Contributed by Ankush Garg
When recession hits hard, consultants are the first ones to be shown the door. The next are the marketing teams.
Organizations worldwide slash marketing budgets in difficult times. While the some purists contend that recession is the best time to strengthen the brand and get a competitive edge, the question is how? The funds are scarce and they need to be channeled into the essentials of the business to keep it running.
While increase in the marketing budgets in difficult times may continue to a distant dream for most marketers, the circumstances offer opportunity to become more effective. The adage necessity is the mother of all invention never works better that it does in current macro-economic environment..
So how can marketers become more effective and get more bang for the buck? The first step is to segment your customers by the product categories and allocate the marketing budgets to different segments depending upon its profitability. Then develop a marketing strategy for each segment depending upon the customer profile or its behavioral traits. Seek synergies by identifying segments with similar customer profile. Reduce corporate campaigns and launch product category focused marketing programs as it would help improve profitability and enable the company to endure difficult times.
It is always cheaper to retain existing customers that to procure new customers. Hence, a very strong customer relationship program is the need of the hour. It is important for marketers to integrate with the overall business and not operate in isolation. This will help them create new customer offers at low cost to the company. For example, if the company is carrying huge inventory for certain product categories, CRM program can create attractive offers for the existing customers using these product categories. This can help liquidate inventory without having to drop the prices in the market which can have deleterious consequences on the brand equity. The communication costs for CRM program should be closely monitored and reduced as far as possible. Email marketing, mobile marketing or social media networks (e.g. facebook) provide communication channels at no cost.
No sector or industry has been left unscathed by the recession. There are many businesses that are looking for avenues to utilize their existing capacity. Marketers should collaborate with them and offer them benefits that cost nothing. In return, they should get higher visibility for their brand. For example, retailers can distribute discount coupons at its billing counters for a famous restaurants or clubs in the city. In return, they can get high visibility through placement of tent cards at the tables of the restaurants or through setting up kiosks at the clubs.
The art of negotiation can always add the much needed strength to the marketers. Whether it is the airtime or column area in print media, there is tremendous room for cost reduction. One must not forget that marketing budgets are down and media companies are probably running helter-skelter to fill airtime or column space. And they would go lengths to retain you as a customer.
If airtime is extremely essential for your brand, an effective PR strategy can help gather lot if airtime literally free of cost. For example, a company in education business can voice its opinion on education policy of India or release papers on related subjects. This followed by effective networking with media personnel would lead to opportunities to participate in debates or forums where such issues are discussed.
With every problem comes an opportunity. It is clearly a very opportune time for the marketer’s to break the shells and think creative, and frugal. It is a different matter that this is not longer a choice , but the need of the hour.