It’s a well-known fact that the marketing budget is one of the first causalities of an economic downturn in which companies look for ways to reduce monthly expenses and overheads. But while this might seem like the smart and frugal thing to do, cutting down on your marketing activity during tough times is one of the worst decisions you can make.
However there’s no denying that companies feeling the need to tighten their belts have less money to throw at marketing than before. “The trick is to do more with less,” says Michael Gullan, MD of Guerrilla Marketing, which helps SMBs come up with innovative – yet cost-effective – marketing strategies. He adds that even if your marketing budget remains the same, the things that worked during an economic boom are unlikely to work during a recession. “Consumers have less disposable income so you need to change the way you market yourself to them, and ensure that you’re sending a strong message about the value and benefits of your product or service,” he says.
As Gullan notes, planning is vital at this stage. A recession often brings about reactionary, panic-driven marketing in which companies look for short-term ways to artificially boost turnover and offer discounts that can jeopardise their long-term sustainability. “What we encourage clients to do is to take a step back and clearly define what their business challenges, goals and marketing objectives are during the period. We then work with them to deliver innovative marketing activities that give them the greatest return on their marketing rand, no matter what their budget is,”he says.
Focus on the audience with the highest potential.
Once you have a strategy, you need to focus on retaining your existing customer base, which is your biggest asset during a recession. According to Gullen, direct marketing is the best relationship solidifier.“Take a sniper approach and only focus on those audiences with the highest potential of yielding results. Distill your message into essential copy points that best convey your offering. Remember, offer reassurance, emphasise value and reinforce the benefits of your brand,” he says. Focusing on distinctive attributes and uniqueness will help to maintain customer loyalty and strengthen your market position over the long-term.
Using experiential marketing.
When it comes to piquing interest and getting customers to sit up and take notice of your marketing message, experiential marketing has a powerful role to play. “In our experience you need to do whatever it takes to get consumers to engage with your brand,” says Gullen. This doesn’t necessarily need to cost a lot of money, he adds. For example, Guerilla Marketing generated enormous brand exposure for Vespa when they turned the traditional knock-and-drop flyer marketing method on its head, and distributed pink ticket ‘traffic fines’ on 200 000 motorcars to highlight the ease with which city-dwelling Vespa-owners can find parking for their scooters.
The next big thing.
When asked what he thinks ‘the next big thing’ is on the marketing horizon, Gullen says, “I think we’re already in the next big thing – ‘Web 2’ tools like social networking and blogs offer enormous opportunities to engage consumers in an interactive, two-way marketing street,” he says, “Companies who want to focus on turning customers into brand advocates should be aware of how potent these tools are.”
For more info call +27 11 640 5259 or visit www.guerillamarketing.co.za