Marketing in a Down Economy

Times are tough…that’s something we’re all very familiar with. Are they getting better? Worse? Who knows. So, how can businesses continue to market themselves when so many are just struggling to survive. Is it worth it? In this article we’ll discuss why marketing matters (especially during an economic downturn) and what you can do to make your dollars work harder for you than they ever have.

Marketing Matters In an Economic Downturn

Your funds are tight. Maybe you’re barely getting the bills paid. You may have had to let go of an employee. Maybe you skipped a vacation this year to work an extra week or two. Sound familiar?
Most business owners (and employees alike) can probably relate to these situations very well right now.

So, why would someone spend money on marketing their business if times are this tough?
It’s simple, really. During the good times, businesses throw their weight and their money around in marketing endeavors… but all too often, it’s just white noise. Everyone’s doing it when times are good. So, because everyone is doing it… not everyone is listening.

That’s why, when times are hard, it’s much easier to take notice of those businesses who are still working hard to gain consumer loyalty. Your efforts during difficult times are much more noticeable than they are when times are good.

What You Should Communicate During Tough Times

Everyone is all too familiar with the current situation. People are frustrated. Tense. A new poll released on May 30th shows that Americans are stressed out (Source: MyWay News). So, what should you communicate in the marketing you choose to conduct? Positive emotions.

Don’t just act positive. Be positive. Everyone else is talking about how bad things are. The last thing your prospective clients want to hear is another person going on about how difficult life is. Give them something to look forward to. Give them the knowledge that things will turn around and it’s because of their hard work and dedication that things will get better.

Making Your Investment Work Harder

Marketing is an investment. An investment in your brand and an investment in your future. The problem with most marketing during a good economy is people have a tendency to just throw money at the situation and expect good results. Often, they do get good results… but not because of the money they throw at it. They get solid results because consumers have the money to spend are less discretionary with what they spend it on. When times are tight… consumers are much more likely to make extremely educated business decisions.

So should you.

So, how can you make your investment work harder for you? Here are 3 simple steps:

Step 1 – Communicate Efficiently

Communicate what you want your target clients to know succinctly and efficiently. Be direct. Get right to the point. Proceed to describe the benefits your prospects will receive by working with you. Don’t get into the nuts and bolts of the matter. The consumer wants to know “What’s in it for me,” not “What are all the fine details behind what you do?”

As much as you are in love with your outstanding business model or brand new product and all its bells and whistles that only industry-insiders understand (and you should be)… your clients don’t care. They want to know what your business model will do for them. And how the industry-specific details translate into something positive (and simple) for them.

In short, keep it simple.

Step 2 – Use The Internet

Free. Marketing. I’ll say it again… Free. Don’t discount all that this form of marketing can do for your company. If you aren’t familiar with current trends on the web… spend the time and research them. The research is also free.

Get involved in online communities. Create a Twitter account. Sign up for Facebook. Hop on LinkedIn. Get. Involved.

The more active you are online… the greater visibility you will have and the faster people are to take notice of you and your business.

Step 3 – Word of Mouth

Also free. Word of mouth is as efficient today as it was in the 19th century. Consumers want to work with businesses with solid reputations. And why shouldn’t they?

So, what does that mean for you?

Treat your current and existing clients like what they are: gold.

If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you.

And if you don’t take care of them, then your business will be riding in the trunk as if it were on the wrong side of a Soprano’s episode.

Closing Thoughts

I hope you are able to research effective marketing tactics for your particular business during difficult economic times. It takes a little more work and extra thought… but in the end, it can prove to be very lucrative for your business.

A few closing statistics taken from an article published a little less than a year ago (Source: businessweek.com):

• “McGraw-Hill Research in a study of U.S. recessions showed that business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during the 1981-1982 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth, both during the recession and for the following three years, than those that eliminated or decreased advertising. By 1985, sales of companies that were aggressive recession advertisers had risen 256% over those that didn’t keep up their advertising.”

• The car maker Volkswagen raised its ad spending 45.7% in 2008. Consequently, its U.S. market share moved from 1.4% to 1.9% from the end of 2008 to April 2009. In a USA Today article in May 2009, Tim Ellis, U.S. VP of Marketing at Volkswagen, said, “When we invest in marketing, things happen. We think it’s important to stick to our roots and stick to our value message. We’re getting a higher percentage of the dwindling marketplace. And when this crazy situation comes straight side up again, we’ll be positioned to increase our share even further.”

• For some businesses who are embracing this philosophy, the results seem to be speaking for themselves. General Mills’ finished this past fiscal year with revenues up 8%, that is $14.7 billion dollars. And according to Business Week, “In its most recent quarter, the company spent 16% more on marketing than it did in ’08.” Analyst Robert B. Moscow, who watched the company have 9-10% revenue growth in categories growing at 5%, attributes the movement to the company’s new creative marketing. General Mills’ Chief Marketing Officer Mark Addicks explains the growth this way, “Brands that continue to expand [and] give hope and optimism [during rough patches] historically do well.”

About the Author: Keith Goolsby

As President of Jetfuel Creative, Keith's 10 years of ad agency experience allows him to cut through the marketing "buzzword" clutter and deliver meaningful solutions for clients who need to reach more of their target audience.

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