Marketing in a downturn: 12 tips

In tough economic times, businesses would be wise to remember the classic advice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC. But what should you do? Experian Integrated Marketing offers 12 tips in a white paper titled “Marketing success in a slowdown”:

1) Plan proactively. “The key point is to create compelling business cases for each investment,” writes Marie Myles, director of marketing consulting. ”Marketers need to plan (and plan again) for change in advance and stay one step ahead and be armed and ready with marketing plans for every eventuality.”

2) Manage the managers. “Protecting marketing budgets means that marketers need to hone their skills to convince Finance that their plans will deliver a profit,” Myles continues. “To do this, it is all about clearly defining how return on investment is being measured and agree on this with management and finance in advance.”

3) Concentrate on existing customers. For one thing, retaining a customer is more effective than acquiring one. For another, when times are tough buyers are even more likely to stick with companies that provided them with positive experiences in the past. That doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels, but rather that you need to ensure that your existing customer relationships are in fine mettle.

4) Adapt your products and services to the economic conditions. Businesses “that fail to engage with customers during a slowdown will fall prey to the next business

that can offer a cheaper product or service at the same quality,” writes Myles. “The better the service provided to customers, the harder it will be for competitors to lure them away.” Which brings us to…

5) Understand customers and their needs. Review your online and offline analytics and buyer-behaviour data, and even invest in some proactive customer research to determine what your audience truly wants and needs.

6) Analyse and segment. Segmenting your customers by RFM, demographic profiling, clustering or other models can help you fine-tune your offers and messages for each significant group. It can also reveal hidden pockets of opportunity, such as new market sectors to exploit or new merchandise areas to expand into.

7) Exploit digital channels. Search engine marketing, affiliate marketing and email marketing are, like traditional direct mail marketing, highly trackable. And as mentioned earlier, when times are tough it’s especially important to be able to quantify your results.

8) Invest in targeted and relevant email marketing. “Companies should look at creating customer management programmes that include automated trigger and event-based activities to ensure speed to market and relevance,” Myles advises.

9) Enhance customer data collection.

10) Integrate channels to increase customer engagement. “Companies need to use their marketing platforms to create new fields in their databases to add relevance. This could mean using email as an alert for a catalogue, new product launch or forthcoming event. Follow-ups can also be used, for example, as reminders for nonresponders or satisfaction surveys after an event.”

11) Test, learn and evaluate.

12) Get the word out using social media and word-of-mouth marketing.

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Published: 5th August 2008