When the going gets tough, the tough get marketing!

Business Insights

If you or your management is considering cutting or eliminating marketing programs because of tough times, think again! Research shows that companies that market through difficult trading times gain tremendously over competitors that cut back.

In difficult financial times, running a successful service firm and business requires more than hard work. Careful decision making, cautious purchases, improved efficiency and streamlined budgeting sit at the top of the list. Adding marketing expenditures to this list may not seem prudent during down times, but you must reconsider. Maintaining and increasing marketing activities in a difficult market will help your business soar when the economy bounces back.

As competitors scale back their activities, there has been no better time for your business to achieve marketing success. However, you need to act with logic (not emotion), using a clear strategy and be ready to pounce quickly on opportunities as they arise.

This sentiment is echoed in a recent UK study by the Small Enterprise Research team at the Open University. Small business owners responded to questions about the slowing economy and most believed that “increasing marketing spend” was a sound investment to drum up business to get through tougher times.

Contrary to popular belief, consumers do not come to a standstill during tough times. They just make purchasing decisions differently. Some purchasers are more diligent with research while others may start comparison-shopping when they hadn’t done so in the past. Ultimately, consumers will buy items appropriate to their needs if they deem that they truly need the service or product. This is the audience that needs to be marketed to at this time

Make your business visible to viable markets. Analyse where paying customers are coming from and target your marketing in those areas. At the same time, keep a critical eye on areas that aren’t profitable and consider whether or not these targets will be fruitful when the economy turns around. A poor economy offers you the time to re-evaluate target markets.

Carefully assess your current advertising campaigns by analysing how many ads you run and where they are placed. Do not give into the temptation to cut all advertising. There is an opportunity for success in advertising in a down economy. In down times, fewer businesses will advertise, thinking it is an easy place to save money.

This trend creates less competition for existing ad space. More available ad space can provide better negotiation opportunities for the media buyer. Most importantly, though, more ad space decreases advertising clutter, making your ads more visible. Work with the media outlet to strategically place your ads in more visible positions and be sure to include a ‘call to action’ so that you can trace any direct business. Be sure that your e-newsletter prints well so that readers who prefer to have a paper copy for their files can do so while maintaining the integrity of your brand.

It is often thought that an easy way to cut costs is to cut out the print based portion of your marketing, this is another fallacy. Print stays around and it has been shown that people pay more attention to print media than on-line offerings and will return to it and re-read it. Many folk still prefer to read from a printed page than a screen.

The key point though is to target your advertising campaigns at the point at which they will do the most good, clients like to see advertisements in print and on-line. Insertions in carefully chosen non industry specific periodicals are highly effective in introducing your products to a broader market and several copies can be left in your reception or meeting rooms.

Use a public relations campaign to inform consumers about changes in the market or other important issues they may be facing. Positive presence is essential to positioning your organization for success when the economy turns around. As a result, you will be ahead of other businesses that decreased marketing efforts, giving you the competitive edge.

Build and sustain meaningful relationships at all times. Ultimately, when all other factors are similar, people buy products and services from people they like and trust. Maintain relationships and develop new points of contact through sustained networking. Staying top of mind to a potential customer is the key to positive word of mouth.

Keeping visible, understanding target audiences and building loyal relationships with customers are just a few of the essential components of a successful marketing plan. Aligning your business goals and sticking with your marketing plans will pay off in the long run, regardless of the economic climate.

Remember, marketing is an investment for future business and sales growth – you only get out if you put in.