Recession-proof marketing—5 strategies for CMOs – AdAge.com

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Everyone is talking about a recession, including marketers who’ve had only a moment to catch their breath after the global pandemic slashed budgets across the board. 
Enter Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 at AdAge.com/40u40.
Big brands are quickly pivoting with Meta announcing hiring freezes; Uber making marketing cuts; and Carvana and Netflix rolling out layoffs.
Many chief marketing officers are strategizing about how to prepare for a more challenging business landscape while continuing to meet expectations that they drive more revenue growth with fewer dollars. 
Here are five ways CMOs can recession-proof their marketing plans:
On average, 20% of budgets are spent against duplicative efforts because of siloed work.
For years, marketers have been conditioned to take a channel-specific view of performance. And siloed channel data has further ingrained this POV. The problem is that this approach creates knowledge and decision gaps between each vertical–gaps that could represent millions in underleveraged spending.
For a leaner marketing model, CMOs need to leverage their position within the organization and look at performance in a horizontal fashion and apply a more holistic ROI analysis to find out what’s really driving sales. This will help identify where spending can be cut without impacting growth and where increased spending will have the greatest impact. 
Once CMOs identify the areas where their marketing dollars are really pulling their weight, they can fine-tune spending to drive more growth. Don’t be afraid of “spiky investment”—doubling down on what’s working and really scaling back on what’s not. 
Marketers with such a methodology are highly successful in a few concentrated areas and essentially absent from other marketing channels. Tesla, for example, has adopted this approach, spending virtually nothing on traditional ad campaigns or social media while concentrating on value prop and customer acquisition levers such as product, distribution, customer service and CRM.
Marketers scrutinize campaign performance every month but rarely look at the budget at a macro level with the same level of scrutiny. Budgets tend to be a “set it and forget it” initiative. 
But tighter budgets and tougher competition mean CMOs have to dig a little deeper into their data to find important correlations and insights. Too often the idea of integrated data boils down to a single dashboard—a great tool, undoubtedly, but one that by itself cannot explain the “why” or really connect the dots on what’s driving growth and what’s not.
In a recession environment, marketers need to understand not just the outcome but the cause. This way they can better leverage and defend their budgets.
This one might seem obvious, but it bears calling out: When resources are precious, CMOs have got to have a solid command of the financials. 
Marketers need to be able to conduct a distinct side-by-side analysis of their sales data, total marketing budget and marketing performance. A comparative assessment will uncover historical correlations between marketing investment and revenue growth and ensure optimal budget allocation going forward.
CMOs should hire permanent or freelance financial analysts to power their decision-making with this knowledge on an ongoing basis. 
If marketers have learned anything in recent years, it’s that organizational change needs to become the norm—and not just the triage we revert to in times of crisis or upheaval.
Integration continues to present an opportunity to unlock new value. Many organizations have failed to properly integrate marketing units and partners, which has resulted in considerable resources wasted and opportunities squandered.
The bottom line: With the economy in flux and budgets feeling the pressure, marketers need a reliable playbook of winning plays that create efficiencies and drive effectiveness. Lean marketing strategies, spiky investment tactics and data-driven analysis will help CMOs successfully navigate a recession.
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