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Terminus Blog

August 3, 2020

Why It Pays to Double Down on Brand in a Recession

Category: FlipMyFunnel Post

During this crisis, we need to do things differently. 

And in marketing, that means adopting a new mindset…

The creative mindset of an entrepreneur. 

On a recent LinkedIn Live episode, I caught up with Justin Keller, Vice President of Marketing at Terminus, who’s an expert in thinking outside of the marketing box.

He recently attracted the second-highest single-day traffic to Terminus’ website… 

By creating a parody version recalling the late-90s Geocities pages — complete with typos and a whole troupe of dancing baby and MC Hammer gifs. 

Getting creative with brand 

Justin: Last year, at a Marketo event, this guy comes up and introduces himself.

He had a huge beard, bandana, leather biker vest — the whole thing. He wasn’t your average marketer. He gave me his business card and I checked out his website — it hadn’t changed in probably 15-20 years.

It was one of those old, really loud, Geocities websites that the internet used to be totally filled with. 

I shared it with my team and said, “Guys, next April Fool’s Day, we need to mock up a new version of the website that looks absolutely awful.” 

I worked on it with my teammate, Summer, who’s just an absolute rockstar and wonderful designer. I’m sure it pained her to make the site because I was saying…  

“No, we need to add more typos. We need more dancing baby gifs. We need at least 6 MC Hammer gifs at the bottom of the page.”

I announced it on Slack first thing in the morning, saying the marketing team had been hard at work for the last 3 months and that I was excited to unveil the new terminus.com

We had a few employees freak out, saying we needed to talk to our CMO — because whatever is going on in marketing just isn’t right.

But the whole gag had a reason. 

It was a message about the status quo of marketing.

Websites looked really awful like this 20+ years ago. And less than 10 years later, marketing automation would become the standard.

But the distance between the Geocities era and marketing automation is less than we are from it. 

Yet, so many marketers are just like, “Yeah, my tech stack is Marketo or Hubspot.”

And that’s all we do. 

“Traditional marketing strategies are not going to work going forward and people need to update.”

The site ended up going viral and we got tons and tons of comments. 

A history of success in crisis 

Justin: Now is time to double down on brand.

A lot of sheepish marketers are leaning back and letting the world unfold in front of them, rather than charging forward and creating a really strong brand impression. 

There’s a lot of historical context for why you should do this now. 

There are 100 years of data that says during every recession, companies that double down on brands, invest in advertising and are more aggressive with ad spend grow more during the recession. 

Then there is a springboard effect and, once the market recovers, they are so much further ahead of their competition as results. 

So, in the 80s — from 81 through 85 — there was a really tough economy and McGraw Hill Research t, surveyed 600 B2B brands, and found that the ones that increased their focus on brands through advertising and direct to consumer marketing came out 275% bigger than companies that will back huge growth. 

“We don’t need any more COVID emails saying, ‘Here’s what we’re doing.’ We hit the saturation point last week.”

I mean, it’s not like a minus 10% thing… This is a make or break moment for brand marketers.

Retention is the new acquisition

Justin: Should we be thinking about marketing differently than ever before?

The answer is: yes, absolutely. 

Because the way this is affecting companies is different, right? 

There are companies that are doing very well right now, medical, delivery, logistics — companies like that. 

Those companies are moving. A lot of other companies are shrinking. You don’t want to go wide and try and appeal to everyone. 

You probably just want to train your guns on companies that are growing right now and are able to step on the gas easier than companies that are shrinking a little bit. 

Secondly, right now, 53% of companies have already felt the impact of their customers that are starting to churn. 

“If I were to build another ABM program all over again, I wouldn’t start with an acquisition engine, I would start with a retention engine. That’s where growth really starts.”

If you can keep your budget from leaking, it makes that top-line growth a lot easier. 

Focusing on customers is in a lot of ways like the purest expression of ABM.

You know the customer. You know the use case. You’ve got the account maintenance, and you build that muscle a lot easier by focusing on your customer. 

So I’d say absolutely stay focused on companies who are specifically resilient to the downturn in the market and can benefit from whatever you guys are doing

And staying focused on your customers is also extremely important right now.

Take action and get creative

Justin is proof that thinking like an entrepreneur and rising to the challenges that COVID-19 has placed upon can not only be rewarding…

It can also be fun. 

We aren’t living in the same world we were living in 6 months ago.

And that’s OK. When the world changes, we need to rise to the challenge and change with it. 

Whether it’s a crisis or not.

This post is based on a #FlipMyFunnel podcast with Justin Keller. Check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or here.

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Written by Sangram Vajre

Sangram Vajre is the co-founder and chief evangelist of Terminus, the leader of the account-based marketing (ABM) movement transforming B2B marketing. Before co-founding Terminus, Sangram led the marketing team at Pardot through its acquisition by ExactTarget and then to Salesforce. Sangram is the author of Account-Based Marketing for Dummies and is the mastermind behind #FlipMyFunnel. Follow Sangram on Twitter at @sangramvajre.

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