Cutting Marketing Drastically Can Hurt Your Business in 3 Important Ways

Cutting marketing during a down economy destroys marketing momentum, confuses and demoralizes your team, and delays your recovery when things turn around.

1. More about destroying momentum: Marketing is an essential cost of doing business, and it’s expensive to start over. Marketing momentum is a beautiful thing. Leverage from successful marketing initiatives helps bring about new opportunities. Building marketing momentum takes strategy, planning, smart execution, analysis and constant revisions to achieve the best results, which takes time and money. Don’t make the mistake of thinking marketing can be turned off and on like a water spigot.

2. Confusing your team is a downward spiral: Many of us have been in the position of telling team members to stop working on a previously high priority project. We don’t have the budget we say; however, they remember last week during the staff meeting when we were irritated that they weren’t further along. That project may be tied to their performance review. It’s human nature to start looking for a cause for alarming changes, and concern about their job may creep in. Discussions with their peers around the topic of the financial health of the company are inevitable. Someone will mention they’re looking for another job. And on it goes. Abruptly halting ongoing projects and drastically reducing marketing initiatives will inevitably affect the morale of an organization.

3. Recovery is slow and expensive: Starting up marketing again is an uphill battle. The executive management will be anxious for fast results, but fast results will not be possible. Everything that was cut must be reevaluated in the current environment and renegotiated. Inevitably there is a loss of time as projects have to be picked up and dusted off, refreshed, and vendors engaged again. You may have changes in your team. Building marketing momentum again takes painful ramp up time, and delays getting the results you need now.

I recommend that you combine surgeon-like cuts in spending, and strategic adjustments to the timing of the roll-out of some initiatives, so that you suffer only a small decrease in your momentum. Pay very close attention to the fact that there is most certainly a cost of acquiring new customers and a cost of retaining existing customers. Your marketing leadership should be able to tell you what those costs are by each of your customer segments. Be realistic when you review the marketing budget. Can you hit your revenue numbers with what you are allocating to marketing?

Next, evaluate and modify where you spend your marketing budget to get the highest ROI while not dramatically affecting momentum. A good example of this is not completely cutting out PR, which is a long game and should be maintained, but can still be accomplished at reduced levels. Another strategic area to cut might be initiatives targeting secondary target markets. Keep things going strong in marketing to your primary target market.

Carefully manage your team to keep morale high. Times of tight budgets can actually engender an all-hands-on-deck mentality. You want a situation where everyone on the team is working to be more efficient with what you have so that you come out the other side of the down economy a winner.

We’re in a down economy as I write this. Make sure your marketing is strategic and efficient. To make sure you’re getting a solid ROI, analyze results and adjust tactics quickly. The natural reaction to a down economy is to cut expenses, but marketing is not a simple expense like office supplies or lunches out. Marketing is critical to the success of every enterprise. In the end, your best day is when you come out of a down economy ahead of your competition, with increased market share and potential, because they cut their marketing too deeply, leaving them to start all over again while you sail right on.

' About Melody Appleton

Melody Appleton consults with businesses to accelerate brand awareness and revenue growth through a critical combination of strong positioning and messaging, marketing planning, and integrated marketing programs. Melody's strategic and integrated approach helps small to medium enterprises build momentum and get results.


  1. Such a great synopsis – so many companies wonder why spending cuts puts them into a downward spiral. Thanks for the post!

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