As a growing business ourselves, we understand that to be successful, your brand needs to stand out in the crowd. Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Burt’s Bees and Whole Foods all started out as very small businesses and became household names by successfully showcasing their unique selling points.
When the economy is struggling, communicating the special and important aspects of your brand through your marketing becomes even more important. You might initially feel the need to play it safe and avoid making any new moves to stay afloat. For some businesses, that means cutting budgets – including marketing.
It makes sense that you’d have this instinct, but if you want your company to thrive and grow, marketing is not the place to make cuts. Think of your business like a house on the market. If it’s struggling to sell, does it make more sense to let the house and yard fall into disarray, or to invest in cost-effective projects that will make the house look better? Marketing may seem expendable upfront, but with a little investment and strategy, it can really pay off.
Get Ahead Now
Any smart business knows they need to save money where they can, but time has shown that cutting marketing only improves the budget in the very short term. Before long, your audience’s awareness of your brand will decrease and more people will forget about your products in favor of the ones they see in their mailboxes and screens. You may even give consumers the impression that your business is struggling more than it is. However, if you do choose to prioritize your marketing even during an economic downturn, you can come out ahead of your competitors. During the 1974-75 recession and for two years after, companies that chose not to cut their marketing budgets received more sales and a higher net income than companies who did.
A commitment to your brand’s marketing communicates much-needed confidence and strength to your customers. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, 86% of consumers felt more reassured of companies’ commitment to their business if they continued advertising through a recession. This kind of confidence is attractive to consumers, and it has also been proven to have a significant correlation to success. Even if you don’t feel all that confident right now, you can still fake it. Over time, you’ll naturally grow more self-assured as you weather storms and continue to grow.
Before you can create a great marketing strategy to use going forward, it’s important to take inventory of your current efforts. This first step will help give you a clear picture of exactly how your current budget is being spent, whether it’s being used effectively and where you have room for improvement. Try to account for every marketing piece you can think of, including old services you’ve forgotten you were paying for, projects you started and abandoned, as well as the time it takes to carry out each part of your strategy. Giving yourself a full understanding of the big picture will be critical as you move forward.
Track Your Results
Instead of freezing your marketing budget completely during economic uncertainty, use this time as an opportunity to get clever with your tracking measures. Each dollar you spend should be put to use as effectively as possible to avoid wasting any money during this critical time. Make sure each of your marketing methods has clear results that you can track over time. If it can’t be tracked, or if it’s been ineffective for months, consider investing that portion of the budget into another strategy. Direct mail offers one of the highest open and response rates of any marketing tactic, and you can make it even more effective by choosing mail routes that fit your target audience profile. This data is readily available online and ensures that your materials will be delivered to the most relevant individuals.
You can then measure how frequently your target audience is taking action with features like unique coupon codes, landing pages or QR codes. With these elements in place, you’re able to trace each step of the conversion process. For example, if your direct mail piece asked each person to book an appointment, you can track how many respondents made it to your website, and then how many of those website visitors actually scheduled a time. If you see a significant decrease in conversion at any point, you’ll know exactly where to go to make tweaks and improvements.
Use A/B Tests
To further determine which marketing materials get the best results, try A/B testing. Running two slightly different versions of your print marketing is an efficient way to determine which messages or images are the most appealing to your audience.
For the clearest results, we recommend choosing one aspect of your marketing material to test at a time. For example, you might choose two different calls to action to see which inspires more people to act. Once you’ve run your A/B test for at least two weeks, check out the results to see which version earned more visits to your store or landing page. You can use this information to quickly adjust all of your materials and improve conversion without revamping an entire campaign.