Business Insights

Business Insights

Marketing through Tough Times

To increase marketing spend, to freeze it, or cancel it altogether...?

Are you finding that the current political climate is making you indecisive?

Are you making or NOT making decisions on the business because of fear?

Our economy is struggling, we know that. It's not the first time and it's unlikely to be the last.

It's important to know that in a less energetic economy, there are still many opportunities that can be taken advantage of, and knowing how to identify those and where to leverage them is really where the real knack lies.

One's first response to an economy that starts to decline is usually driven by emotional trigger to protect what you have and put barriers around your business. This is a fear driven strategy and not the answer to growing a thriving and ambitious business.

The main areas of change happen in these areas:

1. Customers

Whilst consumers continue to purchase and spend, they generally do so more wisely, making the choice to opt for less expensive items and they take far longer to make decisions, meaning not only is the sales cycle longer, but more expensive items can often lose out to ration and logic that tends to step forward over emotion in tough economic times.

2. Businesses

Owners protect the business. They don't make rash decisions. They prepare for or expect the worst. So, as a result business owners hold off on investment and focus on batting down the hatches in preparation for what's to come. Consequently, many businesses do experience decline as budgets are reduced, investment into new areas or products is put on hold, and marketing spend is cut.

3. The impact on day to day lives

Property prices start to drop, too many big discounts fill the market, and uncertain economic times all contribute towards creating a confused high street and business environment. No one knows what to do or what the true value of anything is any longer.


How to take advantage of this time.

There is no better time to really take advantage of the confusion by standing strong and proud.

As your competitors step back from the market place and consolidate their businesses, you have a real opportunity to develop a clear and rational strategy to make the most of this space and climate....with a strategy that is sound, measurable and has clear markers for success.

How creative can you be when times are tough? Could you create smarter thinking within your business culture that contributes to innovation? Out of tough times, often come new solutions to business problems.

Be in it to win it.

  • Re-align your offering and business strategy with the changes in customer behaviour and needs. Find new ways of solving new issues your existing customers are facing. For example, in Cape Town, the droughts provided new ways of making water through air conditioning units - water from air and widened the gap for water filter machines to enter more households, rather than simply providing companies with fresh water.
  • In tough marketing, your competitors may be forced to shrink their business services or offerings or close their doors completely. This may leave a gap wide open for you to increase your market share by winning over customers without a supplier.
  • Keep your business and brand consistent in its delivery, service, quality and performance. You don't want your business to be viewed as being in trouble. Customers would prefer to pay more where they feel safest, rather than parting with their money to an at risk business.
  • Measure measure measure. This is the most important time to ensure that every bit of cash you spend on marketing is tracked, measured and with pre-determined levels of return (key performance indicators) agreed. How you spend your budget should focus heavily on maximising return on investment. Digital marketing activities are always easier to track and measure so this is a good place to start, but make sure you seek the advice of a specialist who knows how to get the best return on digital spend.
  • Since sales cycles slow considerably during tough times as customers struggle to commit, then it becomes incredibly important to hang onto your existing clients - growing their sales where you can. Build good relationships through regular communication, understand their needs and ensure you are cross selling across all your product lines. Tier your existing client base into bronze, silver and gold clients and spend time on keeping the gold and growing the silver. Put flags into place that identify at risk clients so that you can take action early before you lose them.
  • Revise your pricing and sharpen your pencil. Ensure that your product and service pricing is as good as it can be, really understand the benefits your brand brings to the customers who purchase from you, and focus on getting repeat business. You could look at bundle pricing, specific promotions on slow moving stock, and using a CRM system to engage with your database of customers in a strategic way.
  • Look at widening your product offering to include less expensive ranges or service offerings. Make your products or services more accessible to those wanting or needing to pay less, whilst maintaining the higher level offering as well. This way, you can widen your customer base without cutting out your premium products.
  • Make decisions and stick to them. Even when you feel like you're in rough seas. Don't waver from the goal and keep focused on the important parts of your business. Don't spread yourself too thinly, and try not to be distracted by new shiny things which dilute the marketing spend you have.

Generally, in tough markets, it's more important to spend energy and time on your marketing efforts. This is when you need to stand out from the competitors the most and ensure your brand is seen as being stable. Your investment in marketing now results in sales 3-6 months down the line and you generally reap what you plant. Sitting back and hoping to ride the storm without a strategic marketing plan in place is like setting off across the ocean without GPS/radio and only a sail. You wont know where the storms are, you can't plan to avoid them, and you may end up somewhere entirely different to where you intended.


Your future success depends on setting a solid - but simple - plan. If you’d like some help with that, talk to us. At The Marketing Centre, we have a large team of highly skilled, part-time proven Marketing Directors ready to share their abundance of diverse know-how with you.

Give your growing business the expertise it deserves. Contact us today. 


This article was originally posted via  Linkedin 

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