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Kitchen Side: The Recession: How We’re Managing Anxiety, Allocating Resources, and Planning to Survive

The Recession: How We’re Managing Anxiety, Allocating Resources, and Planning to Survive

The top question on the minds of business owners and marketing leaders alike is: how do you prepare for a looming recession? 

Inflation and economic uncertainty have plenty of companies concerned about what the future holds. 

In this episode of Kitchen Side, we share how we are staying on the defense through a pending recession and how you can stay diligent too. 

We cover how to handle an anxiety-inducing news cycle, ways to allocate your resources during a recession, and why adaptability is the key ingredient to surviving — and thriving.

Show Topics

  • Keep your team in the loop
  • Concentrate on what you can control
  • Be judicious with your spending 
  • Double down on high-value items
  • Keep your eyes on the prize
  • Let the small fires burn 
  • Figure out where to cut
  • Understand which efforts impact revenue
  • Pay attention to customers 
  • Maintain agility and adaptability

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What is Kitchen Side?

One big benefit of running an agency or working at one is you get to see the “kitchen side” of many different businesses; their revenue, their operations, their automations, and their culture.

You understand how things look from the inside and how that differs from the outside.

You understand how the sausage is made. 

As an agency ourselves, we’re working both on growing our clients’ businesses as well as our own. This podcast is one project, but we also blog, make videos, do sales, and have quite a robust portfolio of automations and hacks to run our business.

We want to take you behind the curtain, to the kitchen side of our business, to witness our brainstorms, discussions, and internal dialogues behind the public works that we ship. 

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Key Takeaways

14:13 – Keep your team in the loop

David said it’s important to be transparent with your team about what’s going on in the business. If you can get ahead of rumors, you’ll cut down on people’s fear and uncertainty.

“It just felt like, for our team, even though it’s small, we should just let the team know about all our metrics, revenue, sales, revenue forecast, and show what impact they’re having on the business. I think the part that I’m proud of myself for is for seeing this coming and getting a memo out and being like, ‘Hey, this is going to happen. Here’s what I think is going to happen. Here’s why. Here are all the signals. Here’s what smart people are saying. You don’t need to worry about this. We’re going to be good.’ I think getting ahead of it before the news cycle even started catching on was probably prudent. What’s that saying? People who are always crying doom are eventually going to be right. It’s just when they’re going to be right.”

16:02 – Concentrate on what you can control

David said instead of worrying about all of the recession factors you can’t control, focus on the ones you can control.

“We haven’t officially entered a recession yet. So it’s going to be a lot more speculation in all of that, but all the headlines. Those outlets are incentivized to write those headlines that instill fear and anxiety and stress because they get clicks and all of that, but I’ve just stopped reading the news and just focus on what I can control, which is, ‘Hey, our clients are going to be hit by this. How do we make sure we’re strong partners with our clients? Our team’s going to be worried. No matter what we say, we can reassure them, but they’re going to be worried. How do we make sure that they feel valued and like their jobs aren’t going anywhere?’ I think honestly, I’m going to be a bit stressed out sometimes. And I think I’ll message you both and be like, ‘I’m a bit stressed out,’ or, ‘I need to rant about something.’ And just having those channels to communicate and get through it all. The way I think about it is if, because you’re in a recession, you have to completely change the way you’re running your business, you’re probably running your business wrong. And so the fact that we don’t need to change too much is probably a good thing.”

20:04 – Be judicious with your spending 

Alex said managing your budget during a recession isn’t just about cutting things. It’s about reallocating your resources in a judicious way.

“In most cases, you want to cut, but that cutting isn’t just to cut expenditures, it’s to reallocate it to the places that matter more maybe during those times. So, I think, I didn’t read the rest of the study, but I think that was the hypothesis was that the companies who best reallocated were the ones who won, not necessarily those who just dropped everything. And also, on the other side, if you just splurge on everything and you continue pouring money in, that could obviously work out poorly as well because you don’t know how long a recession’s going to last. You don’t know what consumer behavior changes are going to happen. That’s something you have to maintain adaptability on. But if you just flush the market with cash at that point, that could also be high risk as it could any other time. You don’t know when you’re next fundraising round can come in and on what terms. There’s so many things up in the air. So I think it’s more about judicious spending.”

23:20 – Double down on high-value items

Allie said it’s important to be able to tell the difference between what is and isn’t necessary, and then double down on the essential things.

“I’ve had to hone my skill of what’s necessary and what’s not, that same thing you say, Alex, on what moves the boat forward. So really being able to double down on the things that we’re already doing, making sure that we get the most out of everything and get the most out of every person we work with, too. So it’s been fun to check in with some of my team to be like, ‘What else are you interested in? What else would you like to do across the organization? What have you witnessed? What have you gotten to see in other meetings that you might be curious about learning or honing those skills?’ So really helping them not only feel more value in their role but also learning what other talents they have that might benefit the growth of the company.”

24:56 – Keep your eyes on the prize

Alex said if something isn’t adding value to your business or the work you’re doing, you need to cut it out of your agenda and focus on the things that matter more.

