Marketing Edge: How to keep the doors open in a slow economy!

The last few years have been exceptionally taxing on most businesses, with many making the hard decision to scale back their overall operations or even close doors permanently. For those attempting to reduce on expenditure, the Marketing Department was an easy target, suffering immense cutbacks in the face of the ever-looming economic problems. Some businesses even went a step further to merge departments, placing Brand Development, for example, in any other department, with no clear succession strategy – or marketing know-how, with disastrous results.

For the companies riding the uncertain economic wave, many have kept a keen eye for new marketing forces and capitalized on the opportunities which dissipate as quickly as they materialize. But how does a company stand out and market its products, when the budget really doesn’t allow for major monetary investment? The key is being innovative and thinking outside the box.
Finding a solution is simple – Know your product/services and know your market needs! Being able to plan effectively and adapt quickly are key elements which will certainly work in your favour and keep your business recession-proof.

Never panic!

The truth is most companies never see the long term effects of poor marketing until the returns on investment are quantified. Others are so stuck in the past that they are reluctant to adapt but instead, reinforce the archaic practices their forefathers implemented – if it isn’t broke why fix it! We know this mentality has drained such companies not only of their profits and customers, but valuable employees who feel underutilized and powerless, have left in droves. But how does a company not panic when all resources are leaving? The best way is to keep focus on the customer, maintaining a great relationship while ensuring the right employees are present to carry the message. Learn the customer experience. Don’t worry if your competitors are giving away everything and the kitchen sink to attract more business; a truly valued customer will stay. Develop your marketing strategies and focus on improving customer relations while implementing these new strategies.

Reaffirm your Unique Selling Points (USP)

What is your unique selling point? What differentiates you from everyone else? Your company may already have unique selling points which need some further development or there may be a need to strengthen your position. Work on those and stand by your product. Whether you champion the ‘Go Green” campaign or you are the business to offer a specialized item, promote that aspect and let the customer come to you!

Don’t become a ‘Serial Discounter’

Yes, the market is slow and bills need to be paid. Motivation is running low and you are fresh out of positive advice for your team. However, constantly discounting your product or service to get revenue in, will take away from its core value and hurt your profits significantly. Instead, offer a reduced rate for add-ons and upsell, upsell, upsell! Offer your clients a free trial on a service if a contract is signed in advance for at least a year.

Every customer is a Brand Ambassador

Most customers like to try before they buy. In some cases, the buying decision process is heavily dictated by reviews, social media stories and word of mouth. Ensure the customers you have already satisfied, are truly satisfied. Work with other departments and keep track of what goes out. Was the after sales service in keeping with the first point of contact? Feedback is a great way to measure what was good and what needs improving. Remember, even the customer who had a not-so-good experience at any stage, can be become a satisfied customer with a simple follow up.

Do Social Media right!

Time and time again, many companies are falling into the social media trap and are treating the company’s page, as a personal page. Break the cycle and employ business centric techniques to promote your business and its brand identity. This is a low cost medium which can gain new customers, supplement existing marketing tactics and help keep the company’s name in the limelight for positive results. Remember, it’s not always about what you are promoting, post about what is at the heart beat of the organization. A company with a clearly defined Corporate Social Responsibility will stand out for the right reasons.

Email Marketing is a must

From Constant Contacts to Mailchimp, many options are available to help establish a direct link to clients and prospective clients alike. This is low cost but can become costly if not undertaken in the correct manner. Ensure email campaigns are correctly targeted and aligned with the overall marketing strategy which the business has developed. Never bombard clients with multiple emails a month and always give an option to opt out. Email marketing done right, can spread the word in seconds and it isn’t expensive.

Public Relations can help!

Let’s face it, keeping a positive image is becoming increasingly difficult as new technological advancements have seen the emergence of tech savvy customers. Maintaining a positive image is particularly important in a slow economic period. Promote staff or new initiatives with sound PR support. The media will spin a story whichever way, why not steer the course of your own brand identify? Add sensational stories in local newspapers and magazines or maintain a blog to share with clients and sit back and wait.

Have a plan

Whatever you do, have a plan and don’t be afraid to adapt to new environmental changes. Record and implement what works, while learning from the mistakes of failed initiatives. New trends for example can be tempting to follow but efficient market research is needed to ensure you aren’t jumping on the bandwagon without due diligence. Ensure your company is portrayed in the best light through the employees; are they dressed appropriately, promoting the same message and have a positive attitude to work? How does the media portray the company? All factors in the master plan, which in the middle of economic uncertainty for a business, must be agreed, designed properly and implemented to ensure sustainable development and returns on investment.

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