Best-Selling Author; Keynote Speaker; Founder of TriggerPoint, a Behavioral Research & Design Consultancy.
Times are definitely changing, and if your job touches marketing, there’s a good chance you’re in a spending freeze, or at least slowing down tremendously. With all the free time on your hands and little, if any, money you’re allowed to spend, you may be worried about the real value you can provide others in your organization. I know. I’ve been there.
During the last recession, I lost 100% (yes, 100%) of my budget to conduct shopper research at Frito-Lay for almost an entire year. To this day, it’s the most impactful year I’ve ever had in my career — so much so that I won the Insights Person of the Year Award for Frito-Lay.
This was the year I was forced to get scrappy, find new ways to get free insights and work to become a real influencer for my department. I learned a lot that year and a few things since then to help my clients increase the impact they have without spending a penny.
In this article, I’ll share 10 of the best ways I’ve found to add value to your company during a spending freeze. Your funding might be gone, but you can still make an impact. Here’s how:
1. Read anything related to behavioral science.
This science has broad implications across the business world because it deals with human beings. You can provide great insights on consumers and employees just by reading articles on platforms such as Google Scholar and applying what you learn to your business.
2. Run a consultant day.
Ask thought leaders to come in and present to your group. That year I organized a subconscious symposium and invited six research consultants to present to my internal team. They did it because they could talk to their future clients. I did it because I got new thinking from the very best.
3. Host industry peers for a discussion of new insights.
At the time, I was doing research to better understand Generation X men. I invited peers from Under Armour, Jim Beam, Harley Davidson, Gatorade and Doritos to share what we called their “mansights” over the course of two days. We were all non-competing companies, so nobody had any qualms about coming together and discussing their research insights.
4. Ask university professors for their latest thinking.
So many professors are solving the needs of tomorrow today, and most are looking for business partnerships, as well as business data, to work with. You might be surprised how receptive they are to helping you come up with new insights for your company.
5. Aggregate and distribute perspectives on a topic.
Create a Google Alert for an issue that’s important to your company. I had one set for “psychology” that would send me articles with the latest thinking in this field. I packaged those insights up into a short daily email and sent it out to my colleagues.
6. Mine old research for new gold.
You’d be surprised at how many pieces of research are sitting in filing cabinets that still have great insight waiting to be mined. Go back to your old reports and try to identify new ways of thinking that were previously undiscovered. Hint: Your new knowledge of behavioral science can help you find these nuggets.
7. Build an organizational charter.
One thing I did was build out a three-year plan to create a new behavioral science division at Frito-Lay that I wanted to run. This effort showed initiative on my part and helped me create my next position. As a result, just two years later, I was moved into that exact role. What new capability can you dream up for your company, and what would it take to get there?
8. Do some community research.
Many companies pay for a panel of people whom they can have access to for marketing research. Find out if there are any panels your company has access to that aren’t being utilized. If you don’t have access to a panel, go create one. Get a group of your own friends together and ask them their opinions on Zoom once a month to do a quick research study.
9. Conduct a marketing audit.
When is the last time anyone conducted a formal review of your marketing? Maybe now is the time to do it. I did a one-wall test in which I put all our advertising up on a wall to see where there were similarities, but more importantly, where there were vastly different ways of talking to customers. This easy audit allows you to spot inconsistencies and streamline how you talk to customers.
10. Work on simplifying your marketing communications.
In today’s world, the simplest communication is usually going to be the most well-received by prospects. Look at your marketing through a lens of simplicity and do everything you can to make it as simple as possible. I recommend building a StoryBrand — it’s a great way to simplify your story.
Add value during tough times.
I hope these ideas help you add value to your company, even if you’re dealing with a spending freeze. You never know what will come of the actions you take right now.
The “mansights” idea is what won me the insights award. Adding value to my company with zero budget also did a lot for me personally. In the course of my work over that year, I discovered I had a passion for behavioral science and began writing a business plan for what became my own company.
Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Subway and Starbucks all started with next to nothing in terms of funding. Now they’re all billion-dollar companies. Even if you don’t create the next Starbucks during your spending freeze, don’t sell yourself short on what you can create.
Using the ideas above as a springboard, start looking for ways to add value: a better way of doing things, an overlooked insight or a new product or service tailored for today’s world.