What’s Going to Happen to Your Marketing World
For those of us who held marketing leadership positions through the tough times of the dot-com bubble bust, September 11, 2001, or the Great Recession, this post won’t be a surprise.
You know precisely what I’m about to write. And how this makes me, and you, feel.
But for those who didn’t live or work through any of the above, pull up a seat and spend a few minutes with this post. You’re about to learn a few things about marketing and business — and, hopefully, gain a better appreciation for those of us who have one thing you don’t:
Marketing Experience in and through some of the toughest times in our history.
Like today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future.
We’re living through history.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a post about marketing history. It’s one about looking forward. Because that’s the only thing you can do. You’ll better serve yourself, your company, coworkers, partners, and customers if you forget about the way it used to be. In those good old days which started to erode in the first calendar quarter of 2020. (Really in the latter part of 2019. As in COVID-19.)
Because times have forever changed for marketing.
And things will never be the same.
(Nor should they be.)
That 2019–20–21 budget you thought you had?
Consider it gone. You’ll have to revise it. Down. Way, way down.
Money for that trade show that got canceled? Gone.
For that fat analyst contract? The same.
For that analyst event? You get the point…
For those advertising agency expenditures? Why do you keep asking?
On the 2020 calendar, you’ll find March 31. EoQ. (Play along if on an offset FY.)
That’s the first date when things get real. (Yes, they already have, but…)
Q1 numbers will tell a story. Q220 is supposed to be worse than Q1.
I predict that it’ll take your C-Suite about 10 days into April to fully digest the lousy business numbers, even worse projections, and act.
Guess who’s up first?
Because in times like these, marketing is always first.
Marketing will get its day in court, if it’s lucky. It may not. But if it does, “court” is now the remote conference room. It’s where marketing will be called to answer for recent major expenditures.
As in, “Tony, you spent $250k on the January event. What were the results?”
Problem is, Tony’s answer may not nearly be enough. No matter how much spin is put on the answer, no matter how stellar the convention results, he’s damned if it was good or damned if it was bad.
- Odds are Tony doesn’t have an answer, so none was provided.
- Odds are Tony doesn’t have a good answer, so none was provided.
- Odds are Tony’s CEO didn’t care to ask back then, because, well, Tony’s CEO was too busy not worrying about that budget while spending time acting like a big shot in the lounge in the Las Vegas airport.
- And if Tony did have an answer, it should’ve been given two months ago.
But let’s not pick on easy targets like trade shows and events. Other line items more than $1 will also get called out.
- Why are we spending that much money with that one analyst?
- How many pieces of marketing technology do we subscribe to?
- Why is there a closet full of marketing junk… content, collateral, giveaways…?
- What are we getting for all of that?
You name it… if it’s in the marketing budget, a business answer with rationale and marketing and sales results must be provided to support each and every expense.
And even if you score 100 on this test (you won’t) that doesn’t mean you get to keep your budget the way it used to be on March 1, 2020.
Not by a long shot.
With the pandemic, those same couldn’t-care-less attitudes you saw in your C-Suite and their oblivious investors in January has changed. Overnight.
That company culture that you thought you knew so well… the one that valued its employees during that three-week break over the holidays just a few short months ago has vanished.
Your marketing world is about to change.
Now, a true marketing story.
It was September, 2000.
2000, not 2001.
I was on vacation and at the Reno, Nevada airport when I decided to call in to work. As I always did on vacation. I was informed of surprise, massive marketing layoffs at my company. (Though I was not being let go.)
More, and here’s one thing they don’t tell you about ‘working from home’ in this time of economic turmoil:
- You may never see or talk to some of your remote coworkers again. Ever.
- You may never know they’re gone.
- You may never know what happened to some of them.
- Some, will simply disappear. (Not in a violent fashion, but they will move on.)
- You may never know why anything happened. (Beyond the rough economics.)
- You may be one of those, involuntarily leaving.
- You may be one of those, that keeps working.
But the work never stops. The insatiable sales demands remain. The marketing budgets get tighter. And tighter. The marketing world changes, forever.
While you watch good people lose their jobs, and their livelihoods.
People with families, and expenses.
While you have to keep it together.
All of it.
It’s then you realize that this is business. Not smiling people taking pictures in trade show booths. Not boring panel discussions. Not overblown analyst contracts. Or how much any one of us knows how to use some digital tool.
Marketing is all about the business. All of it.
And yes, there are coworkers I never saw or heard from again.
Reread what I said at the beginning of this post. Those of us who have been through similar — but not identical — tough times know, remember, and recall how things went down and how they made us feel.
Sorry… make us feel. To this very day.
That’s why I’m the most revenue-oriented marketer, product marketer, sales enabler, and corporate citizen you’ll ever find.
And you should be, too.
It’s a direct business marketing result of times just like this.
That’s why I’m ruthless when it comes to marketing budgets. About spending money on trade shows. Analysts. Sponsorships. Events. Conventions, and Conferences. MarTech. Any Tech. Consultants. PR. Media. And Media Production. Ad Agencies. And marketing vendors, any marketing vendor with the latest digital, social, creative, or can’t miss branded marketing cure…
Ruthless about execution, measurement, sales, results, revenue, mistakes, corrections, solutions, leadership, and teamwork.
About coworkers, customers, clients, partners, stakeholders and shareholders, and communities that the business serves.
And SMH when I’m told just because I’m not a cheerleader for a certain brand of digital technology, or a user of a certain piece of hip, SaaS-delivered software, or that my writing style is too creative, or I’m not a yes-man for a CEO who doesn’t respect, nor understand, marketing outside a set of 1999-era blinders…
When I’m told I need to employ some marketing strategy that nobody could explain in under eight hours…
That doesn’t do a damn thing for the sales person in the trenches…
When I’m told ‘marketing’ needs to employ a certain type of tech, attend certain industry events, subscribe to certain analysts, and step in front of whiteboard to explain the academic theory about qualified leads and the differences between certain mind-numbing marketing methodologies…
When I see ridiculous amounts of marketing money being flushed down the toilet, or when I’m told there’s no money in the marketing budget…
I point to marketing experience in times like this. You won’t neccesarliy find it on my resume because I was too busy helping sales, and too busy helping save the business to pretty-up my resume.
But those who were there know. They precisely know.
And for those of you marketing through these tough economic times for the very first time, fasten your seat belts. There’s rough weather ahead and you’re in for heavy, heavy turbulence.
Welcome to the club.
Tony Compton holds two degrees from Loyola University Chicago: a 1987 B.A. in Communication and a 1995 MBA. He has held a number of marketing and business leadership positions over the past three decades.