06 December 2008

The Gift of Marketing in a Recession

If you're looking for the silver bullet or magic pill that will turn your business around, you might as well go buy yourself a lottery ticket. It's not that easy, it never has been.

But, now more than ever is the time to engage your marketing professional and really concentrate on the marketing of your business.

I have had many discussions of late with colleagues and clients alike regarding marketing in this current economy - there's not a lot that differs from now than before other than you need to be a bit more careful of your spend and more focused on the strategy.

1. Understanding of your brand - what and where is the value in your product or service. Go back and read some of my other postings - I talk about this a lot. Because it's important, not because I like to repeat myself.

2. Patience - you may not see immediate sales like you did the past few years; the sales process on larger items especially take more time when times are tough - customers want to make sure they are making the best choice (notice I didn't say the cheapest? Quality is more important now). Getting engagement with customers becomes the measure for results in these times. Be prepared to spend more time with each customer - you will have to explain more, demonstrate more - know your offerings, values and differences well. And, teach your staff to communicate it. Knee-jerk reactions in a volatile marketplace can quickly empty your bank account.

3. Calculated risks - don't be afraid to try new ways to market your product, but don't use medias that can't justify the spend. The depth and ability of online search tools has all but rendered the printed yellow pages useless, they have tried to move into the digital realm with yellowpages.ca in Canada, I'm convinced this group has no concept on what makes a search tool effective - advertising on yellowpages.ca is possibly the quickest way of wasting your advertising money; flushing money down the toilet has more redeeming qualities, at least its an event you could build some publicity around. I look at my clients yellowpages.ca proposals with consternation - I could (and may someday) do a complete blog on this subject.

4. Strategy - what does your end game look like and what are the plays that will take you there? Creating a marketing plan is a start, but it needs to be able to change and adapt to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. You should start with goals, weekly, monthly and quarterly and these goals should be more than sales targets - drill down, make goals measurable. A goal may be to get 25 new customers into your store or showroom in a given week - you can measure that and work from it: how many bought, how many came back, how many phoned back later etc. Now you can tweak your strategy to target these particular threads.

5. Go 2.0 - Have a serious look at your web site - are you doing all you can to engage customers? Measure everything and plan everything - your web site should not only be found through simple key word searches (organic or paid), it should direct customers right to where they need to go. Your web site should be a place of engagement for customers and your brand - not a brochure, stick to printing those relics. Your web site should deliver paying customers and answer questions - in real time. I recommend that you use your money to buy pay per click advertising, you can do this directly with proper search engines by yourself or hire a firm that specializes in this and understands it (yellowpages.ca offers this, but you are best to seek a company that specializes in SEO - Search Engine Optimization).

6. Relationships - Creating customer loyalty and building relationships is all part of the brand experience customers get when they engage your services. Evaluate your current experience - what are some of the key touch points and how do you make them better? What are the negative touch points, how can you reduce them? Create a great customer experience, one that is honest and true to your brand. A great experience will help to create loyal long term relationships with your customers.

The principles of marketing don't change, just because there's a recession. The value of those principles is even more critical.

Pick your battlefield, pick your battles and win... not at all costs though, you must have ROI and optimizing your web site and marketing can do this.

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