Everywhere you turn these days, you hear dire warnings about the economy.
If you advertise, your ad reps are warning you to resist the impulse to cut back on your advertising until the economy improves. You might be thinking that’s more about their personal economy than it is about your business.
Multiple research studies have reached the same conclusion – companies that advertise during a recession end up with greater sales that companies that reduce or eliminate advertising investments.
In the time that has passed since our last economic downturn, a lot of new communications options have emerged and become part of our culture, and the ground rules have changed. Advertising is still important, but the media habits of consumers have changed dramatically in the last few years, and that means the options marketers have for reaching consumers have expanded.
What hasn’t changed is the need to be top of mind when a buying decision is being made. One of the best ways to minimize the impact of an economic slowdown is to maintain a strong marketing and communications link with your customers, prospects, business partners and the general buying public.
The best way to maximize your return on the advertising investment is to make sure the customer experience is everything it should be. It helps solidify the brand loyalty and puts you in a good position for some word of mouth buzz.
You have to be completely consistent. The buyers are already nervous. Don’t give them any reason to mistrust you. Make sure every single person in your organization understands the brand experience your customers have been promised, and do everything you can to make it easy for them to deliver it.
Now is a great time to invest in public relations. Look for ways to get your company, product or service mentioned in the right places. Identify public relations approaches that support and build your brand.
Update your web site so that it uses the latest search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. This increases your chances for being found by potential customers when they’re searching for your type of product or service.
And once they arrive at your web site, it’s important that it clearly communicates your brand. Not just the words, but the overall brand experience.
If a prospect is interested, and does an online search to learn more about you or your company, what will they find? Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. If you have news releases, make sure they’re searchable. Get a LinkedIn profile. Twitter if it seems like a good fit for you and/or your company. Build on online presence by identifying and participating in the right online communities.
If what you sell is your knowledge and expertise, give some of it away. Position yourself as the expert by sharing your expertise. Launch an informative business blog or an e-newsletter. Write articles for local business publications. Helping your customers and prospects be successful is in your best interests.
What have you done for your current customers lately? Show them some love. Marketing to them is much less expensive than trying to capture the attention of potential customers, and they’re the group that is most likely to buy again.
Now is the time to be listening to your customers and your potential customers. Do a customer survey to find out how you can improve the customer experience.
Consider a wider-ranging survey to get a better understanding of what’s happening in your industry. Use some of the findings strategically internally, and release some of the research findings to position your company as an industry thought-leader.
If your company was advertising a few months ago, it should still be advertising now. Regular advertising will create an image of corporate stability and leadership – two factors that are important to buyers during a slowdown.
In addition, because your competitors may back off of marketing, there’s less marketing clutter overall, leaving you with a better chance of connecting with your target customers.
Whether you are advertising or not, you have to find ways to connect with your current and potential customers. Strong connections are critical in a weak economy.
- Lynn Manternach, Ph.D. This article originally appeared in the Tree Full of Owls column in the Corridor Business Journal.