Managing Director at SLG Agency
Strikes, arguments about our relationship with Europe, and right on cue… here comes a recession… it’s almost like the ‘70s again (so I’m told).
Specialising in construction and technology means that we’re closer than many to sectors that tend to be hit hard by economic slow-down. We’ve been braced for a little while, although the performance of the sector in the last two years, particularly domestic markets, had given cause for optimism.
That said, the long gestation of construction projects means that there’s sometimes a long tail to the impact, as many of my SLG colleagues that were around for the 2008 global financial crisis/‘credit crunch’ will tell you.
The brilliant Noble Francis of the Construction Products Association (follow him on LinkedIn, you won’t regret it) has been pointing to slow-downs in several sub-sectors and material markets for the last quarter, which could be a sign of things to come.
As I mentioned in my last blog, whether we’re in a bear or bull market, the fundamentals of marketing remain the same – and there are opportunities for brands that can navigate well.
To help, here are three things that you should be asking of your agency already, but are doubly important when times get tough:
Develop a clear comms strategy
The most obvious of obvious points, perhaps, but the temptation to just get on with ‘stuff’ is always there.
Stuff that’s going to help us to sell, stuff that’s going to give us a jump on the competition – stuff is also easy to justify to those that hold the purse strings. Stuff is tangible and visible, you’re able to point at ‘stuff’.
This isn’t a rant against stuff. Stuff is fine, great even. But only when there’s a plan.
Plans tell us when and where budgets are useful, exactly who we’re talking to and what we’re measuring and, crucially, what the big picture is that we’re driving towards.
Whatever money you’re spending with an agency, you shouldn’t part with it unless you have a clear grasp of the big picture and how each piece of activity fits into it.
Not only will you more easily demonstrate impact, you’ll also be able to make much more robust budget decisions, having the proof-points to push back internally if you need to. This brings me to my next point…
Invest (and re-invest) in your brand
Just like you need a clear plan, you also need to ensure that your brand is getting the care that it needs. You might create fewer things, so now is an ideal time to take some inventory of your brand, messaging, and visual identity – even your existing asset bank – and make sure that everything is correct and consistent.
That may not mean a wholesale re-brand, just a health check to ensure everything is lined up and ready for you to accelerate quickly and consistently once your strategy and market conditions allow you to do so.
For construction product marketers, it would also be an ideal time to collaborate with your technical and HR colleagues to work towards CCPI compliance.
Not only will you be protected if/when CCPI becomes law, but you’ll also more than likely steal a march on your competition by getting your processes across the business as robust as possible, ensuring all your branded assets are up-to-the-minute correct. You’ll also demonstrate a clear point of difference to the rest of the field by looking like the responsible, market-leading brand you are.
We’ve produced a free CCPI white paper guide to help walk you through the process, you can download it here.
Make your media spend work
In the words of Jack White, “I’ve said once before, but it bears repeating”.
Even if your strategic agency partner isn’t booking media for you, it wouldn’t hurt to have them run the rule over a few bits to give an impartial view of the relative merits of each space.
Crucially, they’ll be able to critique media buying strategy vs the over-arching plan with no axe to grind, other than wanting the campaign to be as successful as possible. If they deliver work across a variety of media, they shouldn’t even have a vested interest in pushing you towards a particular outcome (not that they should in the first place, of course).
As we’ve discussed a few times, a good strategic partner should also be able to provide you with the insight and information you need to fight the good fight for marketing within your organisation. One of the big opportunities in a down market is simply to outspend the competition by holding your nerve, gaining an Excessive Share of Voice (ESOV) in the process.
It’s simple and works on the premise that your percentage of visibility in the market increases not because you buy more space, but because the competition appears less frequently. It should keep you front of mind when competing for crucial sales in a more competitive period, and have your brand out in front as the economy moves again and your customers look to move.
History is littered with businesses that grew during ‘bear markets’ just by standing firm.
If you’re in a market that will rebound, the important thing is to remember that nothing is permanent. It might get painful but having the right advice at the right time can be a huge help – it’s why we select the partners that we do. No one knows everything, so recognising what you need and leaning on people that might have the answers is the key to getting through the tough times.
After all, we’re all in this together…