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Successful marketing strategies for the business on a budget

Just a few short years ago it seemed you could “sell ice to an Eskimo.” Marketing was simply about pushing consumers toward your brand. Consumers were spending money on anything with little regard of their financial status. Luxury goods were overtaking the marketplace. Successful marketing simply relied on getting your product or service name out there and watching the customers come to you. In recent years, that has all turned around; the average consumer has less money to spend and is keeping the money that is available under a tight grip. Consumers have stopped spending money with such frivolity and have begun realizing the impact of every purchase on their daily or monthly budgets.

The mind of the average American consumer has changed. Consumers are getting back to basics by reevaluating their spending patterns and looking to fill their product or service needs in the most cost-effective manner. This new American consumer is purchasing based on their needs and less on their wants. To effectively reach this new consumer, your marketing plan needs to determine your customer’s needs. It is important to realize that customers are shopping less for costly, luxury goods and services; rather, they are looking for products and services that provide relief from stress, instill a sense of value and offer self-fulfillment.

Businesses are not exempt from the notion of tightening up the purse strings. Your budget is likely tight and your marketing budget is probably the first place you cut back. However, in this economic slump, it is important to maintain marketing spending. Your competitors are likely cutting back and you will have the ability to improve your market share by keeping your advertising presence known. The competition to obtain and keep customers in this economy is fierce; therefore, communicating in a cost-effective manner becomes even more important. Just like the average consumer, you need to understand where your money is going. You need to ensure you are getting a proper return on your marketing investment. In today’s trying economic times, it is essential to find ways to communicate with your customers effectively while ensuring an appropriate return on your marketing investment.

Focus on customer loyalty

In this economy, competition for customers is brutal. Consumers are tight with their dollars and are looking for better deals. They are also analyzing their purchase options and changing spending patterns. The average consumer is looking for a product or service they trust, a product or service that is reliable and a product or service that comes with impeccable customer service. Customers expect consistency and value from every transaction. When greeted with this economic environment, your marketing strategy should be less about getting your product known and more about cultivating strong and profitable customer relationships. Your company can have deep pockets and great employees, but without a loyal customer base, your company cannot thrive.

  • Make it personal. Consumers are inundated with sales media on a daily basis. The average consumer is now getting back to family values. Connect with your customer through a marketing system that focuses on your loyal customer base and recognizes them, as that will be a more effective means of reaching your audience. Send a note of thanks, a holiday greeting, a reminder about upcoming events, etc., and be sure it is personalized to that specific customer. Make your customer feel like part of your business family.
  • Redefine the value of your product. Consumers are staying closer to home and developing relationships and connections. Consumers want to feel safe and secure, they want to feel like they are doing business with a neighbor. By emphasizing the value of your product or service and focusing on the “neighborhood” approach, your customers will feel more at ease with the transaction and, therefore, will be more willing to be a repeat customer.
  • Adjust your pricing. It may be necessary to reevaluate your pricing scheme. This, however, involves more than just temporary price promotions or coupons. It is necessary to evaluate your customers’ needs and consider price adjustments that will emphasize the value of your product or service. Increase your customer loyalty by offering credit to those loyal customers.
  • Listen to your customers. Develop an understanding of what your customers want, and take steps to make the necessary adjustments within your organization. When money is tight, many businesses will skimp on updating their product or service mix. Invest wisely in customercentric innovations to keep up with the ever-changing needs of your core customer base.

Think PR

Employing a public relations strategy in your marketing plan will not only emphasize your community involvement, but will remind your customers of your presence in their everyday lives. In order to effectively employ proper marketingfocused PR, you must set very specific goals and implement a strategy to achieve those goals. You will need to identify your objectives and your target market.

To determine your message, you need to focus on one objective. If your objective is to attract new clients, you may want to focus on articles that portray your business’ achievements, strategic alliances or relationships with former clients.

Once your message is concrete, it is time to get that message out to the public. This can be achieved in a number of ways, and it is recommended that you employ as many avenues as possible.

  • Media presence is the key to successful PR. Having a regular schedule of media announcements will keep your company in the front of the consumer’s mind.
  • Web presence is essential in today’s marketplace. Your Web site should be a roadmap outlining your capabilities and experience as a company.
  • Public speaking can increase your presence in the community. Look for opportunities to speak before trade organizations, municipal groups or other networking opportunities.
  • When all else fails, hire a professional. Don’t overpay, but seek someone with experience that will be willing to work within your budget.

Delve into social media

Social media is considered “the wave of the future.” Social media is simply the use of blogs, networking sights and other online communities to get your product or service name out there. Technomic, a Chicago- based market research firm, recently said, “To put things in perspective, it took radio 38 years to reach a total audience of 50 million. It took television 13 years, the Internet four, the iPod three. Facebook hit an audience of 50 million in two years and has increased 50% to about 300 million users in the last six months alone.”

Marketing via social media provides a way to reach a wide audience without spending thousands of dollars to do it. Marketing in today’s economy is about making connections with your consumers. With social media, you can do just that, as it not only lets you reach your audience, but also allows you to have an interactive dialogue with your consumers and engage them on a more personal level.

Effective social media marketing rests on two basic principles: connect with your customer and really listen to what they are saying.

  • Connect with the consumer. Be a part of the conversation— don’t simply throw marketing at the consumer. Let your advertising lead your consumer to your social media conversations. Allow your consumer to communicate with other loyal customers. Communicating and really listening to your consumer can lead your business in the direction your consumer needs.
  • Listen and engage. Create a real dialogue with your consumer. Listen to your consumer, heed the feedback they provide and implement changes that can improve your customer loyalty. Being actively involved in your “online community” is key to sustaining customer relationships with your product or service.

Marketing in the current economy does not have to be a million-dollar investment. A successful marketing campaign will connect with your consumer in more intimate ways. This campaign will provide a sense of comfort and safety and be focused on your customer’s needs. It is time to reevaluate every marketing dollar. Understand who your core consumers are and reach them in ways that will make you a part of their daily life. Don’t just offer the consumer a product or service—make your customer a part of your business family.

About Steve McCrillis Tara McCrillis 2 Articles
Steve McCrillis is a senior business analyst. He has 25 years of small business operations experience. Tara McCrillis is a graphic designer with several years of experience as a small business marketing manager.

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