"When the going gets tough, the tough gets going" is a motto your more resilient and clever CEO's and marketing professionals adopt while their meek counter parts tend to bury their heads in the sand during these tough economic times.
Yes, times are still tough, and people are still scared regardless of their current income level.
And rightly so, many people who are in decision-making jobs feel a sense of responsibility to their employers, their colleagues and their staff. Very often these folks have a knee-jerk reaction and cut marketing dollars before weighing the consequences.
In reality, cutting your marketing budget in a bad economy is the last thing you should do. This is not the time to focus less on marketing ... rather the opposite. The beauty of marketing in the 21st century is that many of the marketing channels available to you are cheap, easy and fast to execute.
The cost of entry has never been lower (and I am not just talking email marketing), there has never been more niche markets available and it has never been easier with today's technology to accurately measure the impact of your marketing efforts and make educated decisions about going forward to plan cohesive multi-channeled marketing campaigns.
Smart companies that continue to grow and prosper during hard economic times understand the value of multi-channel marketing:
• Create strong customer relationships. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of multi-channel marketing is that it provides great customer relationship-building opportunities. Direct mail and email allow you to stay in front of your customers while letting the customer learn about your product on their own schedule.
Telemarketing allows you to provide additional information and answer questions your customers may have.
Regardless of which channels you use you should never promise anything that you aren't going to be able to deliver. In fact, you should always be over delivering on the promises you make in your marketing copy. Remember that integrity is the key.
• Choose efforts that help you pick the low hanging fruit. Never forget to market most often and most strongly to those loyal customers who buy from you. Direct email marketing, well written and based on a compelling offer, is critical. It is easy to implement and extremely cost-effective --- allowing you to communicate with your customers as much as you (and they) want. It also gives you the ability to test, see what's working, and quickly react to generate more sales. It allows you to make your message as timely and relevant as possible.
For the most part, direct e-marketing is a two-step process. The first process is to develop a list of people who will accept your promotional messages. This list is built through the use of banner ads, insert ads and asking for your customers' email addresses. The second step is to send them your direct response promotions. These are usually longer sales letters, much like direct mail.
• Some forms of marketing don't cost you a dime. You can create online buzz about your product through social media. This can take on many forms: online forums, message boards, blogs, video blogs, and social networks (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). Use social media methods to stimulate conversation about you, your business, and your products. The key is to be genuine. To ensure the buzz is positive, you have to promote yourself gradually and organically by developing real relationships with your desired audience on targeted social media sites.
It is also imperative that you are involved in the conversation on your own site. To ignore your own customers (on your website or others) is an unforgivable mistake in today's interconnected world. You must always be answering their questions, responding to their complaints, exploring opportunities, announcing new products, listing upcoming events, and reminding them of deadlines. The list is endless.
• Want to drum up great PR? Get to know the media. Of the many channels of marketing, public relations is one that every business should embrace. That's because it is nearly free. If you have a good writer on staff, your only cost will be the event you are publicizing and the small amount it takes to mail or email out your own press release. When it works, it really works, going from regional to national to international faster than it takes to write up a conventional advertising campaign. The trick is creating successful, newsworthy stories.
It's very important to target your press releases to specific publications and media outlets whose customers you want to reach. Rather than sending out 1,000 general press releases about a story that has general appeal, it's much more effective to send out a dozen or so targeted press releases containing stories that are exactly right for the intended audiences. It's simply quality vs. quantity.
• Don't do it alone. Many small businesses balk at the idea of joint ventures. They don't like the idea of splitting revenues. They like selling their own products because they keep 100 percent of the revenues. This is the kind of thinking that destroys a business. When a joint venture is executed properly, it doesn't subtract from the business - it adds to the business. There are many ways to do joint ventures and the best ones are those that pair up businesses with asymmetrical resources and skills.
To find your joint venture "soul mate" think about the major players in your marketplace. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each. Ask yourself how you might benefit from working with them. Make a list of potential partners and develop a strategy to approach them and show them how they could benefit from doing business with you. The idea is to develop joint venture relationships that are easy to maintain, financially profitable, intellectually rewarding, and long-lasting.
Regardless of how many channels you use and which ones they are, smart companies understand ROI (return on investment).
If you see a company, perhaps one of your competitors advertising often and in multiple channels -- chances are it is a healthy company. Study that company, there is something they are doing that you can implement.
If you are interested in expanding your company's reach, try incorporating multi-channel marketing campaigns into your business model.
Follow MaryEllen Tribby on Twitter: www.twitter.com/WorkingMomsOnly