Marketing Alternatives for a Down Market

With the current economic forecast it’s sometimes difficult to look beyond the dark clouds veiling the horizon. Many businesses and organizations are forced to deal with smaller operating budgets and diminished revenues. For some, the natural tendency may be to sit tight, hold on and try to ride out the economic storm, but this attitude may not do much to foster long-term growth and prosperity.

When it comes to marketing, resting on one’s laurels is never ideal—and in a down economy it can be detrimental. Now may be the time to reach beyond your comfort level and look at alternative ways to promote your endeavors. A listing in the yellow pages along with a few ads in the newspaper may not be enough. You may need to fine-tune or expand your repertoire and look at alternatives such as: customer loyalty programs, web site interactivity, direct mail micro campaigns,  or periodic search engine optimization. Here’s a quick look at the above tactics:

Strengthen customer loyalty:
Since it’s a lot less expensive to maintain existing customer relationships than acquire new customers, taking good care of your current customer base should be a priority. Customer loyalty programs can help nurture those valued business relationships and plant the seeds for ongoing referrals. Loyalty programs can be as simple as making periodic calls or offering incentives such as punch card discounts.

Make your web site more interactive:
Gone are the days of those static web sites that looked like online versions of print brochures. Your web site should offer multiple avenues for reaching out to visitors. The ultimate goal of your site may be for visitors to purchase your products, call for your services or contribute to your cause. Web site outreach means offering visitors various ways to interact with your brand. It’s now easier than ever to incorporate video, email marketing, online surveys, blogs, social networking, e-commerce, and online forms to your site.

Think small with your direct mail:
The cost of designing, printing and mailing direct mail campaigns can be a challenge for those shrinking budgets. Rather than sending out mass-mailings that blanket every person with a PO or mail box in a five-state region, look at smaller direct mail campaigns designed for specific niche groups. These smaller “micro” campaigns will cost less and should be more effective if you target a qualified group with a specific marketing message that resonates.

Improve your search engine rankings:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are tactics that can help increase traffic to your site. SEO and SEM have become quite complex and there are now professional firms that focus solely on search engine rankings. The criteria for search engines is constantly evolving so it is wise to revisit your SEO approach every so often, depending on how aggressive your program is. A quarterly SEO tune-up can help you maintain competitive search engine rankings.

This is a quick list of possible ideas. Obviously the above tactics need to fit into your big-picture strategy and overall goals. It’s also important to build a consistent brand across your marketing mix–your overall efforts should collectively fit together to build a unified brand image.