Keep calm, and keep on spending: wise investments in uncertain times

8 min read by Rosie Denny 21 Nov 2022

Where should CMOs invest in order to safeguard their business, their people, and their clients? As always, it starts with strategy, supported by smart investments in tech, content and a willingness to partner up.

From the price of baked beans to sports bras: the rising inflation and interest rates impacting households’ basket of goods has inevitably started to impact businesses, some of which were only just beginning to recover from the pandemic.

And yet, history tells us that investments made in tough times can be the most valuable we’ll ever make, with those brave enough able to gain a bigger bite of the cherry than those who hang on to the purse strings until things stabilise. 

In effect, keep calm, and keep on spending.

The recent budget announcement has added an extra layer to the debate. Will expansive plans for restoring growth to the economy succeed – or plunge the country into even deeper financial difficulty? No-one knows for sure.

So what should CMOs be thinking about when they start to plan for next year – with less resources than they might have hoped?

Revisit your tech stack

You know the importance of analytics to implement and monitor marketing campaigns, but if you still have to jump between systems to get the reports you need, then now is the time to invest. Settle for nothing less than a complete view of your campaign activity across the customer journey. A 360 view of campaign and customer activity is essential for showing that the budget has been properly spent, and is delivering a return. 

Test and optimise

The beauty of today’s digital-first world is that you can try variations on a theme to see what works best – and if it doesn’t, change it up. Whether that’s your value proposition on an ad; the size and placement of a call to action button or form; the timing of a special offer. These attributes can all be tweaked quickly and easily in-house, allowing you to test, learn and succeed.

Consider AI

The ability to sift through piles of data such as that held on review sites, or to simulate larger datasets based on what you know about your customers, can create valuable insights. Data can be sifted according to quality and relevance at the touch of a button; and just as rapidly applied to analyse both the effectiveness of campaigns that have been conducted and the likelihood of success of those still being planned. 

Don’t forget your people

Many CMOs place great faith in tech and the savings that it will bring. However, it’s important to remember that their effectiveness is only as good as the people deploying them. You can automate your social media and ad campaigns, you can automate the way reviews are managed online; you can even automate your content creation and production. But, when it comes to human vs machine – there’s a delicate balance to be struck, going far beyond cost in absolute terms. 

Create an FD mindset

You’re not an accountant, but showing a willingness to learn lessons from the FD will make a big impact when it comes to protecting the business in tough times. Investigate ways that marketing spend can be accounted for in a more tax-efficient way, and you will be rewarded with a larger chunk of budget spend. 

Ditch the losers

No, we’re not talking about people here, but strategies. Now is the ideal time to revisit every single one. What worked just 3 months ago might be irrelevant in the next few months. Don’t be afraid to pivot. If your strategy is underperforming, it isn’t worth continuing to invest.  This may seem obvious, but many CMOs fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy, believing that if they keep investing, eventually all their time and effort will pay off.

Call on your partners

The ‘keep calm and carry on’ sentiment worked in lockdown because it brought people together – and we’re finding that it’s still there. In the past few months, we’ve been wowed by the generosity of our partners in terms of their willingness to share knowledge and skills. Look to your tech partners, ask what they can bring to the table, and don’t forget to repay in kind.

Be strategic with your content

Quality content remains king, and as long as Google continues to reward companies that produce the good stuff, so should you. But don’t feel that you need to invest heavily into grand productions. One great video can be sliced into several (who’s counting?) chunks, creating soundbites, transcripts, blogs, podcasts and more for targeted audiences. 

Be a giver, not a taker 

To really squeeze the last penny from your marketing investment, you need to be collaborating on that content and making it useful for every part of the business. Don’t hold it back for your own glory, but be generous. That same gorgeously branded video you produced for your own campaigns is gold dust for decks, pitches, HR onboarding and bids.

Don’t jump on the bandwagon

It’s tempting to start creating a load of TikTok videos because your competitor is doing so. If they’re smashing it, great – use this to argue your case for doing the same (backed by content metrics). But now is a great time to get really creative in your approach. Start with the challenge, find your solution, and only then, consider the platform.

In summary

These are challenging and uncertain times. Our key takeaway is: follow the Chancellor’s lead and spend your way out – but do it with caution. Start by taking your strategies back to ground zero; pivot if necessary, based on a concrete grasp of ROI and credible returns. Then, support with hardworking content pieces. Don’t forget to reach out to your partners to see how they could support your vision; we’re all in it together (still). And finally – don’t forget to have a few coffees with the FD.

Need help getting your business ready to invest? Start the conversation today.

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