Marketing in difficult times

 Although Summer has arrived, the prevailing business sentiment is that cooler climes are hovering.

Consumers are cautious and in response, some businesses are readying their shears, preparing to prune, with marketing often the first target. Whilst pruning intends greater growth, indiscriminate shearing can hinder business growth for many a future season. A reduced marketing effort means lost customers and a weakened brand. When more agreeable conditions return, greater resources will be required to re-establish the business, reconnect with customers and rebuild the brand. The following offers ways of reconsidering marketing during these difficult times.

Consider the Overall Business Situation

To ensure business sustainability, it is vital that decisions are made in context of the overall business strategy – its short and long term objectives, customers and the competitive environment. How will proposed cuts impact the business in the short and the long term?

What are the ramifications for not taking action? Can funds be redeployed to shore up a strong strategic position and address longer term financial objectives? A thorough review of all business processes and expenditure at this time will highlight opportunities for refinement, rendering greater business efficiencies which can be applied into the future.

Stay Close to Your Customers – Maintain the Relationship

It is important now, more than ever for businesses to stay close to their customers, the heart of the business and marketing effort. Prof. John Quelch1 of the Harvard Business School says customers redefine value during these times. Staying close enables businesses to investigate what their customers are seeking, identify any changed behaviours and enhance their products/services and marketing to suit. However if a business is not in touch with their customers, this opportunity is missed.

Maintain the Dialogue – the Power of E

Leveraging the customer database and utilising today’s technology facilitates this process. E newsletters, for example, are a simple and cost effective way of keeping in touch. Once established they cost just a few cents per email contact. The results are powerful. They enable a business to build relationships with their customers and keep their brand in front of them.

A Time for Growth – But Don’t Make It Your Competitors!

Reducing or eliminating marketing budgets removes a company’s brand from their customers’ view and their business from the customer relationship. Such action provides the remaining players – the competition – an easy win via increased market share. Your lost customers are their new ones. The investment to win those customers back will be considerable and indeed additional to that required to find new ones. Some companies such as BMW, Dell and General Motors regard challenging times as opportunities to strengthen their businesses and overtake their weaker competitors.2 Leaving the playing field strengthens the remaining competitors who are still investing in marketing and maintaining relationships with their customers. Don’t let your business be the weaker competitor!

No Marketing Budget Lopping

So, a plea to business – don’t lop the marketing budget as a quick fix. Consider it in light of the entire business strategy – and the short and long term impact to the business. At this time, it is even more important to stay in touch with your customers, to understand their behaviours and values, and respond accordingly. Keeping your brand in front of your customers in a consistent and focused manner will discourage them to go elsewhere, and, despite these times, your business will continue to flourish.

Proactive Marketing Tips for Sustainability and Growth

• Keep in touch with your customers – find out what they are wanting, how they are behaving, what do they deem of value now… how can you respond accordingly?
• Customize your products/service mix to suit demand; and enhance the attributes customers are seeking
• Keep your brand in front of your customers
• Work smartly. Review and consider remixing promotional budget – ensuring you are maximizing publicity opportunities, leveraging database, and cost effective e marketing techniques; highlight the attributes customers are seeking in marketing communication
Look for opportunities – other currently non customers – who are not being looked after.

This is a time where you can grow your business!

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  Anne Sorensen is Director of Marketing Is Us, a specialist marketing consultancy dedicated to facilitating business growth by providing strategic marketing solutions. She holds a Bachelor of Business (Marketing), MBA and is a Certified Practising Marketer with the Australian Marketing Institute. E: anne@marketingisus.com.au

 [1] Marketing Your Way Through A Recession, (HBR) 2008

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