Marketing when money’s tight: Why now’s the time to start marketing
Marketing when money's tight - marketing in an economic downturn

Chances are, if you own a business in Alberta (or anywhere in North America, for that matter), you’re feeling the crunch of the economy. You’re probably looking for ways to cut expenses and searching for ideas to save money. With that you’ve likely thought of cutting your marketing and communications budget or even stopping marketing all together. I’d like to stress how bad of an idea that actually is.

For some of you, you’re even thinking, “I’ve never had to market in the past, why would I start now in this economy?” The fact is that in this current economic state, work won’t just walk in the door anymore. With the Alberta economy having been so strong over the last 10 or so years, we’ve become accustomed to an extremely healthy work environment, where sales are readily available to us. That’s not the case today, nor will it be for the foreseeable future.

There are plenty of opportunities to make sure you don’t get swept up in the economic downturn. More than just advertising, marketing is how you get your brand in front of the people who will spend their money on you, whether that’s by using social media, print materials, a great website, content strategy, earned media, or any other marketing or branding tool. It’s important now, more than ever, to ensure the right people know who you are.

Certainly, you should be making sure that you are making smart, impactful choices with your money, but cutting or ignoring marketing is going to make it much more difficult to weather the storm. Now is the time to focus on your long-game, so that you actually HAVE a game when this is all said and done. As Forbes has reported, during the recession in the ‘80s, companies that either maintained or boosted their marketing spend fared much better than their competitors once the economy bounced back.

An economic downturn is actually the perfect time to focus on marketing and brand development, and here’s why:

1. Marketing dollars are an investment, not an expense.

Sometimes it can be difficult to see the direct value of a marketing spend, especially when the market is down and customers are spending less overall. Marketing is often viewed as a high-cost area of business, and the effects of cutting marketing are less immediate than say, laying off employees, or selling assets. But just because sales are down doesn’t mean your marketing dollars aren’t hard at work generating leads and convincing people to spend their limited dollars with you. It’s BECAUSE people are spending less that you need to invest in marketing. Remind them how important your products or services are, and that the money they spend with you is a good investment. Otherwise, they’ll ditch you the way you ditched your marketing budget.

Your efforts now will also carry forward when the market picks back up again. You’ll have been establishing relationships with clients and maintaining brand awareness while other companies scaled back and faded into the background. They’ll be playing catch-up when the economy bounces back, and you’ll have it made in the shade.

If, after all of this, you still feel like your marketing dollars really aren’t getting you enough return, then you’re in luck, because it just so happens that a downturn is the perfect time to fix those problems. This leads us to point number 2:

2. You have time to make your marketing better

When the market is hot, you may be so busy you don’t have time to really think about your marketing strategy, so you either blindly throw dollars at advertisements or you just don’t market at all. When business slows down, you finally have the time to research and strategize, and really find out what’s working for your audience.

Now’s the time to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck, and to make sure that your marketing is communicating the right message to the right audiences. It might be a good time to do some A/B testing and figure out which messages and mediums are the most effective.

This applies to much more than just advertising. Think about developing sales tools that will help your team sell better. Build brand authority on social media and make sure your website is offering an awesome user experience to boost your web presence. Work on your SEO to make sure the people who are looking for your products and services can find you online. Ensure your print materials like brochures and signage look and sound professional to position your company as an industry leader. Think about promotions, events, or added value services you can provide to increase customer loyalty and engagement.

3. Lower competition: Spend less for a higher return

A bad economy provides an excellent opportunity for advertising. You aren’t alone in your hesitance to spend on marketing, which means there will be fewer messages out there to compete with. Now, more than ever, is the time to show why you’re the best. With less noise, you have the opportunity to be louder, be heard clearer, and make your dollars stretch further.

By focusing on strategic placement and quality messaging, you’ll be able to spend less on quantity while still having great reach. And if you paid attention in step 2, you’ll have already done your research, so you won’t be spending money on ineffective marketing tactics. And depending on the market, you may find that advertising prices themselves are down, which means you can spend less and get more. If you focus on driving business now while no one else is spending, you’ll see a better return on your investment.

 

While we always advocate smart spending when it comes to marketing, now is a crucial time to make sure that your dollars are being spent in the right place, whether that’s on a better web presence, stronger print materials, more strategic advertising, or better tools for your sales team. But more than anything, make sure you’re not hurting yourself by cutting your marketing budget. Spend smart, and you’ll be just fine.

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