Commentary

Finding The Right Partners To Help Weather The Storm

In case you haven’t noticed, things are a little crazy right now. Wall Street is responding to many different unstable elements and the market is going up and down too quickly. With the economy in such a state of flux, and the possibility of an impending correction looming, the marketing and advertising environment will be scrutinized as it was in 1994, 2001 and 2008.   How are you going to weather the storm?

When the economy takes a nosedive, marketing is typically the first thing to get cut, but that’s a trend dating back many years to when marketing was less accountable. In 2015 and heading towards 2016, less-accountable marketing elements will most likely be cut, but measurable elements could withstand the scrutiny.  

Channels like search, programmatic, and CRM, which have become more accountable in recent years, proven to generate ROI, are likely to be stable, or maybe even grow in focus during a downturn. This kind of measurability is a business driver, and it's what data-driven marketers can bring to the table: the tools for stealing market share when their competitors are cutting back.  

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If your competition cuts their spending, it’s a chance for you to go after their customers. Using a combination of first- and third-party data, you can identify the audience for your category, hypothesize the customers for your competitors and target them with personalized messages. You can track that exposure through to a sale and determine measurable market share lift, meaning your efforts were effective at combating the economic downturn.  

This assumes, of course, that you have a data-driven approach in place and are capable of reallocating dollars in an effective way.  Assuming you’ve taken that step, what kind of partners are you likely to work with?

A number of recent columns written by people far more intelligent than me have stated that an economic slowdown would result in increased consolidation of proven, differentiated platforms, while the less differentiated players may be forced to change direction or potentially shut down. Not knowing when this consolidation is going to come, whom are you going to be working with over the next 12 to 18 months?

To identify the right partners, there are some clear questions you can ask. The next 3 months is when you should be asking them.

-- How many customers do they have? What categories are they strongest in?  
-- What is the average length of time they have worked with their top 10 customers?
-- How are they capitalized? Are they profitable?  
-- What does their product roadmap look like for the next 18 months? Are they staffed and capitalized to achieve  growth during that time?

The right partners will have strong answers for these questions, allowing you to see where they’re headed and what steps they’re taking to get there.  

As you wrap up your 2015 efforts and start looking toward 2016, your plans should take into account which of your partners is most likely to weather the storm. I hate to say it so bluntly, but these are the days when your long-term strategy is going to be developed, and you want a set of partners that will be around for the long term!  There are simply too many companies out there competing, in an environment when scale and effectiveness are going to be so clearly scrutinized.  

How are you planning to weather the storm?  How are you planning for the next 12-18 months?

1 comment about "Finding The Right Partners To Help Weather The Storm".
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  1. Seth Ulinski from TBR, September 30, 2015 at 5:59 p.m.

    Great points, Cory.  The ability to analyze a partner's business model is increasingly important.  In some cases, information is available via 10Qs/10Ks.  However privately held companies may not share certain data (for a variety of reasons).  Delivery models (e.g. SaaS, PaaS, Managed Services), rates and fee structures, as well as analysis of related areas may be best served by working with an analyst firm that specializes in vendor business analysis; vendor benchmarks provide a taxonomy so key players within a segment can be compared across a variety of business metrics -- which is what we do here at Technology Business, Research, Inc. (TBR).

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