In recent months we’ve watched as gas prices plummet, turning a seemingly stabilized oil and gas industry volatile. Here in Oklahoma where oil and natural gas are huge players in our state economy we know all too well that market shifts are inevitable. Unfortunately that doesn’t ease the sting for the thousands of families affected by layoffs or the other industries that will also eventually feel the squeeze.
I recently spoke with a friend who has close contacts in the banking industry. According to her source, the rest of the state will likely begin feeling the effects of the layoffs in early June and July. If you’re a business owner, you’ve likely already started asking yourself what all of this will mean for your business and I’m here to tell you that it’s time to start planning.
Change Your Perspective
In down economies it’s not uncommon for marketing to be the first line item cut from the budget. Business owners often view marketing as an expense rather than an investment causing them to mistakenly view marketing as expendable. Though this line of thinking is understandable, it’s flawed.
Instead of viewing marketing as one area where money is being spent, break down your efforts to view the individual ROIs of each project. The last thing you want to do is cut what you know is working, instead focus your attention on cutting out the efforts where you haven’t seen any results.
The truth here is that while you were considering cutting out marketing entirely, so was your competition. Now, while the market is far less saturated, is your time to really shine; shine where you know you will be seen.
Utilize what you Already Have
Of course I’m talking about your Website and social media pages. Your Website offers endless opportunities to provide content and calls to action through a medium that’s already been created and paid for. It’s also likely the first place your potential clients will look when wanting to find out more information about your company.
Drive traffic to your Website by amping up your social media presence for free. Find relevant articles, post your own, and utilize daily hashtags to stay in your market’s view. The social media platforms your already using also offer fairly inexpensive advertising opportunities to boost posts and page likes, often for as little as $5 a day. These tailored ads allow you to quickly and easily choose your audience, budget and run length. Some also send you weekly updates so you can see if your advertising dollars are creating results.
If you’re not already blogging but have knowledge that you know will be useful to your clients, it’s time to start. You probably have a blog extension already available through your site host, but if you don’t start researching free blog sites to see which platform best suits your needs. Add a link to your Website and promote your posts through social media.
Promote Added Value
In down economies customers are often looking for new ways to save money or get more bang for their buck. What can you do to add value to the product or service your selling? Maybe it’s offering additional services for free when new customers sign up, or maybe it’s giving away a free item after so many purchases.
If you’re cringing at the idea of giving things away when money is already tight – stop.
Customers often buy more than they initially planned if they feel like they are getting a deal or a bargain. Just ask Starbucks about their Starbucks Rewards program. Not that I, a Starbucks Gold Member, know anything about that.
Give Control Back to your Clients
Nothing leaves people feeling less in control than uncertainty about their future or financial instability. A down economy can be an opportunity for your business to help clients regain some semblance of control. Tailoring your advertising messages to be honest about the economy will communicate transparency and a feeling of togetherness – we’re in this together.
It’s time to brainstorm specific ways your company can give your customers a feeling of control and often times, control comes down to choices.
A large insurance company we are all familiar with allows their clients online access to view all of their policy information and make any changes they feel necessary on their own.
Here at War Room Marketing we provide a la carte services so that our clients are only paying for what they need; nothing more, nothing less.
What choices can you offer your clients?
Show Love to your Existing Customers
Attaining a new client undoubtedly costs more than maintaining a current one. Furthermore, current clients are your key to new referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.
Providing excellent customer service and staying in front of your clients are always important objectives, but they are even more important when the economy is down.
Showing love to your existing clients is easy – Routinely make follow up calls to make sure your clients are still satisfied with their last purchase, send them an email on their birthday or anniversary, send them a thank you note when they make a purchase. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be appreciated. Show them they are.
If you have a sales team, consider creating a retention program. Many companies have incentive programs rewarding employees with a bonus based on securing new accounts. If this sounds like your firm, consider creating an incentive program for customer retention. This will keep your sales team motivated to stay in front of their accounts and keep them happy.
Reevaluate your Goals
Making changes to goals or processes is often necessary when the economy shifts. Changing buying habits in the market will force you to reevaluate how you reach customers and with what messages. It will also make you reevaluate what success looks like for your company in dollar amounts.
In a down economy, getting 10 new accounts every quarter might not be as feasible as maintaining current purchasing behaviors of existing customers. Further, while a goal of expanding your workforce by 15% may have seemed feasible in January, a downturn in the economy in June may cause you to determine that only 5% growth is a reasonable expectation.
Changing your goals does not mean you failed. Instead, it means that you are much more likely to be successful.
Goals are not written in stone. Successful business owners constantly take stock of market shifts and adjust accordingly. Flexibility is key. If you aren’t willing to change your expectations, you and your staff may end up overworked and disappointed with little to show for your efforts.
With all of that in mind, how are you planning to amp up your marketing?