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The value of marketing in an economic downturn

3 min read

Just look at successful brands like Apple’s iPod, Microsoft and Disney, all of which were actually launched in a recession. The notion of maintaining or increasing marketing spend to create awareness, enhance reputations and build profit is also supported by numerous studies.

As the economic tide ebbs, those that stand up and take a leadership position, including through savvy marketing, will be noticed.

What marketing initiatives deliver quick, meaningful wins?

  • Refining customer and potential customer databases, then disseminating either hard copy or digital newsletter;
  • Holding customer events that add vaule to their professional knowledge, with your company being the much appreciated ‘helping hand’;
  • Having your leaders speak at important industry conferences;
  • Instigating a digital communication program that could include your leaders writing a blog, producing an e-newsletter or reaching out to influential online commentators.

None of these need cost the earth, which is important at a time when budgets are being scrutinised. Along with cost, return on investment (ROI) is the other key driver behind satisfaction with marketing spend.

A focus on ROI underlines the necessity to apply modern business’ greatest value marketing tactic; that of a media relations (commonly referred to as public relations) program as part of an integrated marketing approach. Public relations, in fact, includes all of the programs, and more, noted above. Media relations, specifically, includes the generation of issues and topics that the media might want to interview you about and write articles on, case studies of work you have undertaken, or opinion pieces from you leaders on industry-relevant topics.

Why is a media relations campaign cost effective and a good ROI?

  • It enables you to reach a large number of your stakeholders;
  • By focusing on specific media, it enables you to ‘smart-bomb’ your priority stakeholders;
  • It gives you an opportunity to take a leadership position on relevant topics and differentiate yourself from your competitors;
  • The credibility you build by being written about and associated with a reputable media outlet;
  • The media is a great stimulator of word-of-mouth endorsement. It is arguably the most persuasive form of communication around and it is one of the least expensive of marketing activities you can undertake.

A further factor underlining the importance of establishing a leadership presence in the media is the influence that the latter has on how much people trust your brand. Increasingly, decision makers are looking to their favoured media to reinforce their trust in their existing brand preferences and to guide their product or service purchasing decisions. The current economic situation will only deepen their reliance on the media.

Get the most out of your advertising
While you apply a strong media relations campaign, it’s also important to examine the ROI you currently get from any advertising program.

Your marketing budget might be under pressure, but now is not the time to cut out this important brand-building marketing tool. Instead, stand back and objectively examine the returns you get from your current advertising. Are you getting value for every advertising dollar spent?

Take a hard look at where you are advertising; ensure they are all publications that your customers read, know and trust as reliable sources of information. It may also be a useful time to look into cost effective online advertising.

It’s also vital that you review the messages you are communicating in your advertising. Research shows that well though out, well presented advertising in the right media streams can sell up to 20 times more than just average advertising. So don’t be tempted to cut on production costs; there may be a short term cash gain, but remember it is much harder to sell a quality brand or product with a cheap-looking ad containing mixed messages.

Make the most of this time
The opportunity to stake a claim in an environment crying out for organisations that provide strong leadership, reliable and value-driven products and services and that clearly value their customers and other stakeholders, will not last for long.

The economic downturn is not all bad. Organisations that stand tall now will cast a longer, deeper shadow that they will in a booming economy. What are you waiting for?

Craig Pearce is Practice Director at Howorth Business & Technology

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