Update from ICON regarding COVID-19

Marketing is often the first resource to be cut when tough economic times put the squeeze on businesses, but by rethinking your marketing strategy and activities and shifting the focus of your outcomes, marketing can maintain a business and gain new customers even during a period of economic gloom.

In the recession of the early 1990’s, research conducted by Management Review magazine found significant market-share increases by companies that increased their marketing budgets. Companies that increase marketing spending while their competitors decrease or become almost non-existent, may find that sales do not decline at all. Increasing or maintaining marketing spend often means you can gain a larger share of voice in your marketplace as your competitors cut back.Marketing-during-economic-downturn

Over the rise and peaks of the global economy, there have emerged two distinct styles of marketing during economic hard times. The first school of thinking is to pull all marketing, tuck your head in and try and weather out the storm. The second, longer term view is to review your marketing efforts and focus your marketing resources on outcomes, not activities. By refocusing the marketing resources, and by that we mean budget, on deliverables – ie new leads and sales, the marketing budget is actually continuing to grow the business, not be a cost centre which many in management seem to think marketing is during economic hard times.

Focusing on activities that can quickly grow sales - Concentrate on spending where it can have the greatest impact.
During hard economic times, it’s a wise marketing strategy to increase investment in direct marketing as this can often gain share of voice with existing or new customers when other companies pull out of all marketing and have no voice in the market place. While the aim of direct marketing is to acquire new customers or grow sales of existing customers, there is no reason why you can’t use your DM to brand to customers at the same time of you are pushing call of action instead of running sometimes costly separate branding campaigns.

Track response from all forms of advertising and marketing - drop the ads that don't produce response and spend more on those that do produce a direct response.

Lead nurturing as well as Lead Generation
Lead nurturing is building relationships with potential clients even if they are not currently looking to buy a product or service – during a recession, the sales cycle will be longer, so make sure your sales team and processes support this nurturing process.

A lead that may not be an immediate sale may be that the customer is wanting to receive information from your by a newsletter or social media, but they aren’t necessarily ready to make a purchase. In the traditional consumer buyer behaviour they are perhaps still at evaluation or awareness – so a hard sales call at this stage won’t work.

You need to nurture these leads, help them in their quest for information with email newsletters full of tips and advice, use social media to be an advisor and expert in your specific field so when consumer confidence is higher, you are already top of mind with customers.

Hone your sales process at the initial point of contact when people call your office, walk into your business or complete a lead form online and pay closer attention to those factors that result in sales.

Increase investment online
Online marketing is one of the most cost effective and measurable marketing tools available – with new tools and media properties constantly available to directly target your customer. Paid search, organic search, email marketing – all are cost effective and highly measurable online marketing activities that will help you to communicate with your customers while finding new customers online.

Take to Social Media
Making customers a priority and communicating with them be key to ensuring they are still your customers when the economy picks back up. Social media is a more effective tool you can use to communicate and engage with your customers. The knowledge and advise you have about your industry and your business is most likely of great interest to your customers, so share with them freely and interact on social media.

Justify your spending – Prove that your results are delivering
This is essential during a downturn because businesses are looking for places to cut costs. Your marketing reporting needs to show the value of your marketing – not just the cost. Demonstrate actual revenue that has been generated for the business through each specific marketing activity.
You must be able to justify your marketing budgets and resources by delivering sales and tracking revenues, therefore moving away from less measurable, traditional forms of marketing towards online and digital marketing.

Don’t cut your marketing team – reallocate where possible
An economic downturn, headlines screaming about a slowing economy is enough for any marketing professional to start sweating…marketing people are almost resigned to the fact that they will be first hit with the CFO starts cost cutting.

Companies need to build morale and motivation by clearly communicating with staff what is happening within the business – give them the option to be involved in finding creative solutions to marketing and growing business during hard time.

Changes in staffing arrangements may also need to be considered during tough economic times. Look for flexible working arrangements as an alternative to letting staff go.

You may also consider training your employees to undertake more duties or change their main duties to where the business will benefit most. Instead of focusing on branding and traditional above the line marketing, perhaps your marketing team can be put on the phone to talk to existing customers to try and increase the value of each customer.

In an economic downturn, marketing budgets are generally the first to get cut. Recessions are an opportunity to shift focus to more cost effective strategies, demonstrating ROI across every marketing activity, helping to minimise marketing wastage while maximising effectiveness and overall business profits.