A marketing contingency plan can help a small business protect revenue, profitability and customer relationships by preparing for unexpected events. The sudden arrival of a powerful new competitor, a problem in your supply chain, the resignation of an important sales representative, a virus attack on your website or the discovery of a major product defect can have serious consequences. If you have a contingency plan in place, you can respond quickly to changes and protect your company against the risk of business and financial damage.


The starting point for a marketing contingency plan is awareness of the risks. You should make a list of potential vulnerabilities in your marketing program, focusing on items that are outside your control. Changes in economic conditions, for example, could impact your customers’ spending power and hit sales of your products. Changes in personnel at key accounts could weaken the customer relationships you have developed and open opportunities for competitors. A major marketing campaign or massive price cut by a competitor could lead to loss of business. By working through a series of “what happens if” scenarios, you can identify areas where you need to prepare a response.


When you have identified the vulnerabilities, you must monitor conditions to try to get an early warning of any increase in risk. Ask your sales team to meet regularly with key clients and look for signs of competitive activity. Check industry publications for competitive advertising and look for details of new products or special offers on their websites. Monitor the performance of your suppliers to ensure that they can maintain continuity of supply and meet your quality standards.


Your contingency plan should set out the actions you will take in the event of a threat or problem. If a competitor cuts prices, set out the prices your team can offer to maintain the volume of sales. If an important customer moves business to a competitor, identify customers or prospects where you could increase business to cover the loss. Set out your procedures for dealing with a product defect and a possible recall campaign. If an important member of your sales team leaves, identify a replacement and prepare a training program to bring that representative up to speed. Identify alternative sources of important components in case one of your suppliers has delivery or quality problems.


When the plan is complete, share it with members of the sales and marketing team so that they are aware of their role in monitoring risk and responding to threats. Appoint a member of the team to keep the plan up to date by incorporating any new research or important information from the field.