2 min read
27 Mar

“The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time” – Thomas Jefferson

He is a misguided man. I get it though.

It doesn’t feel quite right, does it, continuing to market your business when there is an extraordinary global event that’s threatening not only our health but our livelihoods too?

But as a small business owner and a marketing effectiveness expert, I urge you not to stop your activity. Re-think messages maybe even pivot/tweak your offer but show up.

Super-easy for me to say from my child-free ivory tower over here. But it is true:


Food for thought

  • If your competitors do stop marketing, it can be easier for your message to cut through than usual. But if your competitors decide to spend their way out, you need to at least maintain. Carrying on is the right answer in either scenario
  • Promotions and discounts may attract a few more bites but be careful not to set a precedent that this is your new normal. You may lose more revenue later by increasing your prices (or not being able to) than you gain in the short term
  • Do you know the return of your marketing efforts? If not, why are you considering cutting anything at all? Better to waste a little effort now than stop doing the thing you later discover was fundamental to your business success
  • Think long-term. Most small businesses don’t split their marketing messages into lead gen and brand - they serve both purposes. It’s only the lead gen you may consider unnecessary right now, your branding is more important than ever



Perhaps you’re strapped for time with unexpected new household arrangements. Then schedule. It can limit your reach depending on the platform, but it’s better than nothing.


Perhaps you think you’ve got nothing to talk about if you’ve put your business into hibernation, or lost clients in the short term. Then tell your back story instead.

Doing one or both will ensure that your presence is consistent. You maintain the good habit for when business picks up again. Your customers keep you top of mind.

Remember how difficult it is to summon power when you start cycling uphill? Once you’re moving you need less effort because you’re carried along by momentum.

Businesses that consistently market benefit not only from the impact of their current message but from the stock of previous activity.

Stop messaging and you’ll have a steeper hill to climb when you restart.


It’s a fair point. Why do any paid marketing if there isn’t effectively ‘a market’? Or spend time marketing now rather than earning cash in other ways?

But we come back to that hill-start again. More money or time required in the future to get back to where you were before you stopped marketing. It’s a false economy.


In my 20 years I’ve analysed loads of extraordinary economic situations in the UK and overseas. Travel pre and post 9/11. The dot com bubble. Automotive pre and post state intervention. Finance pre and post 2008. Each event is different, but there are themes.

I’m not at liberty to share numbers (even if I could remember them.) Generally, the winners found other costs to cut and continued to market through the difficult times. They suffered, but their losses were often shallower and/or shorter.

Winners didn’t knee-jerk but assessed the data and fine-tuned. They held their nerve in the immediate term (only changing messages that were insensitive to the situation.) They realised that extrapolating based on a trend in a week is inaccurate.

I’ve put links to a couple of articles on the topic (There are loads so I just selected two). I think that whatever size of business you run there are some useful arguments. I just realised that this may be considered a plug for my own services (it’s not, I’m at capacity)

Harvard Business Review piece from 2009. Useful frameworks to base thinking on


This one from 2016 is focused on small businesses. (If you don’t do paid ads, £ = time)


The vast body of work by Les Binet and Peter Field is also worth a look. They cover many topics, but I’m thinking specifically about their short term/long term research which I notice is starting to be cited again recently.

Stay well. Stay indoors. Keep marketing.

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