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How to troubleshoot common challenges in the current recession

The pandemic ushered in an economic climate like no other in recent years, and with it came a unique set of challenges for marketers. Brand managers are being asked to meet expectations and still grow with limited resources as budgets are being cut across the board. And the evolving role of data and advanced technology platforms in driving future marketing plans continues to increase.

In the second installment of our interview series, ReveNew, Keen CEO Greg Dolan sat down with Cesar Brea, partner at Bain & Company, to talk about common knee-jerk reactions marketers make during recessions and why they are bad for business. They also discuss the impact of supply chain, labor, and inflation challenges on marketing decisions. 

Here are three big takeaways you don’t want to miss.

Find your bottleneck

While previous recessions have often involved demand and unemployment problems, unprecedented factors like the pandemic and War in Ukraine have impacted the current economy in new and different ways. An increased inability to source products has contributed greatly to supply chain shortages and the labor problem is twofold–not only finding potential recruits, but also being able to pay the salary they demand. With inflation, things are more expensive but people have less disposable income, and this collection of challenges is hitting us in new ways.  

It’s less about cheap capital, low interest rates–and knowing you could be profitable with some support–and more about execution, or making sure you don’t waste money. Essentially, it’s about selection, and being precise with regard to the opportunities you choose to pursue. And knowing you can have success with these specific products and customers because the supply chain, labor, and price dynamics are such that people are still demanding in those sectors.

In today’s landscape, it’s essential for marketers to know their purchase paths and be able to identify bottleneck areas along it. If you have a conversion issue–whether it’s a technical, economic, or price issue–it doesn’t make sense to keep pouring money into the engagement and awareness buckets because you’re not converting that traffic. And in a recession,  that is going to do damage to your brand and bottom line. So the best case is to know where your bottleneck is and shift your attention, spending, and solutions to that place in the path.

Campaign optimization is key

When faced with unprecedented challenges, it can be difficult to know which key levers to pull in order to address them. Oftentimes, marketers’ knee-jerk reactions are to make sure search engine marketing is performing effectively or to pull the promotional optimization lever, which are both important to efficiently harvest near-term demand. But the foundation to any good solution actually starts with an accurate identification of the problem you’re trying to solve.

Identifying the objective of your business based on what environment you’re in, and then being able to have the data and information to understand what’s impacting your business and why, will give you a better understanding of what to do. Not having that clarity of understanding can lead to impulsive decisions, like cutting all the spend, moving money into the wrong buckets, or optimizing in the wrong direction from a creative perspective.

Reorganization and full integration can be intimidating, so it’s smart to look for the practical thing you can do. One value opportunity is campaign optimization, which requires a certain degree of information integration. This means bringing together data and people that don’t often experience high levels of engagement, but doing so at a slower, more collaborative pace than suddenly shifting the existing structure. Having this ethos of lightweight integration, both organizationally and data-wise, is key in getting your brand through the recession. 

The evolving role of technology

The value of coordination and cross-functional collaboration is undeniable when it comes to making marketing decisions from a holistic perspective. But so is thinking about the evolving role of technology. As data becomes more organized and access to platforms with the ability to analyze and leverage machine learning to optimize decisions more available, marketers will be able to see results more quickly and  action them through a more agile organization. This will, in turn, help support quarterly and yearly initiatives and goals, and ultimately lead to a higher ROI.

Some of the latest machine learning technologies enable us to more efficiently generate the content we need to support experiments that aren’t possible from a traditional, manual approach to content creation. Marketers can feed the tech content and it comes up with automated or AI authored images or videos. And, if you can take text and create images, you can also evaluate images, extract metadata, and do automated tagging, which might find new dimensions to describe content that creative taxonomies haven’t anticipated or emphasized. This, In turn, creates new optimization opportunities.

Technology is a major player in the field of marketing. The ability to be agile in leveraging data at a granular, localized level is paramount to drive the business forward. In fact, some CMOs would like to see the majority  of team decisions made through automated technology and data. This means content optimization or deployment of resources and investment across channels could all be fueled through data and advanced technology platforms that can continue to help the marketer learn as the future unfolds.

Plan for the future, today

In recent years, many organizations have begun making digital transformation efforts–which largely took the form of foundational investments in tech, customer data platforms (CDPs), dashboards, or other platforms. But one of the challenges is making sure you implement these initiatives with a focus on delivering a quarterly return on investment. Otherwise, without an end-to-end perspective, they have the potential to grind to a halt before they’ve had a chance to restart.

Today, things are doable in a way they have never been before, and it’s time to invest in these capabilities. That way, when this tough economic period passes and the market moves into a recovery phase, your brand or organization is in a much better place to effectively compete than your competitors. Get ahead now by improving your ability to leverage the data you’ve already invested to have, and by taking the necessary marketing steps to prepare for challenging times.

Keen to learn more? Check out the interview here.