“I go back to the same frameworks that I’ve talked about probably many times before, but the ‘Will it move the boat faster?’ is something I think about a lot in our business, but also personally. I know that as soon as I went full-time, many times in my life, I’ve tried to do calendar audits and energy audits and sit on Sundays and figure out what my most important activities are. And that’s been marginally helpful, through my life things build up and you get calendar debt and whatnot. But when I dropped everything and started working on this full-time, I didn’t even need to audit it. Everything just honed in, my vision narrowed, and I knew exactly what I needed to be doing at all times. I could feel it when I was like, ‘This isn’t the highest impact thing.’ And David and I talked about that with different meetings that were very low probability of being anywhere near interesting, we just dropped them. So I think that was one thing that became apparent more so when I went full time, but that’s something I continue to think about.”

32:04 – Let the small fires burn 

Alex said sometimes you have to focus on quantity to achieve quality. If you lower the cost of experimentation, you can run more experiments and ultimately create a bigger data pool.

“What standards really matter? And what standards can you actually somewhat forget about? Letting the small fires burn is what I say. Because sometimes, I know, for instance, with experimentation or in sales, quantity has a quality all of its own. David, you were just talking about baseline. Maybe we get a 5% conversion rate if we’re doing outbound sales. Well, that means we’ve got to send a lot of emails. And experiments, it’s hard to predict what’s going to win. So actually, if you can lower the cost of experimentation and put some urgency behind it, you might have a less high-quality experiment each time, but over time because you’re putting out more at-bats or shots on goal, you’re actually going to come up with a better, higher ROI program just through the sheer quantity of doing so, as opposed to sitting in a committee room arguing about which font is actually the best one instead of just fucking testing it.”

34:49 – Figure out where to cut

Alex said that during a recession, budget cuts are inevitable. But knowing where and how to cut is different for each company.

My hypothesis would be that similar things apply to content that they do on a business level on a marketing level, which is you’re going to cut some budget. You’re going to trim down. I think one thing is, we’ve gotten used to paying top prices for almost all things in content, whether it’s video podcast, production, the writing, the editing, and maybe you start to question where are the biggest impact levers and how can I double down on those? And if you’re going to double down on those, you have a finite budget. So what do you have to cut? And I don’t think the answer is the same for every company. That’s where the nuance lies. Whatever’s working for your companies is probably what you should double down on. If you were experimenting with some thought leadership, and that’s very expensive, and you’re printing money from bottom-funnel SEO stuff, I don’t know, maybe double down on that, maybe work on content optimization and figure out how much you can squeeze out of the low hanging fruit of the stuff you’ve already published.”

35:43 – Understand which efforts impact revenue

Allie said content teams need to understand how their efforts are impacting revenue because that will show your people what to focus on and what to shelve.

“I think it’s more important than ever for content teams to understand how their efforts are impacting revenue. And I don’t think every team has mapped that out. I think there’s some parts of it that may be assumed. Maybe some GA goals show some progress in that respect, but I don’t know if everyone can tell their higher-ups or their leaders, ‘This is exactly what we’re doing to drive revenue. This part might not be working, or maybe we’re experimenting on this part, but X, Y, Z, are how we make the business money.’ So I think that bridging that gap or drawing that line is probably an important step, one that would then inform what Alex said, which is what to keep pushing. What to maybe shelve for the time being, maybe what to do away with altogether and pick back up in a couple years or depending on how the business changes.”

43:32 – Pay attention to customers 

Alex said it’s impossible to predict how a customer will change, so you need to research your customers to figure out where they’re headed.

“I don’t think anybody can predict very accurately how consumer behavior changes, except that it will. So that’s one thing that’s interesting in that you have to wear a couple different hats. We’ve already talked about our content marketers need to learn how to tie back their efforts to results and maybe build some sort of a content growth model or at least do some attribution to figure that out. That’s skillset number one. But number two is learning how to do that customer research, customer insights, voice of customer research, to figure out how are your customers feeling here? Are they fearful? Are they increasing their budgets? Are they decreasing their budgets? That’s especially true in SaaS and B2B. And I think a lot of companies are already doing that thankfully, but a lot of that should be housed in the content program itself, because I know a lot of the times it’s housed in product or potentially a conversion rate optimization in UX, but how you rate the content should potentially shift depending on how your buyers are speaking about their feelings at the moment.”

44:56 – Maintain agility and adaptability

Alex said you won’t always know what’s going to work in the future, so it’s important to learn how to pivot and adapt to new circumstances.

“We talked about the value of doubling down, but there’s also the fact that maybe what worked before isn’t going to work in the immediate period or in the future. So I think it’s been said that humankind’s greatest advantage for survival is their adaptability. And I think that’s probably the number one thing in any time. Just because we’re in a recession, I don’t even know if we’re in a recession, I think we are but I don’t know. But it’s really demarcated by the increased level of uncertainty and also economic and financial factors such as less availability of fundraising, and maybe less purchasing power for inflation for consumers. But I think it’s just a greater level of uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean there’s no uncertainty in good times. So there’s always some level of uncertainty, and maintaining agility and adaptability during any time is usually what causes people to survive or thrive.”

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Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.