Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marketing in troubled times.

I like journalists and think they provide an essential service. BUT they do have a propensity for the dramatic. While crazy financiers have started a worldwide economic bushfire, the media are cheerfully screaming ‘Run for your lives! We’re all going to die!’ Bad news sells papers. But is the news really that bad?

Is an economic downturn really the end of the world? Or is it an opportunity to review how we worked in the past and to improve those practices for the future? I think it is.

We all know that ‘marketing’ is the first department of any company to have its budget slashed in economic slowdowns. It’s an easy way for the bean counters to save money. But of course reducing marketing exposure leads to reduced revenue and the prophecy of doom is self-fulfilled.

Short of holding a gun to the CFO’s head, we must live with the fact that budgets will be tightened in the coming year or so. The question is then, “How do I maintain and grow my business with less money and fewer resources?”

The answer is that you have to work in different ways. Picking up the phone and calling ‘the agency’ is easy but it’s expensive. Here are some examples from real firms who invested a little extra time to save big money ... and they still achieved outstanding results.

1. YouTube campaign. Company A had a confectionary product that researched well and seemed like a market place winner. Traditionally it would have gone straight to TV (with the associated high media costs). Because it was ‘fun’ and targeted to ‘young people’ a YouTube campaign was devised. Production costs were kept low and media costs were $0.

Cost to the marketer – She had to really work her email database to get the viral traction the campaign needed. And she had to give up the control she would have normally had with a TV campaign.

2. Virtual Agency. Company B assembled a group of talented creatives to execute a one-off creative campaign. They paid about half what they would have done with a full service agency for the same or better minds and options.

Cost to the marketer – He had to find the right people for the job.

3. Website Renovation – Company C had an existing website that was a little out of date. Rather than tear it down and start again the marketing person employed a copywriter to revamp the copy, improve the SEO and add a few new features all within the existing structure.

Cost to the marketer – Finding the time to accurately brief the copywriter.

There are many other ways of maintaining strong marketing communications in troubled economic times. The cost can be as low as looking around for alternative suppliers.