How To Fight Back Against Marketing Budget Cuts

During times of economic downturn and instability, how do you fight back against budget cuts?

Abby Wood

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Client Management

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For many people, things are pretty tough right now. Money’s not going as far as it used to. Prices for everyday items are skyrocketing, fuel costs are breaking the bank, and there’s already a freeze on hiring new staff by the big players in the tech industry. With the war in Ukraine and a lingering pandemic that just won’t go away, a worldwide economic downturn feels inevitable. 

Those-in-the-know are predicting more trouble ahead: 

  • World Bank President David Malpass said in June a recession would be “hard to avoid
  • Economists at the Bank of America are currently predicting a 40% chance of a recession in 2023

On the other hand, there are still high levels of job growth and consumer spending in many countries. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen – only time will tell how hard the recession will hit. 

If you’ve been in the industry a few years, you already know that companies of all sizes are going to start cutting their costs – including their marketing budget. 

You might have already had the dreaded email/meeting: “Hey… you’re doing great work, but we need to scale things back a bit”.

But this blog post is not all doom and gloom

I promise, that’s not why I’m writing this for you. Because whatever does happen, there’s always a way forward. There’s always a way to combat bad times, and there’s always a silver lining. 

So, during times of economic downturn and instability, how do you fight back against budget cuts? How do you show your clients that even now (hell – especially now!) they should invest money into their marketing strategy?

To know how to avoid our clients cutting their budgets, first we need to understand why they cut their budgets (and spoiler alert: it’s more complex than ‘recession bad’).

The top reasons clients cut their marketing budgets

1. They consider marketing non-essential 

For some business owners, they don’t see marketing as the absolute must-have it really is. They might not consider it an essential part of growing their business, putting it under the ‘nice to have’ category of their business plan. For owners like this, they don’t see cutting marketing budgets having a huge impact on their business. 

2. They’re looking to save money, quick 

There’s no denying it – good marketing doesn’t come cheap. If a company’s hemorrhaging money, any savvy business owner is going to look at big expenses they can cut – and quickly. If your clients are running big-budget PPC campaigns or complex SEO campaigns, chances are they’ll be first on the chopping block as they look to improve their bottom line quickly. 

3. They don't understand marketing’s value

Either they don’t understand the value of the services you’re providing or they don’t understand what the return on investment on it looks like (or the timescale results take to start showing).

How to get clients cutting back on marketing budgets to reconsider

Combating cutbacks is a battle worth fighting, and your clients will thank you for it. Nobody wants to lose out on customers – especially during a recession. 

So here are my five tips to help you combat cutbacks and keep your clients interested in your website maintenance or marketing services. 

1. Show them why cutting their marketing budget isn't a good idea.

If your clients' revenue has taken a hit this year, their recovery plan probably includes a massive cut to their marketing efforts!

But, studies show that businesses that market themselves during the tough times are the ones who are more likely to succeed. Organized marketers are 674% more likely to succeed than their peers and proactive planners are 3x more likely to report success with their marketing. 

Why? There's a lot less competition! 

With panic setting in, your clients’ competitors may cut their marketing budgets completely, allowing your clients to jump in front and get their name to the top – and they don't even have to break the bank to get there. 

You can fight back against marketing budget cuts by showing your clients that this is the time to optimize their marketing strategy and pull new customers in, away from their competitors. 

A great way of showing them just how you can help them is using marketing attribution data. Help your clients use their marketing budgets wisely, and cut campaigns that aren't driving measurable profits. 

If they stop their marketing in its tracks, all that work they’ve paid for and you’ve put into their SEO and paid ads will lose momentum. Ultimately, they’ll have to restart from a disadvantaged position when the recession ends. 

2. Help them reallocate their marketing budget

You already know cutting a marketing budget is entirely counterproductive to a business. Sure, a low period means switching up their strategy, but it doesn't mean they should stop marketing altogether. 

Show them that just because things are a bit more complicated doesn't mean they should stop marketing; they should market smarter

Channeling their funds into campaigns that will still work even during hard times is exactly what your client needs. If you want to help your client survive their need for a budget cut, show them how to shift their marketing focus to higher-quality, long-term marketing solutions. 

You can work with your clients to figure out which aspects of their marketing should be the primary focus for the moment. This way, they'll be spending less, but you won't lose them as clients. 

Reallocating their marketing budget to tactics that are right for them now is the ideal solution. 

3. Show them how outsourcing is more affordable

Some of your clients might consider hiring an internal marketing team or unicorn, thinking it's the more affordable option. 

Shocker: it isn't. 

Hiring an in-house team of marketers or that special someone who can do everything they’re looking for is a lot more expensive than outsourcing to you. Many companies don't realize this, so consider talking with your clients and showing them that your services are much more affordable than an in-house team. 

With an internal team, your client will have to:

  • Pay a regular wage/salary
  • Pay sick leave
  • Provide employee benefits
  • Invest in the hiring process and onboarding
  • Spend time training the new team members 

So not only does an in-house team cost more, but it will also take some time for the team to get up to speed and to the same quality you were giving your client. 

4. Demonstrate that you will give them a positive ROI

If your client is worried about money but wants to keep their marketing going, they will have a smaller budget going forward. A smaller budget is still better than no marketing budget at all. But, with this smaller budget comes a need for more worthwhile investments. 

So how can you show them that your company is exactly what they should invest in? 

By demonstrating that your digital marketing services will provide them with a great return on their investment. 

Now more than ever, companies want to know what digital agencies can do for them. They want to see how much their services will benefit them – now’s the time to bring out your best case studies and examples of real results you’ve achieved for other clients. 

How often do you send your clients data-backed reports on their marketing results? Do you drill down into the data enough to show them exactly what's working and what isn't? 

If you're going to keep a hold of your clients during budget cuts, you have to show them that you will always provide them with a valuable service. 

5. Help them

Marketing budget cuts are awful – we know. But your client is probably going through a tough time right now, and more often than not, they don't want to cut their marketing out of their budget. 

Most companies know that marketing is absolutely necessary for their business' future online, but they have no choice and simply can't afford it. 

They have employees to look after, bills to pay, and an office to keep in check. They have to cut somewhere: it just usually ends up being the marketing department. 

But, you can help your clients make easier decisions by showing them how they can budget for their marketing without cutting it out completely. 

Cutting their marketing will bury them beneath their competitors, and they'll lose out on future sales. 

With your help and marketing knowledge, you can work together to develop a plan that will help them keep some of their marketing gains and help you keep your business with them afloat. 

Plus, if you help them during this challenging time, they're more likely to continue working with you after this recession passes us by. 

Budget cuts are not fun for anybody involved, but they're not the end. 

When every cent counts, it's essential to show your clients that investing in your marketing services will produce real, measurable ROI for their brand. 

You should always do what's best for your clients. The more you work to help them, the more they'll respect you as an agency and continue to work closely with you. 

Even if they happen to drop off during harder times, if you've tried to help them in their time of need, then they'll be back as soon as they're on their feet again.

Marketing budget cuts can be scary but with the right help, you’ll be able to keep your clients happy and stay ahead of the game. 

As the saying goes: “When times are good, you should advertise; when times are bad, you must advertise.” 

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Abby Wood

The Content Lab

Abby is a content strategist and founder of The Content Lab, a content agency that helps digital agencies save time, increase profits, and keep customers happy through high-quality content writing. She also loves tacos, coffee, and chocolate (not at the same time though...well maybe).

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