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June 10, 2020

Why marketing is important – especially in the tough times.

Marketing-Growth-tough-times-ideapro

This article was originally written 11th April 2017, and has been updated 10th June 2020 to reflect developments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In today’s business age, if you’re not marketing your products and services consistently as well as providing massive value, you may as well shut your doors.

Big call, we know.

But we stand by it.

Gone are the days of setting up a retail store, splashing a sign ‘Open for Business’ across the window and waiting for the hoards to come through. You need to build brand, you need to be where your customers are using digital and offline channels and you need to be seen and heard.

If you’re in the business to business space, the fundamentals of building relationships, providing genuine perceived value, communicating consistently and standing out is essential. Need we mention that your product or service at a minimum, must be excellent. That’s a given.

We all know competition is fierce, and if you don’t share with your customers and prospects that you exist and provide value – repeatedly – they will go to whoever is making the effort and staying front of mind.

It’s as simple as that.

‘Marketing activity looks ahead for you’

So, if this consistency is vital to business success – why does marketing activity get reduced or stopped altogether in business when times get tough?

As there is a generally a cost associated with marketing efforts (though many free and low cost strategies do exist – see below), it’s often one of the areas that gets cut back when times get tough – like what we have seen during and post the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic recently.

If a business experiences a downturn, the initial recommended step is to look at the P&L and start cutting costs. Rightfully so (we did this too), however marketing should not be essentially ‘cancelled or ‘put on hold’ altogether and given such little importance. It is the vehicle that likely got your business to where it is, and it will keep you alive after the downturn. We suggest if you can’t do all the things, then do something, rather than nothing.

Other times cutting back is preventative or fear based. And we get it. However, your competition who is not fearful or thinking of ‘what ifs’ before they’ve happened are potentially doing the opposite. They are continuing on, and taking the attention away from your business and on to theirs, by continuing to show up.

When a business is no longer able to operate and cover costs, or is forced into closure due to unforseen circumstances (aka C-19) that have affected certain industries of late, this is a valid reason where marketing is halted.

And we know the above is true, because we’ve heard it firsthand.

Many marketing colleagues who have had their businesses and roles considerably affected in the recent months, some left without a job or business at all. Our own business had clients cut down their spend with us shortly after COVID-19 hit, though thankfully, many of you are coming back now. #grateful

Stopping your marketing activity is a short-term view, and often results in a business feeling the effect of a downturn even more so, and may leave your business open to a very short funnel of incoming leads and clients.

Marketing activity looks ahead for you.

There are always going to be market fluctuations and downturns, loss of clients or changes in your business activities and direction, and marketing should not be the area that is relegated to the naughty corner when times get tough. Too easily teams are slashed, marketing budgets get tightened or slashed altogether and the sales teams are left to sell without strategic marketing direction or support. This is not to say that a sales team cannot sell without a marketing team – sure they can – but on their own, a sales team is left to do the research and work it out on their own. Their time is better spent face to face with clients, backed my marketing efforts that support them.

What generally happens if you stop marketing?

You become an alternative, not a preference.

If your existing clients are happy with you, they may continue to buy from you. If they’re unhappy or indifferent, they may consider working with someone else if they haven’t heard from you in a while. So there is an increased chance you may lose your existing client by losing preferential status or being bumped by the competition.

So stay in front of them.

Your brand awareness fades.

If you’re not present across social media, blogging, sending eDMs, speaking at events or attending expos (whenever they’re allowed again) – whatever your strategies may be – and your competitors are there instead, well it’s not hard to work out who your prospects and clients will take note of.  Hint: It won’t be you.

So stay in front of them.

Your leads and sales drop.

If you’re not planning ahead and taking action on your marketing activities focused on what clients are in your pipeline, ensuring your funnel is in place, your prospects, turnover and profits will drop. Possibly not straight away, but in a relatively short amount of time, you will notice things quietening down, the phone won’t ring as often, email enquiries dry up and your social media engagement stalls. And ultimately your bottom line.

Your revenue is impacted.

If you don’t have sales due to a drop in marketing looking ahead for you, you don’t have income. They are interconnected and that’s all we can really say on this point.

In some cases budgets are tight, and as small business owners we get it.

So here are some free or low-cost strategies and activities you can undertake that won’t require you to cancel your marketing efforts altogether.

Focus on your core customers – it’s more expensive to gain a new customer than to service and grow your existing customers who are already raving fans.

– Send them a small gift to ‘delight & appreciate them’.

– Pick up the phone and have a real conversation.

– Bring in morning tea and enjoy a chat and explore any new opportunities.

– Come up with new ideas for your existing clients and tell them.

Send them valuable information that helps their business or themselves personally, whether it helps your business or not – just because you care.

Develop testimonials, case studies, ask for reviews – there is nothing more appealing than social proof for a prospect when deciding to work with you based on your existing client’s feedback

– Ask your existing clients to provide feedback on their experience working with you, and importantly what results they achieved. Make it easy for them, send them a few questions they can answer and you can then summarise. Or do a video testimonial if they are up for it – these can be very powerful when shared in your EDM’s, website and social media.

– Hire a graphic designer to professionally design the written feedback together with supporting high quality images.

– Upload the visually appealing testimonials and case studies to your website, send them out via email and share across your social media. You can check out how we do this here on our Instagram page

Social media – in today’s marketing age, social media is a non-negotiable.

– Decide which platforms are suitable for your target audience and where they “live”, and master those. Don’t spread yourself too thin across platforms that are irrelevant.

– Create a social media planner and make it realistic for yourself to post consistently. Key word – be consistent.

– If you don’t have the time, outsource it (chat to us!) – but remember, you need to be involved in the content creation process – an external company will not fully be able to share your unique voice without your ongoing input and direction.

Have a plan – without a marketing plan, you have no direction.

– Decide what are the most effective marketing strategies you can undertake and plan for them in advance.

– Review your plan weekly and ensure your daily activities are in line with your plans. There is no point having a plan that is saved in your computer if you never look at it. It should be a live working document.

– Don’t have time to develop a plan, talk to us – we offer a done-for-you marketing planning service.

Whatever you do, don’t stop marketing altogether. Coming back from square one is not a fun place to start, and the risk of business failure is very real if you stop putting yourself out there. Be sure that your awareness, credibility and sales are at the forefront of your decision making during a downturn, and cut back on other areas (including any marketing efforts) that aren’t working.

“Brands that increase marketing during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times” Harvard Business Publishing.

If you would like to know how we can help keep your marketing plans on track in both good and tough times, be sure to get in touch with our team on 03 9336 0922 or info@ideapro.com.au.

Or you can ask us for more information on our monthly graphic design and marketing support ProPackages here

P.S – Did you enjoy reading about why marketing is important, especially in the tough times? We would love to hear what you think about our recommendations in the comments below.

P.S.S – Know someone who might need marketing support? Please forward them this article. We would be so grateful.

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