Sunday, May 20, 2012

Marketing in a Tough Economy

You can't escape the news. These are tough times for businesses and consumers. Inflated fuel costs, slow housing sales, and inflation are making business a challenge for all companies, small to large. The simple fact is our economy is at a low point. The good news is the U.S. economy has always been cyclical. We ride high in the strong years and we learn to ride out the wave during the down times.

Still, it is not all "doom and gloom". Marketing in a tough economy can be extremely effective and many businesses will actually thrive during economic downswings. You are probably asking yourself, "How is this possible?" It is very simple; businesses that succeed in tough times know the secret is smarter marketing.

Tough economies and slow sales cause businesses to reevaluate their current budgets and spending. The easiest place to cut your budget is usually in marketing. Your advertising and promotions budget can be an easy target because most businesses think they can reduce their marketing this year and make up for it when the economy improves. During tough economies, cutting back your marketing can cripple your business. In order to survive this economic downturn, should increase your marketing without increasing the money you are spending.

The economy affects businesses and consumers. This means that your target market actually shrinks. Since y our pool of potential clients will be reduced, you have to maintain or increase your marketing in order to keep your competitors from moving in and taking customers. A strong competitor will view tough times as an opportunity to grab new market share and increase sales. Don't give them the opportunity.

How do you get more bang for your marketing dollars without spending more? You need to use some very simple, but proven marketing methods to yield more results. Here is a list of six basic marketing principals for tough economic times.

  1. Focus your marketing. This means you use directed marketing methods when possible. Direct marketing media can typically be tracked and monitored. Tracking will ensure you are getting the most value from your advertising. Be sure your advertising uses a call to action to get customers to contact you. Offer prospective clients free samples or a gift for appointments to pitch them on your product or service. Then be sure to follow up with each potential customer. Remember, you have to work a little harder to win a customer in tough times.
  2. Stay in contact with your current customers. Marketing professionals have proven it costs more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. In tough times, go to your existing customers. Reward them with incentives; let them know they are important. You will most likely make up some of your slow sales by increasing sales to existing clients. Keep the lines of communications open and build the strength of that relationship. Bring back old customers with a welcome back offering or gift. Build the relationship so they will do business with you again.
  3. Let your current customers help you. Word-of-mouth and referral sales can be extremely effective and cost efficient. Offer your current clients a gift or reward for sending business your way. Customer testimonials are extremely effective in gaining new business. Obviously, a satisfied customer is much more likely to talk about your business than a less than happy customer.
  4. Look for free or inexpensive advertising and promotions. Consider using barters or trade-out for services with companies that can help promote your business. Be creative and think outside of the box! Tough times call for creative thinking. Use press releases when ever possible. Offering a new product line or making business changes can always be considered newsworthy.
  5. Keep your employees happy. While this isn't exactly marketing, it does work hand-in-hand with it. Your employees are your most important assets. Tough times affect them as well which in turn affects your business. Recognize their efforts. Reward them for going above and beyond their duties. Help them understand their importance in the company and let them sing your praises to potential clients. Your employees can be extremely effective marketers when they are happy.
  6. Use the Internet. Finally, one area that businesses are realizing untapped potential is in Internet marketing. Use your website to your fullest potential. Advertise it on your company vehicles, business cards, flyers, billboards or anywhere you promote your company. Over 60% of Americans now use the Internet. If your business does not use the Internet, then you might want to rethink your strategy. The Internet is here to stay and it will continue to grow exponentially in the coming years.

These six marketing methods are just some of the ways to survive this current economy. Using these methods will improve your chances of success and help your business come out on top when the economy begins to improve. Good luck and hang tough. Things will get better.

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