Seismic Shifts: The Haves vs. the Have-Nots

June 22, 2020

A new kind of continental divide has emerged: an even greater separation between businesses that prosper and those that flounder. Candor’s Jim Kessler discusses the impact on marketeers and offers some counter-intuitive suggestions.

Like an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the impact of crashing markets has shaken the world, separating an unlikely collection of HAVES from a suddenly large group of HAVE-NOTS — and the divide between them is dramatic. Many businesses have been reduced to rubble, devastating employees and vendors who have worked with them. Other businesses are experiencing unprecedented sales and are direct benefactors of the chaos.

The HAVES include:

  • Online retailers

  • Delivery services

  • Bandwidth and content providers

  • Grocery and liquor stores

  • Cleaning supplies & services

  • Home improvement products & services

  • Beauty products

  • Fitness equipment

  • RV dealers

  • Mortgage brokers

What a fascinating collection!

The HAVE-NOTS include:

  • Everyone else

One thing these two groups share is a reluctance to invest in marketing, but for very different reasons. Not only do I believe both groups are making these decisions using flawed logic, I also believe the response for each is, ironically, identical.

Let’s start with the HAVES.

Those fortunate businesses experiencing unprecedented sales are likely to say, “Why market now? We can’t keep up with the orders as it is.” While operations personnel are scrambling to fill orders, marketing personnel seem content to view the 2020 market as a temporary up-tick, an opportunity to cash-in. To harvest, not to plant. Here is the flaw in such thinking: organizations who only sell to capacity never grow.

The alternative is to “market while you’re hot.” While there is extra cash on-hand, use a portion of it to expand operations and another portion to market, extending the reach of your brand and the season of good fortune. In this way, the current market is used to boost the entire organization into a higher level of performance.

Now for those teetering on the canyon’s edge, the HAVE-NOTS.

When sales are down and the future is uncertain, investing in marketing seems absurd, especially when some of that cash can salvage jobs. The risk-averse dig in, tightly gripping each dollar as if it’s their last. Unfortunately, such a strategy is likely to become self-fulfilling prophecy. The flaw in such thinking is that things will return to the way they used to be. All indicators are pointing to the opposite, characterized by a slow recovery and a “new normal.” Consumer and investor patterns have been disrupted and are quite unlikely to return to the status quo.

The alternative is to adopt a survivor’s strategy, the motto of which we refer to at Candor as “get scrappy.” This strategy involves a mentality of fighting for every opportunity, every lead and every customer with a survivor’s relentlessness. And it includes embracing investments in marketing and advertising, knowingly assuming more risk. Otherwise, you may risk the loss of all jobs.

For the HAVE NOTS, desperate times demand desperate measures. 

Ironically, the remedy for each position is the same: a renewed focus on digital marketing.

In each circumstance, targeting your best customer segments with tailored messages can efficiently increase sales. With screen-time at an all-time high and ads costing a fraction of their traditional media counterparts, it doesn’t cost a king’s fortune to engage your highest-producing customers and prospects.

In the hands of good digital marketers, the HAVES can identify lookalike audiences and multiply their good fortune, extending their season of blessing. Similarly, HAVE-NOTS must reposition their value to customers as a necessity, not just a “nice-to-have.” This requires fresh messaging and a renewed focus to secure sales.

But to eliminate all marketing spend at this time is not only a missed opportunity, it could result in lost footing on a canyon’s edge.

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