Passing People in the Rain: 7 Ways CMOs Can Leverage a Down Market

As Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) face the challenges of today’s difficult economy, it’s critical to cut wisely.  At the same time, it’s even more critical to invest in initiatives your customers will appreciate and those that drive your marketing’s team’s productivity. As the saying goes, “It’s easier to pass people in the rain than in the sunshine.” Even in challenging times, there are real opportunities to distance yourself from your competitors. In this blog, we’ll explore four investment areas and three areas to cut that CMOs can and should leverage during a down market to pass their competitors. Key message to CMOs and CFOs: don’t brute-force cut the marketing budget across the board!


Investing in the right areas is essential during a down market. Here are four ways CMOs should place investment bets today:

Investment Area 1: Drive Customer-led Growth

Improving the customer experience and advocacy is always crucial, especially during difficult economic times. CMOs should invest in areas such as customer marketing, post-sale user experience, and determine how to improve net retention. Increasing net promoter scores (NPS) is a key investment area to improve gross and net customer retention, lifetime value, and for your customers to recommend new customers. Carefully absorb customer NPS feedback and demonstrate you listened and are taking salient action. By focusing on customer-led growth, CMOs can increase brand loyalty and more easily contribute to current and future growth.

Investment Area 2: Advance your Website Traffic Intent Data & Analytics

Understanding comprehensive web traffic patterns is essential but still rare among marketing organizations. CMOs should begin to leverage marketing automation software with reverse IP lookup and intent data to identify which companies are visiting your website and the associated behavior of potential corporate buying groups. As only ~3% of visitors will complete your contact-us forms, you need to identify anonymous companies that are interested in your product or service. Marketing can then personalize marketing messages based on anonymous website visitors to improve conversion rates and sales can begin to explore new contacts at firms who are checking you out without raising their hands as MQLs.

Investment Area 3: Improve Cross-Functional Alignment and Productivity

Cross-functional alignment between marketing, sales, customer service, and product is essential for driving growth and improving productivity. By aligning departmental strategic and annual plans, and breaking down silos, CMOs can drive more productive growth and improve their ability to efficiently scale. Sales and marketing alignment, for example, can improve demand generation and conversion rates, while customer success alignment can improve customer satisfaction and retention rates. It’s also critical for C-suites to focus on which segments to pursue vs. ignore now. Oftentimes, niche segments with strong alignment between positive external market growth conditions and internal firm readiness to deliver offer the best choices to pick the lowest hanging fruit.

Investment Area 4: Leverage Generative AI

Leveraging disruptive innovations like ChatGPT can make staff more productive by automating repetitive tasks such as content creation and customer support. By using generative AI, employees can scale more efficiently and focus on higher-value tasks that drive revenue. Additionally, generative AI can personalize segmented marketing content to also improve website conversion rates. Here’s an excellent article from @Gary Survis at Insight Partners private equity firm on how generative AI will impact marketing, over time:

Cutting Wisely

While investing in the right areas is essential during a down market, it’s also important to cut wisely. Here are three ways CMOs can cut costs and optimize their marketing budgets:

Cut Area 1: Conduct a Content Audit

CMOs should conduct a content audit to get rid of 70% of the content that no one uses. Consolidating content repositories can also make the right content immediately findable by sales and marketing.  Moreover, CMOs should determine and deploy missing content to support the buyers’ journey and customers’ lifecycle. 

Cut Area 2: Consolidate Global Agencies

Another way to cut costs while ensuring consistent brand messaging is to consolidate global agencies. By streamlining agency partnerships, CMOs can reduce costs and ensure consistent brand messaging across all markets. New agency models like international outsourcing offers another great way to lower the cost of talent on-demand.

Cut Area 3: Consolidate Martech Stack

Many companies have a martech stack that is bloated, too complex, and includes unused or underutilized tools. CMOs should analyze their martech stack and eliminate wasted and unused tools to reduce costs and improve efficiency. By consolidating the martech stack, CMOs can also reduce the complexity of marketing operations and improve productivity. 

Now is NOT the time to slow things down and ride it out!  A down market can be challenging for CMOs, but it’s also an opportunity to invest in the right areas to gain a competitive advantage. Of course, CMOs should selectively and wisely cut their marketing budgets.  However, this period is also a golden opportunity to invest in the right areas for competitive advantage such customer-led growth, web intelligence, cross-functional alignment, and disruptive technologies like generative AI.

It’s easier to pass people in the rain than in the sunshine — Pass your competitors now to come out stronger and swinging on the other side!

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