Never Waste a Good Crisis


Never waste a good crisis. They can force an organization to change, add laser focus to activities, and show you who's rowing the boat and who's just along for the ride.

It's sort of like what happens when a bear shows up at your campsite. Everyone stops arguing about where to pitch the tent, real fast.

This goes for marketing, like every other part of the organization. Marketers build programs to drive leads in the door. And it's well known that 30-50% of those marketing efforts fail. So, marketers are (rightly) constantly pitching for dollars so they can experiment, measure results, refine, repeat what's working, and kill what's not. We're fans of this approach.

But what happens in a crisis? Your small company just lost their largest customer. You are suddenly burning cash. The CFO argues that everything must be cut, including all marketing programs, in order to survive. She's right. The CMO argues that cutting marketing programs will reduce demand in the long-term, because cutting off experimentation means you never find the next big "lead generation machine." He's right.

Who's more right? The CFO, in this instance. (There goes our marketing merit badge, again). Because if the company doesn't cash outflows NOW, there will be no long term. 

But what to cut and what to keep? Here's how we think about it:


In a crisis, prioritize marketing programs which have a low incremental monthly cost and are currently generating leads. This is an example from one of our clients, a small company which had recently launched a series of marketing efforts from scratch after a decade of flying under the radar, marketing-wise. They lost a sizable customer. We immediately recommended cutting all marketing efforts other than video, which was generating 80% of their leads, and some baseline sales support. We asked for $1,000 to run a small one-month experiment on LinkedIn Ads, with video as the content, in hopes of not completely cutting off future demand.

Did we just slow future demand generation dramatically? Yes. Will sales ramp more slowly than our previous forecast? Yes. Have we mostly eliminated our chances of finding the next lead generation machine for the next 3-6 months? Yes. 

Will the company's cash last long enough to allow them to land another customer or a large investor? Yes. Live to fight another day. Never waste a good crisis.