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A recession – or even the threat of a recession – tends to put marketers on the defensive. Our budgets are apparently discretionary, at least with respect to product development and manufacturing. There is a misconception that unlike sales, our results do not directly generate revenue. So it’s no surprise that many marketers start pulling back when the economic weather starts to get worse.
Wrong move. In fact, the smart move is to go on the attack. However, you have to do it the right way. Pumping more money into ads in hopes of increasing the number of qualified marketing leads won’t pass the test of increasingly nervous CEOs and boards.
The cups are coming; Do with
Let’s get one thing straight: marketing budgets will be reduced. Based on my conversations with marketers and internal research at Twilio, I expect marketing budgets to decrease by an average of 25% in the coming year – significantly more at some companies and less in the lucky ones.
Over the past 12 years, many marketers have lived in an environment that is cash-rich and growing at all costs. That’s changing, as changing economic conditions cause boards and executives to get back to business fundamentals: margins, profits, and long-term customer value. According to the Twilio Growth Report, which surveyed 1,300 marketing and customer experience professionals in the UK and US, 93% of businesses start planning for a recession. Marketing budget cuts are therefore inevitable.
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It’s worth remembering that companies that cut their marketing budgets too much will end up losing ground when it comes most to moving forward. This is especially the case in digital media, where it is difficult to attract the attention of new customers. Indeed, marketing can help brands stand out when things get more competitive online.
But it could be a while before that argument starts to carry weight in the boardroom. In the meantime, what should a resourceful marketer do? Here are four smart steps you can take to gain leverage in a tough economic climate.
1. Re-engage customers
It is cheaper and easier to reconnect with customers who have drifted away than to find and convert new customers. On the one hand, you already have their contact details and a lot of data on their preferences, purchase history and areas of interest. On the other hand, unless you’ve done something to drive them away, they’re probably predisposed to hooking up with you already. You just need to give them a good reason to re-engage. Indeed, the Growth Report found that 67% of businesses prioritize satisfying current customers over acquiring new customers.
For example, a multi-party marketplace was able to re-engage millions of inactive buyers of handmade gifts and vintage items. It did this by unifying its customer profiles and using those profiles to micro-segment its audience. Previously, it relied on creating large campaigns that took one to three days to launch. But with this new user-centric approach, the company can now personalize every message in real time.
2. Create cross-sell opportunities
Don’t wait for customers to walk away. Look for opportunities to help them discover adjacent product lines they might like. An apparel company we work with, for example, engages customers of one of its brands with offers from a related brand. This allows the company to increase its share of wallet (getting more dollars from each customer) while diversifying its brand image with those consumers.
3. Embrace first-party data
You have already heard that third-party cookies are disappearing; they’re already blocked in Firefox and Apple Safari and won’t be available in Google Chrome in 2024. you will be prepared for this passage. Deploying a robust platform can take 12-18 months, so now is the time to start.
When planning for this change, be sure not only to collect rich data directly from consumers, but also to do so with their explicit consent.
4. Use data to increase LTV
When you have reliable proprietary data, you can start using it to identify your best customers. Give them personalized experiences, find out what makes them even more engaged, and sell them additional products and services. In short, find ways to make your best customers even better by delivering real-time value and personalization. Do this and you’ll generate additional revenue without spending a dime on customer acquisition costs (CAC).
This strategy will increase the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers. When LTV goes up and CAC goes down – and marketing is responsible – it’s not just good for your budget, it’s good for your career. Marketers who aspire to move into operational and executive roles will win through savvy marketing strategies that improve business fundamentals.
Build resilience into your game plan
The economy is uncertain and cuts in marketing budgets are likely. But savvy marketers won’t sit around waiting for their budgets to be taken away from them. It’s important to develop a plan that allows you to do more with less — and in marketing, that means building on consensus customer data and being prepared to use it in different ways depending on the situation.
Customer data is essentially chaff until you turn it into gold, which means collecting it, identifying it, cleaning it, and incorporating it into a growth-driven strategy. Don’t wait to take the leap. It’s time to go on the offensive.
Katrina Wong is VP of Segment Marketing at Twilio.
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