What do you do when business is slow, and profits are down?
If you think that the answer is “stop marketing,” then it’s time to think again. While it’s true that marketing might seem to be less essential than other areas of business, the truth is that a solid marketing plan could spell the difference between success and failure.
Not convinced? It turns out there’s research to support the idea that marketing is critical during a recession. A Harvard Business Review study looked at the performance of 4,500 businesses during recession. It found that the companies with the most forward-thinking attitudes – in other words, those that didn’t engage in drastic cutting of their marketing budgets – performed the best both during the recession and in the long term.
This evidence doesn’t mean you should go on a spending spree, buying ads left and right. What it does mean is that smart marketing should be your focus. Here are some tips for marketing on a budget.
Peter Drucker, the esteemed business guru said, “If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Improve It”. It’s imperative that you measure every marketing investment you make. The first step is to put the tracking mechanisms in place so you know the results of your efforts. If you’ve already done this, fantastic! Now it’s time to dig in and review these results before, during, and after COVID.
The next step is to STOP the marketing activities that are not working! If you don’t know what these are, or don’t have the ability to measure your marketing activities, hire us to perform a 3rd Party Total Online Presence Audit. You need to know what’s working and what’s not working so that you can invest wisely during this critical time in your business.
One of the best ways to market on a budget is to make use of what you already have. Existing content can be updated or repurposed. Here are some tips:
You may want to set up a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. You can use it to indicate different potential uses for content too.
Once you’ve completed your inventory, it’s time to think about what you can do to repurpose your old content and make it relevant to your audience in the here and now.
For example, you might be able to take an old blog post and revamp it as an infographic; or turn an eBook into a webinar.
Keep in mind that you may need to do some work to make the content reusable. A blog post that uses statistics from three years ago will need updating before it can be turned into a chart or infographic. You don’t want to have outdated data.
It can be tricky to determine what kind of content would be useful to your audience in the new reality we’re all experiencing. You might not be able to spend a ton of money on customer research. That said, there’s no reason you can’t reach out to your audience and ask for their input.
One of my favorite ways to conduct audience research is by creating a survey and sending it out to my email list. Surveys should be short – no more than 5-10 questions at most. Make sure it’s easy to complete.
Another option is to create a poll or post a question on social media. On Facebook, you can actually create a poll and post it as a status update. For other sites, such as Instagram and Twitter, you may want to pose a question and ask the people who respond to use a hashtag you create for that purpose.
Any information you collect can be used to inform your new marketing strategy. Your focus should be on learning what kind of content your audience wants to see, where they want to see it, and what products and services they’ll find most useful during the pandemic.
You’re probably sick of hearing me talk about local SEO, so I’ll keep this section brief. Local SEO is your best bet for pandemic marketing on a budget.
Let’s talk about why. First, consumers are eager to support local businesses in this time of need. They need to know who you are in order to support you, and local SEO is the best way to reach them.
Second, local businesses can avail themselves of options that national businesses can’t. For example, you can deliver or offer curbside pick-up services. Those things are convenient to customers and can help you attract new business.
Finally, local SEO is, by definition, highly targeted. It lends itself to marketing on a budget because you’ll spend less to reach people in your local audience.
Online reviews have never been more important than they are now. I’ve already quoted the statistics for you in past articles, but here’s why you should be focusing on them now.
As noted above, customers are actively looking for local businesses to support. They’ll be more likely to take a chance on you if you have recent reviews on sites like Yelp and Google My Business.
It’s also worth noting that reviews are free, which means they’re an inexpensive way to attract new business.
My suggestion is to decide how and when to ask customers for reviews and be consistent about it. For example, you might send them an email asking for a review a day or two after they order from you (or within a few days of delivery, if applicable.)
Then, monitor your reviews and respond to all of them, positive and negative. Consumers want to reward businesses that engage with their customers.
So far, I’ve focused on short-term strategy; now, let’s talk about something you can do that will help you out in the long term.
I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of things in the marketing arena that you’ve been wanting to do. They might include:
Guess what? This is the perfect time to tackle some of these projects. Not only will they give you a focus during a time that might otherwise be stressful, they’ll also set you up for success in the future. You can do many of these things without spending a ton of money.
Nobody’s a fan of this pandemic, but if you handle your marketing properly now, your business will survive the storm. You may even find that you come out of this time more successful and profitable than ever!
Ian Cantle is the President and Marketing Strategist at Outsourced Marketing. His 20+ years in marketing and communications in a variety of industries have provided him with a unique perspective on what works and what doesn't in marketing. Ian founded Outsourced Marketing to fill a gap in the marketplace between businesses and sound marketing strategies and marketing systems. His goal is to take the mystery out of marketing and show business owners how a systematic approach to their marketing can provide exceptional results while easing the burden on them. Ian has also co-authored the book 'Content Marketing for Local Search: Create Content that Google Loves & Prospects Devour' that provides local businesses with an unfair competitive advantage, available on Amazon. Want to discover the Outsourced Marketing difference? Book a free discovery call or call us at 905-251-8178.