In the previous parts of our ‘Beat the sales slump’ series, we dealt with managing yourself and revising your product offering. In our final instalment, we address how to market effectively during a downturn. It can be dicey to diversify your marketing efforts when cashflow is pinched. Which is why we’ll be exploring affordable marketing strategies that ensure your business will amplify its visibility, without cutting into your already depressed bottom line.
Build your database
The most important part of any marketing strategy is information about your customers. Building up your database – ideally, while cementing real relationships with your customers – gives you the advantage of starting from a place of knowledge. If you aren’t already, start accumulating this information. This data needs to be meticulously and prolifically collected, so that you can get to know who you are marketing to. An easy way to start is to ask for contact details and information that is relevant to your business, at every point where you customers interact with you.
Tip: Look at the hot buys from season, and use this data to upsell or cross-sell by offering special deals on upgrades and compatible items.
Nowadays, consumers need more than just traditional advertising. They expect valuable content and enriching experiences. But what is content and how do you make it? Simply, content is everything that customers get from you that is not designed to make them buy the product right now – it could be helpful tips on how to use your product effectively, a mailer, a blog or anything else that keeps your customers closer to you.
Tips for creating effective content
Make sure that whatever content you create, it is:
- Searchable: Consult SEO Guidelines or get some professional assistance.
- Shareable: People will want to share your work because it is so relevant/interesting.
- Sustainable: It has to be manageable to maintain in the long run – otherwise it may seem like the business has lost interest.
- Specialist: Offer your expertise and experience, willingly sharing and engaging, credibly.
- Supportive: All content must underpin a cohesive public persona.
Emailers are a great way to pop in on your customers, but doing so effectively means creating a thoughtful email-marketing strategy. Send more than just “following up” emails – include loyal customers in celebrating your triumphs, or offer interesting insights and discussions on your areas of expertise. For example, a fashion brand could send out trend reports at the beginning of a season to get them thinking about coming back and buying more items.
Social media provides the most centralised access to the public, while allowing businesses to refine their brand identity. It can be overwhelming to stay on top of all the channels every day, so choose the best platforms for your clientele, and create only as many profiles as you can maintain. See it as your digital storefront: part of the magic of social media is access to millions of people. Don’t shy away from being vulnerable. Instead, make your posts sincerely personal, with a behind-the-scenes feel, to draw customers in on a human level.
Reviews and referrals
Encourage online reviews when you have successful and fulfilling interactions with happy people. Get the ball rolling by asking loyal customers to write a review, and promote it further. These ratings not only provide credibility, but spread the word through friends and followers. Otherwise, get referrals from regulars, asking them to recommend someone who might be interested in what you have to offer.
Seize the day
Play with the seasons, and start your own traditions. For example, go all out on “Christmas in July” or have some lighthearted, secular fun around the Winter solstice. You could also honour a local holiday, or even better, make up your own: start National Hot-Chocolate-and-Churros Day, or celebrate the underdog by honouring Middle-Child’s Day! The point is to choose to celebrate the season with your customers.
Think outside the box with guerilla marketing, and use the element of surprise to grab attention while people go about their normal day. This creative (and usually amusing) ambush takes the natural environment of the target market, and repurposes elements of its surroundings – it can be as simple and cheap as clever (legal) graffiti, temporary artworks or even better, something interactive. If this seems a little abstract, look at some inspiring real-world examples here to help fuel your creativity!
Retarget by looking at your product with new eyes and asking yourself: who else could need or want it? Could a few tweaks attract a different customer profile? Or, look at a similar target market in a different location – how can you reach out to them? You may have to rebrand slightly, in order to attract and inform your new, wider customer base.
Pay it forward
Choose a worthy cause and run a charity drive. Incentivise contributions by offering a discount to people who donate, nurturing a sense of social responsibility within your business, and possibly even attracting a different demographic into your orbit.
Tackling an effective marketing strategy when cash is already tight, doesn’t have to feel like taming an untamable beast! Keep things simple, organised, and efficient – remember to focus on what you can afford, and on ways to connect with your customers and community.