5 Reasons Not to Layoff Your Content Team

5 Reasons Not to Layoff Your Content Team


It’s no secret that the macroeconomic climate is pressuring businesses to run more efficiently — increasing their cash runway in order to survive whatever may come in the months and quarters ahead.

When CFOs kick off a process to reduce costs, the use of the red pen typically starts in Marketing. Why is that?

The marketing budget usually carries the biggest allocation of discretionary spend — the most discretionary of which is found in the programs bucket. Questions get asked about which channels are actually driving impact in pipeline creation, eyebrows raise at the amount of paid media dollars being spent just to defend our own traffic, and bigger bets are easy to sideline in light of the financial realities of the business. It’s also “easy” to turn things off, with the promise that we can turn them back on again when things get better.

Hopefully the red pen stops with programs, but in many cases, the business needs to cut deeper and will run a similar exercise on headcount.

Now I have A LOT of empathy for how difficult this discussion is. As the CMO at both Front and Hopin, I had to lead through two extremely painful layoff processes during various phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whoever tells you that business is not personal is lying to you — real lives are being impacted by these decisions.

But the hard truth is that sometimes these difficult decisions have to be made, and marketing leaders are faced with unprecedented decision-making in order to keep the business moving forward. My intention in writing this article is to offer up a perspective that could serve as input into your thinking: Marketers should make every effort to retain their content teams.

Here are some reasons to support the recommendation:

  1. In-house content production is the most efficient way to impact revenue. Content is the oxygen that feeds the marketing flywheel — whether written blog posts organized for long-tail organic search, webinars or other digital experiences, or audio/video programs that help customers solve complex problems. While many of these ideas sound expensive, the truth is that you often don’t need to spend much more than an annual salary to produce great content.

  2. Owned media is more efficient than paid media for distribution. In the best of times, the lion share of the marketing program budget is often allocated to paid media channels (Google PPC, content distribution, display, etc.). The truth is that not only are those channels expensive to activate, but they’re also the lowest converting lead source within the marketing funnel. Even companies like Airbnb have recently experienced their most profitable quarter to date by investing in brand / owned media over paid. Shifting your customer acquisition focus from paid to owned is a future-proof strategy, and you’ll need your content team to execute it.

  3. Content headcount is directly proportional to output. It’s easy to count all marketers the same way, but I would equate — in terms of production — a content headcount much closer to an AE or CSM than I would a traditional “marketing manager.” The math is simple: each member of the content team has a production level that they’re able to commit to — a certain number of blog posts, podcast episodes, or video segments. With cadence of content release being just as important as quality, setting an unrealistic expectation of increased production with fewer resources is not likely to work. Thankfully, you can hire to plan — just as our friends in Sales do — to make sure that you have enough content marketers on staff to meet your production demands.

  4. Your audience is distracted and requires creative execution to reach. Many companies — such as the Airbnb example referenced earlier — already appreciate the notion that owned media is a far more leveraged way to impact business outcomes. This means more competition to break through the noise and reach your intended audience. While written content is certainly an important strategy, so are editorial formats such as videos, podcasts, live streams, and others to build relationship at scale with your audience. Most content teams have the skillset in-house to create engaging content for each of these formats — a project that can be expensive to outsource and nearly impossible to resource elsewhere within the organization.

  5. Your community needs your content more than ever. You aren’t the only company making difficult decisions during this economic season. The truth is that during market downturns, growth becomes much harder and companies tend to prioritize serving existing customers in order to protect revenue. Your customers are looking to you as their perceived market leader for resources and support (beyond the products you sell) in order to make it through to the other side. Content is how we provide that value - authoring best practices and creating moments of connection in what can feel like a very lonely and difficult time.

There’s this myth floating around that organic marketing effort takes time to materialize into business impact. While that may be true of SEO — as Google needs time to index your written content, etc. — the truth is much more optimistic.

Distributing relevant and timely content through rented channels (think your LinkedIn audience) and owned channels (think your email database) can provide instant engagement and impact. A well-timed forward by Sales to a prospect second-guessing their decision or a customer at risk of churn can go a very long way.

Your content team is at the heart of that effort — actively listening to the needs of your audience, quickly producing content across formats, injecting humor and inspiration to break through the noise, repurposing old content that’s more relevant than ever, and distributing that content effectively across channels. You’ll get more bang for your buck executing this approach than any other program within Marketing.

Companies who invest in their content teams and activate an owned media strategy will have a higher propensity to not just survive the economic downturn, but to emerge on the other end with a stronger foundation for growth than ever before.


Anthony Kennada | About the Author

Founder and CEO, AudiencePlus

Prior to founding AudiencePlus, Anthony served as the CMO of incredible companies like Hopin and Front. He was the founding CMO of Gainsight where he and his team are credited with creating the Customer Success category -- a novel business imperative, profession and software category that helps subscription companies grow sustainably by becoming customer obsessed. By focusing on human first community building, content marketing, live events and creative activations, they developed a new playbook for B2B marketing that built the Gainsight brand and fueled the company’s growth from $0 to $100M+ ARR, and eventual acquisition by Vista Equity at a $1.1B valuation. You can follow him here.


5 Reasons Not to Layoff Your Content Team

Distributing relevant and timely content through rented channels (think your LinkedIn audience) and owned channels (think your email database) can provide instant engagement and impact. A well-timed forward by Sales to a prospect second-guessing their decision or a customer at risk of churn can go a very long way.

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