Australia’s premier marine PR/media specialist Sandman Public Relations highlights the importance of promoting your brand in a downturn…

In the landscape of an economic downturn, many companies immediately look at ways to cut costs. Often one of the first things to be downsized (or sometimes cut altogether) is the marketing budget.

In the broader business world it’s quite rare to come across businesses that are run by marketers. Most often it’s an accountant or other “numbers person” at the helm, as the shareholders or stakeholders expect to have someone taking care of the balance sheet.

As a result, marketing is most often seen as an expense instead of the business-building investment it actually is. The sales process is seen as bringing in revenue while the marketing process is seen as a series of cheques going out, often without any tangible measurement.

Cutting the marketing budget should be one of the last areas to look at when trimming the fat for a leaner business. Without sound marketing, your brand will be out of sight and out of mind.

Know your customer

Fact: it costs more money to find new customers than it does to retain existing ones. It’s also a fact that during recessions, investment in direct marketing usually increases while traditional advertising and ‘interruption-marketing’ sees a decline.

Savvy businesses realise that before trying to grow with new customers they first have to ensure they’re keeping hold of the ones they have and underpin the trust and loyalty they’ve earned.

Marketing, in its simplest form, can be defined as finding out what your customers want and providing it. When was the last time you asked your customers what they really wanted or needed? If it wasn’t recently, you need to build a plan to get out there and engage with them.

Cost-effective communication

Marketing doesn’t equate to just advertising. Advertising is one element of promotion, which is one element of the overall marketing mix. There’s more than one way to communicate a message to your customers and many of them are very cost effective.

Here are a few ideas:

  • E-newsletters

This is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of communicating with your customers. Known as “permission marketing”, your customers chose to allow you send them direct emails. Respect them by delivering quality content. What’s more, you can measure the effectiveness of the newsletter extremely accurately with open and click reports.

It’s important to invest a small amount in a professionally-designed newsletter and make sure the content is engaging and your email recipient list is legitimate. The objective is to drive traffic to your website. Just listing boats or other products for sale won’t cut it – give your audience something of value.

  • Events

Organise open days, cruises in company, master classes, regattas, fishing competitions, seminars or other events that add value to your customers. Whether they’re boat owners, business customers, suppliers or others, engaging with them in a meaningful way that enhances their experience of your company ensures you maintain and increase their loyalty and trust.

  • Cross promotion/collaboration

Creating strategic alliances with industry partners is an opportunity to cross promote, share promotion costs and tap into another brand’s reputation, customer base and trust. It’s a win-win situation.

  • Landing pages/lead capture

Is your call-to-action advertising campaign designed to drive traffic to your website? If so, where will a prospect land? Ensure the right landing pages are set-up to stand the best chance of converting browsers into valuable leads by encouraging them to leave their details. Just directing them to your homepage isn’t enough.

  • Write a blog

A corporate/business blog is a cornerstone tool for improving search engine optimisation, positioning the brand/company as an industry leader and creating leads.

A successful blog strategy is based on a clear business rationale (for example, to improve SEO, increase leads or engage with a community). The content must be high quality and compelling.

Content is critical – readers must be engaged with a positive call-to-action and subject matter that adds value. A good blog is something people will share. A blog is also instant content for a broader social media strategy – it can be tweeted, retweeted, liked, shared, posted, plus one’d, commented on or linked-to.

Risk-averse customers

Today’s customers can be highly risk-averse, tending to nervous (for the most part). There’s only one way to win these people over – trust.

Your brand needs to instill trust and confidence in customers, to reassure them that their purchasing decision is the right one, with the right company. There are many things that can be done quickly to work in this direction – demonstrate customer loyalty through testimonials, cross-industry alliances, company heritage and customer references; be a leading voice in your field through the company blog and a consistent PR strategy; deliver a whole product strategy.

Refresh the message

A downturn is a time to ensure all of your existing communication tools are as up-to-date as possible.

If it’s been a few years since you built your website, now’s the time to refresh or replace it. When was the last time you checked your analytics to see how effective the content was? When did you last change or update the content?

If you’ve been running the same ads for a while, consider a new campaign. Ensure you have a series of ads within the campaign so your audience doesn’t become too numb to the message. Ensure you engage a quality conceptual graphic designer who understands the key principles of design and copywriters who can create compelling content.

In plain sight

If your brand is out of sight you can be sure it’s out of mind.

While no-one is thinking about you, your competitors are out there grabbing market share – share they’ll keep when the times turn upward.

Can you afford not to promote?

Sandman Public Relations is a full-service media agency recognised for its integrity, professionalism and success.

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