There are so many commentaries both locally and internationally saying we are slipping towards a tough business climate. The normal reaction is to tighten the belt, hold or cut costs and hunker down. Just like a dietitian targeting fats; you examine your cost base and go straight to the variable expenses. That’s when you notice the line in your budget earmarked for marketing. Hell, who needs this – if people aren’t buying we don’t need to spend money promoting ourselves to prospects whose wallets are firmly closed
Stop right there. Now is not the time to cut what may well be your one point of difference. There’s a great quote from Peter Drucker that reads:
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
There has been much research done over the years tracking the marketing spend of tech companies through major market downturns. Guess which companies do the best when the market swings up? Not those that slashed marketing spend, but rather those that maintained or increased their spending through the tough times. Why? Two basic facts stand out. You can cost effectively create more noise in a market when your competitors go dark. Secondly, when the market picks up, guess who’s going to be top of mind amongst potential purchasers? Sure won’t be the companies that have lost most or all visibility with prospects.
So what to do. Get creative and ensure you align your branding and messaging across all areas of your marketing activity. Focus your efforts on the most cost effective way of reaching your core prospects and dominate the channels that best reach them. Ask your prospects what they read, what sites do they visit and where do they go for advice. That way you can make sure you spend your advertising dollar where you know your prospects will be looking. When it comes to advertising ‘cheap’ doesn’t equate to money well spent – it’s all about creating value and ensuring you influence the influencers! You will be better off placing one, well researched, targeted campaign, than taking a dozen placements in publications your prospects won’t be reading.
Don’t forget about marketing to your existing customers, either. They are a captive audience and you have plenty, no-cost opportunities to market your products and services to them. Every order taken, every invoice sent, every call you make should be turned into a relationship building exercise. You need to pro-actively deliver more value to your existing clients than your desperate, cost-cutting competition and give them a reason to remain loyal. While we often account for our marketing efforts in terms of attracting new prospects, we seldom calculate the cost of losing an existing customer and what we should be investing to retain them.
And that is what marketing should be seen as – an investment not a cost! So be brave out there and loosen your ‘marketing’ belt a little; while everyone else is putting their business on a diet, you should be feeding your customers the right marketing mix and watch your business expand.
Bob Pinchin is the director of Sway.tech, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org