We’ll admit: this is an uncomfortable subject to raise. Many of the people reading this will fall into one of two groups: (A) marketers who are struggling, in many cases because marketing budgets have been slashed, and (B) business operators who are up against the wall, many of whom see “severing a finger to save the hand” as the best available option. In other words, the hazard here is that we’re either (A) preaching to the choir or (B) lecturing people about things they can’t control.

You’re still reading this because, well, we’re messengers… it’s the cross we sometimes bear. As a rule, we avoid killing the buzz unless something important requires it—and we consider this message important because it contains long-term perspective that very few people will have right now (and fewer still will keep in focus).

The original “message” (which we’re recapping) comes from Gavin Finn at MarketingProfs. There are two simple pieces here: the statistical studies which support our 👆 headline, then concise practical wisdom from the old pros.

First, some stats and studies:

📉 Harvard Business Review finds that companies which cut marketing costs faster and deeper than their rivals later have the lowest probability (21%) of pulling ahead of competition once times improve.

📈 MIT’s data from their study of financial performance during downturn indicates that “investing to create and sustain a competitive advantage is still the single best recipe for dealing with downturns.” Cornell corroborates with their research into over 200 companies, concluding that marketing investment during tough times is likeliest to bring the greatest gains in the long term, plus whatever can be gained in the short term.

📊 Slight tangent: HBR also finds that CMOs are the likeliest members of the C-suite to doubt their impact and likeliest to be doubted by COOs and CSOs—to the point that CMOs have the shortest average tenure—even though this lack of confidence is statistically unwarranted in most cases.

Second—to the varying extents that y’all have a choice here—these seem to be the wisest long views on marketing spend in this climate:

🪓 What you lose now will need to be rebuilt later. Think of a business as a house (in Florida) and situations like this as a slow-motion hurricane. One simple reason that it’s smart to make “marketing investment” during downturns is that you won’t have to spend as much to rebuild things—like spending money to board up the windows, rather than buying new windows later. Also, if you don’t have to rebuild from the studs, you’re operating at full power sooner than the competitors who didn’t read this.

🥤 Don’t slash the budget—sip it. Unless you’re one of the lucky few businesses which can profit from pandemic, it’s practically a no-brainer that you have to tighten the budget belt. Having said that? The #1 piece of advice from Forbes: cut smarter, not harder.

🔮 The sooner businesses can adapt to the post-COVID world, the better. Probably obvious, but it must be said: COVID is changing business in ways that will far outlast the original threat of contagion. The sooner companies can begin reshaping their messaging and marketing strategy, the better they’ll adapt to whatever “new normal” results from this. And this process requires marketers, lest we forget that businesses don’t survive long-term without a steady supply of prospects and customers.

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