Tough financial times? Now is NOT the time to cut your marketing budget.

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Early this week I found out about yet another friend in the marketing industry that has been retrenched.  Not just herself, but the entire marketing team of 4 people - one of which has been with the company for 20 years.

It's a topic that affects me personally having recently been 'let go' from my dream job - marketing a museum on a World Heritage Site (yes, I'm a bit of a museum nerd.)  Trust me when I say that I didn't go quietly.  I wrote every report and pulled every figure that I could think of to convince the company that getting rid of their marketing department (i.e. me) would not benefit them in the long term and would quite possibly be detrimental.  But to no avail.  The decision had been made.

Something people often forget is that marketing is an investment of both money and time.  Marketers often spend weeks and months developing strategies and relationships to benefit the business that many only come to fruition a few months down the line.  By not committing to these relationships and strategies or cutting them entirely, you've not only lost out on the reaping the benefits, but also all the hard work that you've already paid for.

I know times are tough, but whatever you do - Don't Stop Marketing!  I know that technically we're supposed to be out of the recession, but many businesses are still feeling the crunch and will continue to do so for a while so I've written this post with tough financial times and recession in mind.

"Consider this - if you in fact cut (stop) your marketing budget, how will your consumers find you? You have severed your business lifeline and future hope of potential growth," says Laura Lake, About.com's marketing guru.

We're not the only people who think so.  Take a look at some of these online articles :

"It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times." says Professor John Quelch of the Harvard Business School.

One strategy is obviously not going to suit every size and type of business.  Small and medium sized concerns don't usually have the cash reserves to keep them going that larger ones do, but this doesn't mean that all is lost.  You'll just have to learn to get smarter with the money you have.  And remember :  the money you spend on marketing is not an expense, it's an investment.

I've found some wonderful online articles and resources for small businesses which I will list below, but some things I wanted to point out are :

  • Social networking is not "absolutely free" : It may not cost you rands and cents, but you will certainly have to put in a lot of time - especially if you're new to it.  Decide whether you really have the time to spend on it or if it would make more sense to outsource. Everyone is feeling the pinch and you can probably find someone to manage it at a pretty reasonable price.
  • Know what you want to accomplish : Spending a few minutes setting specific goals will save you hours (and cash) in the long run.  Do you want more followers on your Facebook page?  Do you want more people to visit your store on Saturdays?  Do you want to sell those last few items in a discontinued range?  Your campaign strategy will be far more effective when you have a clear idea of what you want your result to be.
  • Always calculate your ROI : How do you know if your marketing has generated hard cash?  You have to regularly assess your return on investment to make sure that you nip under performing campaigns in the bud before they cost you too much money.  What about print advertising?  Create ads that include a response from your customers. For example, ask a customer to clip a coupon, present the advertisement to get the deal, or something that gets you a physical piece of your advertisement. Instruct your sales staff that when customers turn in their "Ad" or coupon, they must write how much money the customer spent on the back of those ads and coupons.

    At the end of the promotion, gather up all the ads/coupons turned in, and add up the sales generated.  Did it cover the costs of the ad design and printing?
    How to calculate ROI
  • When in doubt Google it : You'll be surprised how much free expert advice and information you can find online.  Be smart about it of course - don't take one article as gospel - research your topic over a couple of sites and forums.  You can save a lot of time and money using tools and advice that people like me are giving away for free. Use it! That's what it's there for.

And last, but certainly not least - if you absolutely have to make some staff cutbacks, do it gently.   Have you really reached your last resort? Employees will often be willing to cut back to working part time or even take a pay cut in order to keep their jobs.  (Always make sure you follow labour laws and conditions when negotiating changes in employment contracts.) Empathise. We're all weathering this tough economic climate together.


My top Articles on Marketing for Small Businesses :

Top 10 Social Media Tips for Small Business Marketing

Ten Powerful Marketing Tips for the Small Business

Five No-Cost Marketing Tips

27 Low to No Cost Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business


You are also welcome to join my Facebook page where I post daily articles on Marketing and Social Networking for businesses or follow me on Twitter (@firebird_rising)

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