From almost every news outlet there is talk of a recession. Typically, in a recession, business leadership teams look to cut costs. And, in a recession, one of the first places many companies cut is their marketing budget. That is a bean-counter’s mistake.Marketing is not an expense. It is an investment that reaps the indirect benefits of better brand recognition and stronger customer relationships, as well as increased sales. Marketing is an investment that benefits the business’s recruitment efforts with applicant interest and employee retention. Investments require careful planning and time to succeed. So does marketing. Cutting short an investment is a good way to lose money. And the same goes for marketing.
During a recession you have an opportunity to stand out by simply maintaining your current brand presence, or slightly improving it. Is there a more crucial time than during a recession that you are present and top-of-mind as your potential customer’s first call? When they are struggling or re-evaluating their expenses - that's a critical time to be in communication with your customers, helping them see your value - and more importantly, providing that value.
There are some customer-retention, marketing, and sales activities that should be done regularly, but we overlook these when time is short and business is good. Now is the time to focus.
Engage your sales team. Current customers are unlikely to be taking full advantage of the scope of products and services you have available: Now is the time to offer those. Schedule outreach calls (retention calls) to your top customers to learn what are their current concerns, and how you can support them better. Require the sales team to have a written plan for following up any trade-show attendance and stick to it.
Activate your marketing team. Increase how much you “talk” about current customers. Case studies about customer success will help prospects to see companies like their own succeeding. Testimonials offer specific industry assurance that businesses like theirs are succeeding by using your product or service. Ratings and reviews are viewed while prospective customers are evaluating your product or services – long before they contact your sales team.
Harness the power of sales and marketing working in tandem. Ask your sales team to review current collateral and note what is working well and what is being under-highlighted. Challenge your marketing team to take those findings and repurpose or refresh what is available. Coordinate them with the new material for a specific campaign.
Stretching your marketing budget doesn’t have to cut brand corners.
• Trade Shows
– Send a smaller staff to the show; Even one less person can significantly change travel-related costs.
– Change your trade show exhibition’s booth size; When an exhibit is well designed, the difference between a 10X30-ft and 10X20-ft booth is not noticeable to visitors but can significantly reduce your expenses for space, carpeting, and display materials.
– Order new “skins” for your trade-show frames exhibit rather than redesigning the entire booth.
– Encourage your staff to look for relevant, one-day shows within driving distance where your budget can stretch to more coverage (sponsorship, booth, etc.), rather than a few big shows where you are not noticed. Shorter distance will also reduce travel expenses.
– Adjust the size of your print ads from one page to a half page.
– Harness strategic help by asking your media account reps to help you maximize your budget or inquire what opportunities they see other companies not taking advantage of, which you could leverage.
– Lessen the paper weight on strategically chosen materials, or see if you can reduce the page count on print items. The cost difference between an 8-page and 12-page brochure is significant. Laid out correctly, there may not be any information lost at 8 pages.
– Instead of printing a la carte – at the lowest priced printer per print need – establish a relationship with a printer. Meet with your print representative and outline your expected print needs for the year. Ask for the best value for your spend. (Trust me, that printer would rather help you reduce costs than lose a client.)
– Review your image library to see if you can refresh current pieces with new images or showcase an aspect of your product/service which had been unsung.
– Recut video footage rather than film new material; this might be an opportunity to take longer, old pieces and create shorter pieces for social media.
Recessions are actually opportunities. Other businesses will be cutting back on branding activities and ad placements. They are going to concentrate on efforts they believe will move the profit needle (aka sales efforts), which will result in a shrinking marketing budget – which will result in a shrinking brand profile. The final result of a reduced brand profile is fewer inbound inquiries and more effort by sales teams to hunt for leads.
Now is the time to start thinking about how you can support customers more directly, and any changes your messaging may require. Now is the time to step through the user experience (UX) of your sales process and look for drop-off points. Now is the time to plan how you can repurpose what you have. Now is the time to listen to your customers about what they need next.
Making plans now about what and how you might change about your marketing will save you the frustration of hasty decisions later – and could reward you with more business.
Alexandria Trusov is the Director of Marketing at Euthenia Manufacturing Group and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.