Digital in a difficult market

Watch a rerun of our Fresh Thinking Live! webinar, in which the panel discusses the difficulties of maintaining digital performance in difficult conditions such as the cost-of-living crisis.

Watch 'Digital in a difficult market'.

Taking part in the discussion were:

1. Looking at the previous recession, did anyone's team make a marketing decision they wish they hadn't made?

Cath: I won't name any names (and this is long before I came to Fresh Egg). I would say, though, the focus is around being too aggressive in terms of restricting resource. The mistake is often making quite a swift knee-jerk reaction in terms of making redundancy too quickly. Businesses should look at cost efficiencies within the business model and processes, looking at a time study analysis to see if people were able to be placed into different positions.

In cutting too many positions too quickly, and expecting other people to pick up the slack, (which is ok in the short-term), possibly some team members may get burned out very quickly. We should not forget that this pandemic has had quite a personal impact on a lot of people.

That can't happen for the long-term. So yeah, I would say for me, the biggest takeaway is, don't make knee-jerk reactions. Think about the longer term and the impact on people.

Anna: To be honest, I think Cath's just given the example that we had at that time, in terms of the last recession. I was in a completely different business then. But yes, I think people are the backbone of this because it's quite challenging to be able to forward forecast when you're going to start coming out of the ditch.

But the cost of time and talent development to bring new people in once the market starts coming back is an enormous burden. So I think, yes, I saw that.

The other thing that I saw a bit of, which I think sounds odd, (but I did) is where there was almost like a forecasting panic around the sales and marketing plan. For example, if we hit this goal, we're not going to be able to fulfil it with the product quickly enough because of all of the things that have held up because of the recession.

So it's almost like, we don't want to spend too much here because we might drive too many leads and then not going to be able to fulfil them. And you're like, oh, are we having a conversation about you're going to earn too much money? Like, it's quite an odd consideration. But I guess when you're putting together marketing strategies, you're always sort of KPI-orientated around what you believe you're going to bring in to the funnel and then what you're going to convert out the back end of that. And because I think, during a recession you lose control of your supply chain. Whether that's product or services or decision making or dealing with different markets in different countries, that can also force you to instinctively make you put the reins on something to make sure that you don't over promise and under deliver to your customers.

I don't know whether the business I was working with at the time went the right way about it. It's a tough decision to make because there's so much out of your control. And I think that's the piece that's most difficult for the people to grasp.

And I think one of the biggest mistakes that, my opinion on this question, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not knowing the value of the brand. And as a digital marketer through and through, I still thoroughly believe in the power of the brand.

Not knowing its value leading into something like this and immediately cutting it as something you can't measure, can't see, and then very slowly over time seeing some of those metrics spiral down because that influence factor is gone. So I think cutting too quickly on something you can't necessarily see is not a wise decision.

2. Are there any tips or tricks that you could pass on for getting the most out of some limited resources?

Debbie: Yeah. It's interesting because it's linked to the previous question. The biggest mistake I made in the last recession was, in the quest to save money, was to immediately go to my agency and say, I'm removing your retainer. We're going to go to a project-based relationship at that very point in time when you need the goodwill and support and the added extra that you can get from your agency.

So with the question of how can you maximize what's there already. I would say, look at your extended team, your agencies, your suppliers, your network, that actually can get you some more significant economies of scale by bringing them correctly and firmly into the fold.

And actually, the other thing that I would share is that I've had so much more goodwill by actually being honest about where you're short, where the skill sets are short, and where are there the gaps that you might have assumed that extended network doesn't have.

But when you start probing and say, look, how can we all flex here, you suddenly find some people will and can absorb some of that extra and also bring something new, a new perspective, to tackling the problem that you've got. So it's a double whammy.

You create that team effort, that 'in it together', you get goodwill from the whole team. And actually, I found that the marketing team or digital team itself get a lot of value from that because suddenly there's the co-learning, there are the co-tackling of problems, there are rewards and the recognition. At the same time, you are delivering something that you've all shared as an experience.

And I have to say, albeit a horrible time, this one might well have already eclipsed it. During that last recession, I had some of the most rewarding times of my working career that I've ever had. The reward came as a result of swimming against the tide during a tough time that as a team, you do all come through it together. And you will remember all of that.

How to prioritise digital marketing tactics

How to prioritise digital marketing tactics

In this guide, we highlight the key benefits of prioritising tactics, introduce two proven prioritisation models (one simple and one more advanced), plus show you what to do once you have your prioritised list.

3. What advice do you have for somebody looking to move from a corporate to more like a freelance or agency-type role at this stage?

Cath: Yeah, I was looking at that question. I wasn't 100% sure if this person had already made that decision or was looking to make a decision. I think if you're thinking about moving from corporate to freelance or agency, then, first of all, if the position is in place, there's an argument to say that it's not as risky to move. The logic is that in a recession if that hire is there, there's probably more eyes on assessing those roles. i.e. they exist for a reason.

So if a business has an open role, it's likely an essential hire. Hopefully, that business or agency is thinking about the future and stability past where things are at right now. So it's not always necessarily risky. However, make sure that you know your worth and don't let anyone offer you less than your market value just because potentially there might be a bigger pool of talent in the market at that time.

In terms of freelancing, I'm probably the wrong person to ask because I'm very risk-averse.

But it might be worth approaching your existing employer to see if there's something you can do so you could run freelancing along the side of your current role.

Maybe a reduction in hours would be appealing to corporates at the moment if they're looking to cut some costs. Reaching out to freelancing networks to see what the marketplace is like, that might help you understand if it's an idea to move at the moment.

In terms of agencies, I'd probably do due diligence around what wins that they had recently, what their financials look like, and understand what their future approach is from the recession, and also what they've learned around this lockdown period as well.

I think that would give you insight into the culture of the company.