This decision seems to get made time and time again – so why is cutting marketing when times are tough a ‘thing’?

The rationale is to save budget and stick to keeping ‘core’ business functions going whilst you ride out the storm. The obvious teams in the business to maintain would be, of course, operations: the people who make, distribute or even are the stuff you sell – hold onto those. Plus, let’s face it, you always need a finance department to keep the cash under control so better keep that going. But the rest of it… it’s not perceived as crucial, so just stop doing it.

Let’s imagine ‘Richard’ owns an SME and has just made this very decision:

Q) So, Richard, what made you first decide to do some marketing?

A) I wanted a new logo to make the company look more professional. I recruited a small marketing team to organise the new branding for me. The result looked really good but cost a lot as I had to get new stationary, collateral and signage produced. Then when we were focusing on growing the business we started advertising, again it was quite pricey – it got our phone ringing more but I’m not sure how many sales it actually brought in. All in all, I found having a marketing function expensive and that’s money I could do without spending right now.

Q) So, it’s going to be pretty easy to do without marketing then?

A) When I set up this business, I didn’t have a marketing department. I got on the phone, spoke to people, showed them what the business was about, how we could help them and gave them reasons to try us out. After a while, I got a large enough customer base and they just kept returning and telling other businesses about us.

Q) OK, so are you confident that your customers are going to keep coming back then?

A) Well, we have lost a couple of big projects to competitors recently. But my plan is to get back out there, speak to some contacts, offer them a great deal to try us out again and rekindle some old business relationships.

Q) Do you have time to do that then? Work out what discounts you’re going to offer, chase people on the phone…

A) I’m not sure where the day goes actually! I’ve got some major issues with several projects, the website keeps crashing, I’m still getting my head around all the new Brexit-paperwork, plus we’re short-staffed so I need to keep covering certain areas. I’ll have to make time.


Richard is a caricature, but in some ways he’s very real. He sees the tasks that marketing did, he’s very aware of the cost, but he doesn’t really understand what marketing has achieved for his bottom line. There’s a beautifully clear definition of marketing which goes like this:

Marketing brings buyers and sellers together – profitably.

So, why would any business ever want to stop doing that, especially when there’s a downturn in the market?  Marketing creates business leads, that can be turned into revenue.

It’s as simple as that.

So rather than being a flamboyant extra-curricular business activity, marketing is essential. And it runs so much deeper than logos and advertising which are merely some of the marketing tools available.

It doesn’t matter who carries out marketing – business owner, in-house marketing team, agency but – it – must – get – done. And when times are tough, there’s even an added advantage: smaller marketing budgets go further than usual due to reduced ‘noise’ as lesser-informed competitors slash their spend.

Realistically, SME owners and directors rarely have enough time to dedicate to marketing. Hiring an in-house marketing manager/team is a great solution but may feel daunting due to the long-term commitment. So, when times are tough and budgets are tight why not consider getting some external help from a professional and established marketing agency? They’ll listen objectively to your business’s goals, offer sound advise and squeeze every bit of impact out of your budgets. And you’re in complete control to use them for as long as you wish. That’s got to be worth considering.

To get in touch with Ocean Associates for affordable, professional marketing advice and solutions contact us via our website and we’ll get straight back to you to establish whether we’re the right people to help your business achieve your ambitions.


Photo by Ron Lach