It’s inevitable that in business, some sort of crisis may happen. This could be personal, for example, illness or bereavement, or it could be global – a recession, for instance. Currently, it’s the small matter of a pandemic that’s causing us grief (not that we need any more reminders!).
But for many businesses, when crisis calls, for some reason, marketing budgets are always the first thing to be cut. Of course, it can be easy to eliminate your marketing budget, especially if you can see an email campaign didn’t quite cut the mustard, or your most recent social media spend seemed to skyrocket, without much return. But marketing is always about trial and error and just because certain campaigns or tactics didn’t work, doesn’t mean others won’t. And in a crisis, the only way you can really invest in your business is by amplifying your voice and marketing yourself well.
So why shouldn’t you cut your marketing budget during a crisis and how can you better invest that money, especially when times are tough?
Marketing is important
Whether there’s a global pandemic or not, marketing is essential to bringing in new business. This could be any form of advertising, but regardless of what type you’re implementing, you’re still marketing. Even if you rely on word of mouth, marketing still plays a part. For example, you could be recommended to someone by a friend or family member, but they’re still likely to want to visit your website or social media pages to check out reviews and your credibility. This is all part and parcel of marketing. Word of mouth is the lead – marketing becomes the conversion.
Marketing manages your reputation, whether you’re a small business, covering a local area, or a national brand, shipping worldwide, reputation management helps attract new business and retain old customers. However you market, you’re then building a relationship with each and every customer that interacts with you – cutting your marketing budget in a crisis means you’re leaving those customers and potential customers in the lurch. Not great for when that crisis is over and you want to attract them back.
Continuing conversations and engaging with customers throughout a crisis keeps that loyalty going, even if you have to pause your service offering for a while, as we’ve seen many businesses have to do during the coronavirus lockdown. Being open and honest is much more effective than simply shutting down your marketing channels and ignoring customers entirely.
Why cutting your marketing budget is the wrong thing to do
If you stop or reduce your marketing spend and your competitors don’t, I think we all know who’s going to come out on top in this situation. Although hard to swallow, if your presence isn’t as prevalent as your competitors and you’re not making the most noise, your loyal and engaged customers will start to look elsewhere – loyalty can be easy to lose when you’re forgotten about.
There’s a popular example that many marketers like to bring up. Back in the early 1990s, there was a small recession, which meant many businesses reduced their marketing spend – including McDonalds. A giant in the fast food world probably doesn’t need to worry about losing customers, right? Wrong – their competitors (the likes of Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) noticed the decrease in marketing and advertising that McDonalds was putting out there and decided to increase their own marketing spend, bringing in new customers and retaining their old ones, thus increasing sales. Maccies noticed a decline in sales instead. Of course, a giant company like McDonalds can make a comeback from a small setback such as the example above – but for many SMEs and freelancers, it’s not quite as easy.
How to market well with a reduced budget
I know for many small companies, retaining the larger marketing budget you might have had before lockdown is impossible, especially if cash flow is not what it used to be. But there are affordable ways to market yourself, without breaking the bank.
- Post regularly on social media
Most social media platforms are free to sign up to as a business – it’s finding the time to post regularly that many business owners struggle with. However, regular communication is essential in the long run. Make sure you invest in a strong social media manager, so you can effectively communicate with your customers and manage your reputation online during a crisis. This is well worth the investment for the future of your business.
- Use a small budget to boost some of your organic posts
Putting a small budget in place to promote your business on social media, through ads and boosted posts, can ensure you’re reaching the right audience for minimum cost.You may have had a social media advertising budget before, so revisit this and see whether you can continue spending at that level, or be more clever with your targeting and save money that way.
- Create engaging and relevant content on your blog
Your customers and audience have questions they need answering – and you want to try and answer them before your competitors get the chance to. By writing relevant and helpful content for your website or through engaging social media posts, you can offer advice and tips, which may lead to more enquiries and sales.
- Create a email newsletter and communicate effectively
If your customers or clients have consented for communication through email, create an email newsletter and update them regularly on changes in your business and helpful information. This can be a great way to stay relevant and be in front of your audience. Most email systems, such as Campaign Monitor and MailChimp, are affordable and easy to use.
- Use digital PR to promote your business in local press and publications
This can be a tricky one if you’ve never approached digital PR before, but is an effective way of reaching a local audience without a lot of cost. Find online publications within your niche or industry that are open to accepting guest posts – write something engaging and helpful, without over promotion, and you should see traffic to your website increase.
- Help your local community
Another way to get noticed by local press (or even national, let’s think big) is to do something helpful for your local community. Whether that’s delivery food to vulnerable people or litter picking, there are lots of free ways to promote your business through your community. This can also be great content for social media too.
Talk to us today if you’re worried about managing your marketing budget during a crisis and how to manage your money better.