Marketing In Uncertainty
When economic conditions are turbulent, many business owners scale back on their marketing spending and shift their attention to their sales force. Typically, the sales force in turn, is expected to produce more, albeit with fewer marketing resources at hand.
Unfortunately, this scenario is more common than not, and often with tragic results for both the company and the company’s customers. The hard truth is simply this, when economic conditions are uncertain, it is the optimum time to increase your marketing spending and be outlandishly creative with your marketing efforts.
Marketing during economic uncertainty gives business owners an opportunity to stay visible, keep the business top of mind for customers (and prospects) and put the company in a position to capture the spoils once the economy bounces back.
Admittedly, this concept of spending more during economic uncertainty is difficult for some companies to get their hands around, especially when sales are only trickling in at best. Below are a few remedies for this. Unlike some marketing professionals who walked into marketing through creative pursuits, marketing found me via operations. That’s right. I was the person who had to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.
With my operations know-how as a guide, let’s take a look at a few ways to free up financial resources to increase your marketing spending, so that you can focus on selling and serving your customers.
– Examine Vendor Relationships
Remember that during economic uncertainty your company is not alone. Many business owners are feeling the same level of angst that you are. It is during these times that you can test the strength of the relationships that you have with your vendors and service providers. If you are uncomfortable initiating a conversation with your vendors and/or service providers, shop around first. By getting a sense of what your vendor’s competitors are offering, you’ll be better prepared to begin a discussion around the changing needs of your business.
Economic uncertainty is an ideal time to re-negotiate terms and conditions. For instance, if the terms are normally net ten days, see if you can get net 30 days. This will help you delay payables and temporarily free up money that you can re-distribute to your increased marketing efforts. Also, ask your vendors or service providers for the pricing of the next lowest class or type of service. Don’t be shy about asking vendors or service providers about newly launched promotions, price cuts or packages. Remember, your vendors and service providers are under no obligation to help your company spend less money with them.
– Prune Poor Performers
You know that person on your team that just can’t seem to hit performance expectations, but you’ve delayed letting that person go? Don’t delay any longer. The simple truth is that every business has an under-performer that does just enough to stay in the game, but has never hit a homerun. For various reasons, documentation on that person’s performance is sketchy at best. As such, you’ve delayed the uncomfortable conversation around letting him/her go.
When economic uncertainty creeps into your business, you are welcome to use this opportunity to separate poor (or par) performers from the company. While this might sound dangerously close to a cop out, in fact, you can separate the person and leave their dignity in tact, as well as alleviate your own uncomfortability with having to walk through his/her not-so-well documented poor performance.
Star performers thrive in uncertainty. They thrive under pressure. Focus on star performers, so that they can focus on results. It goes without saying that the compensation of the separated person should be immediately re-distributed to your marketing budget. Right?
– Leverage Technology
Find out what the average expense report is in your company and ask yourself, how can you shave off twenty percent. Consider the technological advances that are fingertip ready. Is your company leveraging technology to work smarter, or just to work harder? Instead of purchasing laptops, consider desktops with software loaded that allows employees to access work from anywhere. Consider videoconferencing instead of travel. Consider IP based phone calls instead of hardwired telecommunications.
The point is to squeeze every ounce of usefulness out of every piece of technology the company owns. Most people only use a quarter of the capabilities of any device. Ensure that technology is helping your company stay competitive, work smarter and keeping the cost of doing business at a minimum. When you’re marketing in uncertainty, every dollar counts.
– Get A Cash Infusion
Depreciated office equipment, outdated (but usuable) software and overstocked office supplies. What do these items have in common? Money for marketing. If you can put a price tag on it, then sell it. Sell it on Craigslist. Sell it on eBay. Have an employee auction. Just sell it! Don’t have anything to sell? Sublease an unused office or conference room. Marketing in uncertainty means you’ve got to free up cash to help you fund additional marketing efforts right now.
A cash infusion can help your company fund a customer appreciation day, buy box seats to an event for a top tier client, or pay for a day’s rental of a mobile billboard that drives around the city with your company’s name all over it.
– Make Marketing A Priority
From the mailroom to the Board Room, get everyone on board with marketing initiatives. Don’t allow entry or mid level employees to take a “that’s not my job” attitude. When you make marketing a priority, you can help spark ingenuity in an employee that wants to contribute in a bigger way, but perhaps didn’t feel his/her voice was valuable.
Have a contest for the best marketing idea under one thousand dollars, or under one hundred dollars, depending on your marketing budget. The point is to get everyone involved in the role of marketing. Don’t allow employees to focus only on their day to day tasks. Ensure that you are sending a message throughout your company that marketing is everyone’s priority.
Whether you have three employees, or three hundred, as the business owner, you are the company’s greatest sales person and its best marketer. Anything and everything you can do to create customer loyalty, maintain employee enthusiasm and reduce expenses, will help your company thrive during economic uncertainty – so you can get back to the business of business.