While reading a post by Harvard Business School professor John Quelch called How CMOs Should Function in a Recession, I realized that my previous advice to new CMOs was extremely relevant to all CMOs in this economic environment. So here are the 8 steps I had outlined for new CMOs with some commentary about how to think about each one in a recession:
- Re-establish our brand. As companies eliminate some activities to match their slowing revenues, its very possible for those cut backs to cripple their brand. CMO’s need to make sure that their organization’s core brand promise is well defined and understood, and that it plays a prominent role in how the executive team makes trade-offs.
- Put our agency work out to bid. Just about all agencies are hurting in this environment, and would rather have low margin work than no work at all. Given the need to cut back, CMO’s should consider renegotiating all of their agency deals. It’s a great environment for dialogues about doing more with less.
- Refine our target segments. In this economic environment, firms need to become even more selective about the customers they are targeting; otherwise they’ll poorly serve everyone. CMOs need to proactively define the key segments and refine the company’s value propositions for each one.
- Increase investment in customer insight. It may be hard to argue for more investment anywhere in this environment, but getting a better understanding of target customers is extremely important; especially as customer needs are shifting. CMOs should make sure that their companies maintain a strong understanding of customers.
- Build-up employee brand advocates. Many companies are reducing their workforce, but the success of the company is based on the remaining employees. So it’s more important than ever to engage employees in the strategy and objectives of the brand; difficult times can create the opportunity for open communications.
- Prioritize digital channels. Without any money to waste, firms need to focus on the most cost-effective opportunities like digital channels. CMOs need to take full advantage of their online marketing opportunities. Having said that, there might also be some bargains available in non-digital media as well.
- Improve usability of everything. This is more true now than ever. Poor usability is like a veneer that turns valuable assets into worthless annoyances. For a fairly modest investment, companies can improve critical experiences form online purchases to mailed statements. CMOs need to push for usability improvements that can capture value from existing interaction platforms.
- Get people asking three questions. This advice remains universal. CMO’s should continue to shift people’s thinking from inside-out to outside-in. How? By getting people to regularly ask the 3 questions of a concept called “Scenario Design:” Who are your target users? What are their goals? How can we help them achieve those goals?
The bottom line: CMOs should treat this time like they’re in a new job.