In times of uncertainty – say, a global pandemic, a global recession, or both! – the natural reaction is to tighten the purse strings; and marketing activities are often the first activity to be cut. But is this the best approach?
Whether your marketing spend focuses on advertising, networking, referrals, promotions / giveaways, building your profile and reputation through blogging or social media, or a mix of these and other tools, there are many reasons why you should continue to invest in marketing during challenging times. (This applies just as much to your own time investment – say, writing a blog and connecting on social media – as it does to investments in external suppliers.)
Revenue is more important than ever
Yes, not many businesses have surplus cash lying around, so we’re all looking to cut costs. But in your efforts to save money, be sure you don’t turn off the things that help bring in the cash flow. Before you cut your marketing spend, remember why you’re making the investment in the first place: to attract new customers and generate sales. While revenue has already dropped, think through the implications of cutting your marketing efforts now. Will it mean even less leads, sales and revenue? How long will you stop marketing for? And where will the revenue increase come from that will justify recommencing your marketing activities?
Stay the (strategic) course
The key to business success is being strategically proactive (focused and consistent) rather than reactive (all over the shop). Marketing should be part of an overall strategy. While any effective strategy should be adaptable to changing circumstances, now is the time to stick to the essence of your strategy. For most businesses, we need to adapt rather than restart. Look for other cost-effective ways to reach your audience that still support your strategic goals of acquisition, retention or even growth.
Because many businesses are cutting back their marketing spend, now is actually a good time to maintain yours as with a good creative idea you’ll be able to stand out more. (This is also why you need to watch your competitors’ activities closely, as they may be one step ahead of you.)
What’s a new customer worth?
Before you chop your marketing ‘expense’, put it in perspective. Work out what a new customer is worth to your business on average over the first 12-24 months. This gives you an idea of how many new customers it takes to pay for your marketing ‘investment’.
We all know it’s cheaper to retain existing customers than it is to win over new ones. They already like and trust you, so are more likely to keep coming back – plus they may be open to an upsell offer that gives them more value (and gives you more revenue). And if you’ve got downtime, it’s the perfect opportunity to cement those valuable existing relationships with retention-focused marketing activities – even a simple phone call can work wonders.
By continuing your marketing activities, it sends an important signal that it’s business as usual for you despite the challenges. This may give prospective customers comfort that they can still trust you and your products / services.
With the uncertainty around being able to accept physical customers (and them wanting to visit you), it’s never been more critical to invest in online marketing. Surprisingly, some small businesses still don’t have a website, let alone an online strategy. While some legitimately use social media as a surrogate website, there are still many benefits to having a website as the hub of your online presence. Better still, an online store exposes you to a global market and avoids the reliance on a physical shopfront. Even service-based businesses can look to develop online-only versions of their offering, or create an online course in their area of expertise.
Help your clients
Ultimately, businesses exist to help their customers. In uncertain times, people naturally look for reassurance and guidance (whether they realise it or not). You have a fantastic opportunity to truly help your network by offering tips, hacks or general words of wisdom that help them generate more revenue, work more effectively, or just stay sane. If you have a blog, or have considered writing one, you could greatly increase your engagement with your network through an honest discussion about your own challenges and experiences, thereby helping others realise overcome theirs.
So while it’s tempting to hibernate your marketing spend, there are many great reasons to continue your investment. It may look different, and you may take the opportunity to try new tools or approaches, but simply doing nothing will put you behind the 8-ball when things (eventually) get back to normal-ish.