Everybody knows the impact marketing can have on the success of a business. With good marketing and little else, products have cornered the market and woven themselves into the fabric of society. Yet, when times are tough, companies usually seek to reduce operational costs – and among the first budgets to be cut are those for marketing.
While it may be wise to contain expenditures, cutting marketing might actually harm your brand in the long term, and run the risk of making your product or service being less competitive when the economy picks up.
Marketing, according to one dictionary’s definition, is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising”. If companies are looking to cut costs because of financial circumstances, you can be sure that customers are doing the same – and just like you, they want to do it without sacrificing quality. Regardless of economic conditions though, customers’ needs and wants do not remain static, making a sluggish economy one of the best times to examine what your customers are looking for, and adjust your strategies and tactics to address it. As customers’ needs evolve, so should your product or service.
Promotions and clever marketing might appear to promote high sales in boom times, but the fact is that these succeed more easily because people have disposable income. They may not be as responsive to similar techniques when times are lean. Brand loyalties may change and customers’ confidence (or lack thereof) in the economy is what will determine if they are waiting, trying to spend more wisely, or are simply unable to afford. You will need to understand these changing patterns to feed into your marketing strategy. You can then tailor your products and services – as well as the resulting marketing strategies – to meet new situations in which the decisions of your target market are based on a different reality. In fact, some firms have been known to create new “budget” brands to capture customers in lower income groups.
Do not discount the power of marketing, even in a downturn. Once you regard it as an investment rather than a cost, you are well-poised to begin grooming your market and creating equity for the future of your brand.
If you have difficulty reconciling this, remember that customer loyalty is what creates sustainability and contributes to growth. Perhaps you head a start-up or SME which does not feel that it has yet established brand equity – but every brand can be built, as long as it can evoke feelings and sentiments, and value and equity can be ascribed to it. No matter what the size of your operation, you have a brand – whether it be a product, service, or even a person.
Companies wanting to build their brand must engage in strategic marketing in order to keep their brand profile up. Apart from well-established practices like advertising and sales promotions, there are a variety of direct and indirect ways in which to do this. Social media has upended traditional forms of marketing, and allowed for more targeted approaches. Online platforms also help brands and companies gain leverage from being in large communities and making meaningful connections.
Maintaining active memberships in professional and business associations help to build your brand’s profile and enhance your marketing strategy. The networking opportunities offered by such associations often translate into strategic connections. Corporate social responsibility approaches can also significantly increase brand respect.
Whatever your current situation or size of your business, marketing today requires a holistic, 360-degree approach that delivers your brand’s core message, inclusive of home, social media, digital advertising and merchandising. A downturn is the perfect time to dig deep and re-think how you connect and communicate with your target groups.