It’s a simple fact that when faced with a slowing economy, the majority of businesses start to look for ways to cut costs and one of the first budgets to get the chop is usually the marketing spend – or at least part of it. And it’s easy to see why – after all, if you have to choose between making a member of staff redundant or reducing the marketing budget, then there’s seemingly no contest; David Curtis talks to Robert Eley, chairman of McConnells, who explains how a short-term solution may have far-reaching implications for the future of a business.
“McConnells was founded more than 50 years ago, so this isn’t the first time, we’ve experienced a slowdown in the economy or indeed a recession, and I firmly believe that the lessons learnt about marketing in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s should be heeded by today’s business leaders, so that they don’t make the same costly mistakes as their predecessors” says Robert
“In the past, we’ve seen businesses that held a large market share slash their marketing budget as soon as the going got tough, assuming that their good reputation and customer loyalty would carry them through the hard times.
“The problem was that their customers also wanted to lower costs, so opted for cheaper prices over brand loyalty or they simply assumed that their regular supplier had become a casualty of the recession – as a result, firms that had adopted this strategy lost their dominant market position and suffered long term consequences going forward.
“I’ve always found it strange that certain business leaders could make such a mistake, after-all they were searching for every way to cut costs, so logically their customers would too.
“Meanwhile savvy competitors continued with their marketing, albeit, looking intelligently at their tactical mix. By doing this, they attracted new customers and used the time of recession to forge ahead and achieve a more dominant market position.
“So what should you do now’ The solution is to find the right marketing mix for your company – one that offers maximum return on investment and helps to maintain and if possible grow your position in the market during these difficult times.
“PR is certainly a good investment and one of the most cost effective ways of boosting your reputation and strengthening your market position – after all you pay for the PR consultant’s expertise, and it’s then down to their skills and experience to identify topical news stories and ensure that your stories get published.
“E-shots are also a good way of keeping in touch with your customers – you can use them to cross and up-sell and thanks to sophisticated on-line tracking tools, they are measurable. And because you’re only paying for design time, they too are a cost effective option.
“Advertising is certainly expensive, but done correctly it can be extremely effective. So if you don’t already, then I’d recommend that you do some serious analysis – look back over the past 18 months and assess which adverts and which titles have worked for you. Put together an advertising wish list, then work out what you can realistically afford. .Look for magazines such as The Landscaper whose circulations and readership profiles are audited by the Audited Bureau of Circulation (ABC) as these will allow you to target the right audiences for your business.
“One thing’s for certain, if you want to ensure that your business is still here in ten years time, then when times are tough, don’t drop the marketing – instead, you’ll just have to make sure that both you and your agency are a lot more creative in order to make the budget to go further – and that can only be a good thing.”