UK: Tips For Marketing In A Recession

Last Updated: 19 October 2011

This article outlines seven ways you can fine-tune your marketing to get better results, even with a tighter marketing budget.

During a recession, the first budget to be cut is often the marketing budget. But that has never made any sense: if you are afraid business will decline, why on earth would you cut your lead generation budget?

Keep your cool. Don't go conservative and cut, cut, cut. Past experience has shown that companies that maintain their marketing and advertising during dicey economic times often increase their sales, their brand recognition and their longer-term market share.

A recession is a marketing opportunity. Seize it!

Instead of slashing your marketing budget, take advantage of the opportunity a downturn can offer to gain ground on the competition. While competitors are reacting to short-term business conditions by cutting their marketing and advertising, openings are created for smarter companies. By staying visible during a recession, you can move ahead.

When companies lower their profile during a recession, we tend to forget about them. "Out of sight, out of mind" is so true. If we think of them at all, we may assume they are out of business or not doing well. In the meantime, the companies that maintain their presence and remain highly visible despite the downturn can increase market share.

Smarter marketing for recessionary times

So, if your finances are suffering from the effects of the recession, how can you be smarter about your marketing and maintain your visibility? Here are seven tips for marketing in a downturn.

1. Narrow your target markets

To make the best use of a reduced marketing budget in a recession, tightly define your best target market(s) and focus your marketing on them. If you find that dentists use more of your widgets than doctors, concentrate your marketing on dentists.

It is much less costly to market and advertise into a defined market segment – a vertical market – than a broad market. If you run advertising, your media costs will be a fraction of what they were in trying to reach a broader market. It is also easier to get stories and articles placed in vertical-market publications.

2. Sharpen your marketing message

Once you have focused in on your best market(s), make sure the marketing message they hear is the right one. Simplify and hone your marketing message specifically for that target market. Leave the generalities behind. They never helped anyway, so now is the time to edit them out.

Make sure your marketing copy promotes your primary message and reinforces your brand image. Make sure you are telling dentists about the main benefits dentists get from your widgets. And make sure you are telling them in a way that makes sense to dentists.

3. Tune up your website

Make sure your website is up to date and makes the right impression on visitors. Prospects may be fewer during a recession, but they are still buying, and that process starts on the web. If your company tends to say: "We have a website, but we're not sure it's doing anything for us," that is a danger sign. This means people who visit your website aren't going further and contacting you.

In your recessionary tune-up, make sure your website supports your marketing in three ways.

  • First, it should be easy to find through an internet search. You've heard of search engine optimisation (SEO). This is what that is.
  • Second, your site must do a great job of presenting your brand online. This is often the first experience people have of your company, and you want them to get the right impression about the company and the value of your brand.
  • Third, it must explain your product's or service's features and benefits.

4. Be consistent across media

Make sure that your website, literature, advertising and presentations are all ruthlessly consistent – especially when you are facing recessionary conditions.

Let's say a dentist sees an ad for your widgets and visits your website for more information. But she finds little similarity between your ad and your website. This lack of consistency creates uncertainty, which both dilutes your brand and throws a wrench into the decision process. This can send her off to find other companies that have clearer websites.

5. Assess new markets for opportunities

You may discover that while dentists buy most widgets today, optometrists are just discovering that widgets can save them money. The dental market may be fairly saturated with widgets now, while the optometry market is wide open. If you can't afford to market to both, it could be wiser to focus on the new, untapped market.

If you shift your marketing to optometrists, you will lose market share in the dental market – but you have a chance to own the optometry market.

6. Make your marketing dual purpose

Traditionally, marketing has usually been aimed primarily either at immediate sales or at brand building. An ad for shampoo is intended to get people to buy a bottle on their next shopping trip. This is sales-oriented advertising. Brand advertising is principally meant to reinforce the brand image of the company or product and build its perceived worth.

To save on costs, make sure that the marketing and advertising you do in a recession is both brand and sales oriented. That can be a bit tricky, but it's entirely do-able.

7. Don't become a price cutter

When business is off it is tempting to slash prices to boost sales. It may, in fact, be necessary to lower prices in a recession. Just be very careful how you do it. Again, don't let short-term thinking jeopardise your long-term prospects.

If your marketing becomes all about your sale prices, then that is how you become known. The perceived value of your products or services is diminished. And don't forget, perception is reality. When business picks up again after the recession, you may well find that the only way to maintain your sales is to continue offering hefty discounts. Your short-term tactic ends up making yours the discount brand.

Instead, if you continue to emphasise your main selling proposition and reinforce the value of what you offer during the downturn, then you can say: "Oh, by the way, we are offering our widgets at a special price right now." With this marketing strategy you continue to strengthen your brand while boosting current sales.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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