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Marketing in a Tough Economy - Focus on Your Future

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Brainerd Lakes Chamber will be having a Focus on Your Future Business Workshop series this spring addressing specific topics for business. For each topic we will have a blog initiated by a Chamber member. Carol Russell, CEO of Russell Herder -- an integrated marketing communications firm located in Brainerd and Minneapolis, has posted the following marketing advice based upon what she has been experiencing with clients over the past year. Carol leads RH’s strategic practice, which is known for its creative efforts targeting both consumers and business-to-business markets...

Few are the businesses that aren’t faced with the need for budget reduction these days. And whether small organization or large, one of the first line items to be considered is often advertising.

But studies show that companies that cut back their marketing during a recession end up losing more ground than they would have otherwise. Why? Because while they did it, their competition took a risk and increased marketing efforts. The result? Businesses that trimmed promotion lost visibility during a time when they needed it most, while their competitors that increased advertising maintained and even grew sales.

So, should you rush out and spend to get ahead? Without a solid plan, absolutely not. Budget dollars thrown at unfocused or ineffective marketing strategies are dollars you’ll probably never see again. But neither is it a wise idea to place your company’s brand on hold. Instead, focus on investing in strategy. According to “When the Going Gets Tough,” today’s economy “provides an unusual opportunity to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.” Here are a few ways to consider doing it:

Scrutinize – Get to know your existing customers like never before – and understand how the current economy has changed their preferences, needs and purchase motivators. How? Market research, networking lunches, deep dives into their businesses – all the things you should have been doing even when times were good. Also, consider creating a loyalty program as a way to reward these critical spenders.

Prioritize – As Best Buy CMO Barry Judge recommends it’s important to take a closer look at the marketplace for areas where customer demand remains relatively strong or is emerging as a result of the weakened economy. How? Direct efforts to drive greater share in these key areas while cutting back where demand has declined.

Digitize – Use online to cost-effectively reach your target markets where they are, when they are. How? Use social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.); pay-per-click online advertising; online videos and more to bring your message to life.

Customize – Create messaging that relates to your customers’ specific interests and needs – or don’t waste your marketing dollars. This isn’t a time for shotgun strategies – use a rifle when you offer solutions. How? Find out what your customers’ hottest issues are via their website, on-site visits or networking, then use outreach strategies that allow you to tailor the messaging such as email campaigns and personal letters.

Analyze – Establish marketing metrics for everything you do – and pay attention to the results. How many people are visiting your website? Where are they coming from and how long are they staying? How many people responded to your ad and did they convert into sales? How does your brand preference stack up against your competition? What’s your cost-per-inquiry – and cost-per-sale? How? You can track nearly anything with little or no cost. Use Google Analytics to monitor website visits; internal sales training to ask customers the right questions and record their answers; lifetime value calculations to understand who your ‘best’ customers really are.

A challenged economy isn’t easy for anyone – companies or their customers. At the same time, however, difficult times provide a unique and valuable opportunity to retool worn business tactics and reposition you for better times ahead.

Carol Russell – CEO, Russell Herder



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