When budgets are cut, quality is still priceless

When budgets are cut, quality is still priceless

Focussing on quantity over quality media in difficult times will result in short and long-term damage to your brand.


When times are tough, it’s easy to lose confidence and start cutting marketing costs. And times are now officially tough. Inflation is running at a 40-year high, borrowing costs have soared, recession is on the horizon, there’s musical chairs at Number 10, war in Europe, and Covid continues to be a threat to our health.

But in this challenging landscape, you still need to keep a strong brand presence and generate leads. Surely you can do this on the cheap — right? Wrong! When times are hard, quality counts more than ever. This current situation necessitates business leaders make difficult decisions both for the short- and long-term health of their companies.

During difficult times it is particularly important to remember that second part: longer-term health. It is all too easy to make cuts now, not realising the impact they may have in the future. While the outlook may not look positive at the moment, there are always better times ahead and businesses need to be ready for them.

Investing in quality marketing

One key area that comes under increased scrutiny when times are tough is marketing. It is often one of the first to be cut as companies look to shore up their business. That leaves marketers facing an internal battle to convince those who set budgets to keep the investment intact or at least try to minimise the cuts.

Once they have a budget, they will face difficult choices on what to do with it. Is it better to spread a budget as wide as possible and opt for quantity over quality, or execute fewer things better to ensure quality is maintained?

My belief is that quality should always win. While my background is in B2B sales and marketing, there is plenty of evidence that this holds true whether you work at a consumer-facing brand or one that sells to businesses.

Of course what that looks like depends on the goal of the marketing activity. Let’s take brand awareness first. The point of this sort of campaign is to make your target customers aware of your product or service and have a positive impression of it.

Cutting back on the quality of the creative will likely result in a campaign that either fails to resonate or people don’t notice. Cutting back on the quality of the distribution, meanwhile, will likely result in a campaign that simply isn’t seen by the right people.

Next, let’s take lead generation. Again, a similar dilemma. You need to generate high-quality leads from people involved in the purchase of your product or service. These people need to have the budget or be in the market for what you are selling.

Cutting back on the creative will result in those leads feeling disappointed that they parted with their precious personal data in order to receive a half-baked asset with a snappy headline. Good luck converting them! Cutting back on the distribution spend likely means the wrong type of leads (i.e. people who have nothing to do with the purchase) and will rapidly result in a mutinous sales team.

Focusing on quantity over quality in the end results in ineffective marketing. In the worst cases, it can even be actively damaging for both your brand and your personal reputation.

If you are in the enviable position of having a similar or increased budget in these uncertain times, then make the most of it! If you are not so fortunate and find yourself with a little less to work with, then focus on doing a few things really well, rather than lots of things poorly.

Launching our own campaign

Finally, you may be wondering why you should take my advice on any of this given that I have obvious skin in the game. If Raconteur’s clients start dramatically decreasing their spending, it would hurt us.

But I believe in what I’m saying. That means you absolutely won’t find us cutting spend in areas like editorial or design. As a media brand, we know that if we do that in the short term, it will impact our business in the long term. Our readers would find our content less appealing and likely drift to another company that hadn’t cut back. Soon enough our advertisers would follow suit

Instead, we are doing the opposite. We are investing in the things we know move the needle for us as a brand and help us stand out in the market.

We are also gearing up to launch a refreshed brand proposition that will be amplified by the biggest paid marketing campaign Raconteur has ever run. Did we consider pushing the launch back to 2023 due to the current economic climate?

In truth, yes we did, but our conclusion was that there is no better time to do it because we know some of our competitors will pull back. When there’s less noise from them, our message is more likely to land. Let’s just hope they aren’t reading this article!

Will Brookes is CEO at Raconteur, the B2B publishing company within the Raconteur Group

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