How Will B2B Marketers Fare in the Economic Downturn?

by Britton Manasco | Oct 30, 2008 | B2B Marketing

Stefan Tornquist is convinced that B2B marketers will experience their share of challenges as the credit crisis works its way through the economy and marketing budgets are cut. But he thinks it may also be an opportunity to strengthen market positioning for firms that continue to invest smartly.

As research director for MarketingSherpa, he recently surveyed marketing leaders at B2B companies of varying sizes and found that the larger firms are already cutting back. Nevertheless, he's convinced that many marketers will weather this storm better than they did in the downturn earlier in the decade. I spoke with him at the B2B Demand Generation Summit earlier this week in San Francisco.

As Tornquist sees its, the downturn is accelerating the shift from brand tactics to direct tactics and from offline tactics to online tactics -- two trends that were already under way.

So television, radio and print advertising are likely to be cut severely, while measurable, online tactics -- such as spending on search engine marketing and email marketing to house lists -- actually get a boost. Even direct mail -- a fairly predictable tactic -- is expected to do relatively well during the downturn, according to Tornquist's research.

"One of the lessons of not just the last slowdown, but all of them is that if you completely cut out your marketing're going to suffer in the marketplace as a result," he says. "A lot of companies are still going to act that way, but I think there's a percentage of companies that really perceive [the opportunity] and are going to do their try to take advantage."

Tornquist expects good deals to come available for companies to invest in media packages that combine brand impressions with lead generation commitments. As he puts it, "For aggressive companies, there will be a lot of progress to be made."

So what steps should marketers take to survive and possibly thrive during this downturn?  He urges companies not to give up on brand investments. "We know there's a symbiotic relationship between brand tactics and direct tactics," he says. "So I urge companies not to throw out the brand with the bath water."

Finally, Tornquist argues that marketers who measure, test and report their performance will continue to succeed amid the coming economic turbulence. "The perception that marketing has in the finance department will determine whether [its endeavors] have been a success," he concludes. "While a lot of marketers are getting better at measuring their programs, they tend to fall down in the communication with finance. They have these successes, but they don't know how to package them properly for the C-Suite and especially the CFO. They need to prove they are making money for the business, not just buying tchochkes and going to trade shows in Miami."