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What is the real impact of reduced marketing spending? Many suggest it is a false economy but the truth is it can often have a negligible short term impact on a business. The actions of a marketing department can continue to have an impact several months after they have left. 

The impact of removing a marketing team very much depends on the specific business, the market and the makeup of the marketing team before the change. Was a functional or professional marketing team in place?

With a marketing team dispensed with many of the day to day marketing functions will continue. For example, general administration staff could allocate some of their time to relatively simple (functional)  marketing tasks. How long a business can continue without marketing is the issue.

If it is necessary to reduce marketing spend and headcount then it is probable something has changed. Perhaps business profitability is in decline but that in turn points to either changes within the business or in the external environment.

There is always the chance of a ‘black swan’  (or even a grey one) crippling a business. Poor operational management can have a damaging impact over time. In principle neither is the fault of the marketing department.

However, there is an argument a professional (more on this definition below) marketing department should have spotted and dealt with organisational or market issues before they became critical. Always assuming, of course, any warning flags they raised were acted upon by the business.

There are two types of marketers functional and professional. A functional marketer simply delivers a process regardless of how well that process actually delivers against business objectives. They deliver customer communications and newsletters, they make the specified number of social media posts each day. They run the marketing automation systems. They focus only on numbers.

A professional marketing department’s prime role is to stay in touch with the market. From the market flows insight and from that flows strategy and process. They adapt to change and fight the corner of the customer within the business.

Depending on the market dispensing with a functional marketing department may not have an immediate impact. Replacing marketing when/if business picks up is often relatively straightforward. The problem is although functional marketers are relatively easy to employ, the same is not true for professional marketers.

To re-launch a business requires professional marketing skills particularly those relating to strategy, products and markets. If professional marketing skills can be found there will be an inevitable delay before results start to flow. For some businesses it may be many months.

In a desperate situation, marketing may be cut and there may be minimal short term impact. However, the chances of medium to long term recovery will be compromised if no marketing is in place. Professional markets may be difficult to replace which could delay business recovery when the market does turn.

If the problem causing a business decline was operational cuts to marketing or any other department are unlikely to cure the problem. The problem must be dealt with at source, then the business can be expected to recover. Provided, of course, the business reputation and client base has not been damaged beyond repair.