Marketing in tough times
"The sky is falling!" yells Chicken Little, running around the pen madly, squawking at everything that moves, skinny chicken legs shivering in his boots.
I switched on my computer this afternoon and saw a dozen Chicken Littles running down my news-feed. They varied from start-ups to business owners, journalists to friends. Of course, only I can see my news-feed and every person's is different. Today, mine looks as though the sky has fallen and we are all struggling beneath its weight.
Days like this make me pause. I switch off emails, answer only the urgent ones, and reflect. I think about how I can offer words of advice that might help you get traction, feel stronger, give your business a boost.
Fear is a terribly limiting emotion but many of us, myself included, have lived through it. Not just fear of the next dollar, but of failing, not being good enough, or simply, not knowing. Fear of not knowing enough. It takes guts to push through, 'lean in', feel the fear and do it anyway. And when the economical landscape looks like Chicken Little is running the show, it can take a hold of you and stop you in your tracks.
In Singapore yesterday I picked up a couple of books on business building...heavy going, written for those with a lot of time on their hands, loads of illustrations that required explanation. Don't get me wrong! They are terrific books. But when the sky is falling, people want words of optimism, not a trek through a minefield of serious knowledge. They aren't looking for the easy way out, but they are looking for clarity.
So, cutting to the chase. How do you market in tough times? Many stop spending on advertising. Or they demand an unrealistically high return on advertising. And fast, they want it super fast.
Well, let's look at some practical tips on how you can market during tough times. You might need to set aside some limiting beliefs. But, they work. And if you use mind maps, you will find your business is shiny and ready to roll, tough times or not. In fact, if you are smart, you will rise from the tough times more successful, wiser and with a strong business model.
1. Connect. Connecting is the basis of marketing. It is matching your brand values to customers or clients so that there is a mutual exchange. But so many fail to see it that way. They ram their message down their market's throats and many others beside who are not in their market. I call it the scatter-gun approach. And, your value clients smell the gun powder and devalue your credibility. Sure, in their eyes, but it happens.
Connecting means getting to know them - their voice, their hearts, their mind. What are their fears? During an economically tough time, people retreat to the village, they want security, home life, family values. Are you connecting with this? Making appeals based on fear won't work, nor will quirky jokes. Connecting means sharing a drink in front of a cosy fire, reassuring and calm.
2. Research. Connecting means knowing, so now more than ever, research is needed to understand what the new drivers are. If you are a new brand, be familiar, not screaming 'new!' Research doesn't necessarily cost money. If you are a start-up, it could mean getting out and walking amongst your customer. Join a business group, don't leave it! Wherever your market is, hang out with them. Join an online group, listen to questions asked, take part in the conversation. Offering solutions is done in an open, friendly way. Be authentic above all else, and take time to do the fundamental of all businesses...reasearch.
3. Maintain market spending. Now is not the time to stop investing in your brand! Yes, it might hurt a bit, but there are loads of ways to invest in your brand and use your resources. I help people bring their books to life. I tell them from the word go that they will not make money on the book initially, it is a marketing tool. Now is the time to invest and I still believe a book is one of the most cost-effective ways to do that.
Review your marketing spend, understand what is and is not an acceptable return. And do not cut it! When good times do return, as they always do, a business that has cut spending on marketing during the tough times is more likely to fail.
4. Support your partners. Supporting your partners is critical. This may mean letting go of weaker distributors and defining those who are a strong support to your product or service line. Review pricing and offer incentives. Taking an 'we are all in this together' attitude is much more helpful than making demands.
5. Review your brand position. I am amazed at how few regularly review their brand position. Or, even really know what it is. By being connected and researching, you can adjust your communication effectively to the right audience. What I love about a book is that it is your walking, almost talking brand position. If you have done it correctly, your message flows from this. Done incorrectly, or not at all, you will constantly be telling people who you are and what you do. Think about that. It is just plain annoying! Think of your brand as a specific person, know what they do, what they like and what they are going through, and your branding will work.
Less is more. The more tight you are with your brand position, the great the spread. Hard to get a handle on I know, but it is proven. Having the right voice and position is the key, not being all things to all people.
Marketing in tough times can be as fun or as difficult as you want to make it. I personally love the challenge, and find it intriguing to step into a brand's shoes. If I was going to ask you to do anything over the next 24 months, it would be to discover, or rediscover, your brand. Reach out and engage with customers using all of the senses.
Let Chicken Little run around screaming. By being the voice of reason during the tough times, you will be the measure of success as your burst through the other side.