact on outcomes.

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