Many businesses and organizations — whether small or large — are facing new realities in today’s economic environment. Consumer behavior has changed dramatically and virtually the entire population has reconsidered their spending habits.
There has been a return to the basics where people are “nesting” in their homes and being judicious about their spending; buying only if they perceive a real value with minimal risk. With this new scenario, it is important for companies to communicate and market to customers by showing empathy. This can be accomplished by spending time enhancing your relationships with customers — listening to them and acting on what they are saying and feeling.
An empathy-based approach may sound relatively simple, but how can you execute with all the current changes affecting your company such as reduced budgets, postponed projects, and fewer employees? Start by staying calm and focused. Then, develop a course of action that positions the customer first.
To help your company survive these tides, K&A has outlined several of the latest “dos” and “don’ts” of marketing to today’s cautious consumers.
- Do continue to market your company, its products and services. In a recession, it is critical to keep sending your messages out to usurp market share from competitors, some of which may not be marketing at all. According to MaryEllen Tribby, publisher and CEO of Agora Financial’s Early to Rise newsletter, “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to ensure that your marketing message is heard loud and clear.” Therefore, develop an affordable, measurable marketing strategy.
- Do put customers first. Now is the time for businesses to reassure their customers before trying to plunge into their wallets. Provide your target markets with value and demonstrate how you care for their needs. Learn what motivates them and tailor your messages accordingly.
- Do send out a bi-monthly or quarterly e-newsletter. All businesses should be collecting email addresses of every customer or potential prospect. By obtaining this information, you can send special offers, coupons and/or upcoming news and events. Retaining your existing customers and getting repeat business from them should be one of the company’s highest priorities.
- Do focus on direct marketing where you can clearly measure your return on investment (ROI). K&A suggests using recyclable paper, especially if you are promoting sustainable products and services. The BSI advises the use of FSC-certified paper and the inclusion of messages to persuade users to recycle on their end.
- Do develop target marketing strategies aimed at reaching multicultural consumers. The U.S. Census Bureau states that by 2050, multicultural ethnic groups will represent 50 percent of the population.
- Do utilize online public relations. And don’t forget to announce all company news online. For example, if you have a new product introduction in the next few months, post the news online and link back any queries to your company’s Web site.
- Do embark upon a social media campaign. These programs can usually be achieved inexpensively and also serve as an efficient method to find out what people are saying in the marketplace. First, you want to listen and learn. From there you can engage with potential or existing customers about your company, products or services.
- Do consider pay-per-click (PPC) online advertisements. Internet services like Google AdWords offer a low-cost way to advertise online where you can set a monthly budget cap so there is no over-spending. Plus, your business can target its ads to specific geographic areas.
- Do test everything you are marketing so you can determine the methods and tactics that are producing positive results for your company.
- Don’t over plan. In this environment, companies should be flexible and learn to adapt to new situations frequently. Consider your marketing plan as an evolving communications tool that will enhance your brand for the future.
- Don’t ignore your existing customers. Arun Agrawal, Internet Marketing Specialist, states that, “new customer acquisition is considered almost seven times more expensive than retaining your current customer.” Therefore, it is important to not let that investment go to waste.
- Don’t think of marketing as a cost. Think of it as an investment.
- Don’t rely on your own ideas. The market will tell you what people want to buy. Remember to always place your customers first, and know that they love to talk about the good and the bad experiences with products, services and companies.
- Don’t concentrate solely on price in your marketing materials. Instead, focus on value as consumers are more prone to messages that are price and value sensitive.
- Don’t overspend. Partner with an integrated marketing firm that will give you more bang for your buck.
- Don’t let a first year employee or intern handle your social media strategy as this represents the brand and lives on the Internet forever. Instead, employ a seasoned person who understands what is involved with social media and branding.
With a shifting marketplace, it is important to remember that your customers still exist. They are, however, now much more cautious and sensible about their spending. Learn to think from their perspective. K&A suggests following some of the recommended guidelines and then spearheading a marketing program that fits your needs. The bottom line is to put the marketing dollars where you can observe growth and earn the best return on your investment.