Cut back or attack? Marketing tips during the downturn. By Andrew Usher, Billy Blue Creative.
18th November, 2008 by Andrew Usher
Marketing is often the first thing to be cut when economic times get tough, unless of course you're a bank, keep your eye out for an increase in advertising from these guys as they strive to rebuild investor confidence.
For most of us however, we often see no choice but to shut up shop and wait for the clouds to pass. But is this our only option?
Think long-term investment not short-term loss.
If you cut your marketing activity not only will you sell less but you will also push your customers into the arms of competitors who remain active. Brand awareness created during troubled times often leads to consumer confidence in the brand after the economy has recovered.
Don't cut back, cut through.
When companies cut back on their marketing activity, opportunities open to capitalise on fewer competitors in the marketplace and engage a captive audience with a more targeted brand message. This may not have an immediate impact but proves financially beneficial when the clouds disappear and customer spending returns.
Make the most of what you've got.
Focus on existing customer relationships. Dont cancel all marketing efforts just re-focus them. Look to shift marketing strategies from generating new business to maintaining existing business and increasing repeat business.
Word of mouth...
If economic times are tough then everyone is in the same boat, under the same pressure and therefore sharing the same budgetary problems. As previously discussed, stay focused on existing relationships, look how you can direct your marketing efforts towards referrals, recommend a friend schemes and testimonials. Everyone has the opportunity to talk about great products or services, so make sure you coordinate with customers and partners and actively sing each others praises. This tactic costs very little, if nothing at all, and can be mutually beneficial if all parties work at it.
Ill scratch yours if you scratch mine? Consider online portals too.
Forget below the line. Get online.
Even if budget cuts are unavoidable, get smart and make your marketing budget work harder through low-cost channels. Start with your website, it can be used for marketing but also consumer communications. Your brand message and content should be relevant to the current market climate and should re-emphasise the value that your brand provides. Make sure your website uses the latest search engine optimisation techniques so that customers searching for hot topics related to your industry find you
first and foremost.
Keep your brand top-of-mind via electronic marketing like e-newsletters. This will allow you to communicate with customers, partners and prospects regularly. Remember, when times are tough, people get nervous so you must go that extra bit further to maintain contact and show how your product or service can help them. Show that you understand the priorities of your consumers.
Look for bread and butter.
Businesses that operate at the value end of town often perform better during downturns because they have educated customers that their brand stands for value. When things are tight, most consumers reduce spending to the bare necessities, so play down your luxury brands and place more emphasis on promoting your value or bread and butter products and services.
Advertising: Deal or no deal.
Advertising is one of the more expensive components of a marketing budget and often one of the first areas to be cut back. But its not all doom and gloom. Cut backs on advertising spend creates distressed or abandoned advertising space in major publications. Rather than lose out on revenue, the media houses become more receptive to negotiation and will sell last minute space at reduced or cut-price rates. You can negotiate full-page adverts for half the price and enhance your advertising with free colour loading and editorial. Remember the publication needs the sale too. Negotiate hard.
In a nut shell.
Dont continue marketing like nothing has changed. But dont stop marketing either. Create a short-mid term strategy that addresses current consumer priorities and look to maintain brand awareness. Consider shifting your spend from traditional print, radio and TV advertising to more data driven and targeted digital and social networking channels and online advertising. Focus on low hanging fruit and be sure to maintainrelationships with existing clients. Once the sun starts to shine again new business will be a key focus and it will be easier if you do not have the added pressure of replacing lost customers due to a lack of brand presence during the downturn.
After the dust has settled and the crisis is over, the survivors will rise and the wounded may fall and we will see the mergers of many. This will bring its own marketing challenges as newly merged organisations seek to create and communicate new brands, positioning and services, while old brands fight to retain market share and consumer loyalty.
Billy Blues fundamentals of good design...
No matter what the product, audience or channel to market, the fundamentals of good design remain the same:
Strategy: Who is your target audience? What are the functional and emotional benefits of your products and services? What is your point of difference? Why should the customer bother?
Personality: What does your competitor brand-scape look like? What is your brand positioning? What are your brand values? What are the positive and negative personality traits of your brand values?
Consistency: Whether it is a brand awareness campaign or a product brochure, all marketing activity should reinforce or be aligned to the broader communication strategy.
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