Marketing during a downtown: Crisis or opportunity? | AspenTimes.com

Marketing during a downtown: Crisis or opportunity?

Killeen Brettmann and Bobbie Burkley
Inside Business
Aspen, CO Colorado

There is no question that consumer spending has slowed down and will likely continue to slow this coming winter. In anticipation of flat or decreasing profits, every smart business is taking a hard look at all expenses for the coming year. Many are asking the question, “should we spend money on marketing when we know our business will most likely be down?”

Ask marketers like us and our answer is that a well-positioned company may very well have an opportunity to grow market share. Ask the group trying to balance the budget and the answer might be “no.”

For most businesses, the right answer probably lies somewhere in between. You should continue to market and maintain the integrity of your brand, but be smarter, negotiate harder, and focus on the most critical areas when allocating your marketing dollars.

– Spend smarter: This is not the time to eliminate marketing, but it’s certainly the time to allocate your resources to the most effective initiatives. To do that, you must be tracking the effectiveness of your campaigns. Online marketing is perhaps easiest to track by utilizing e-blasts to your database, online ads and search-engine sponsored links. With local print or broadcast campaigns, consider including an offer that requires the customer to reference or bring in a copy of the ad to redeem. This provides one definitive way of knowing if the ads are working.

Whatever you are doing, make sure you are getting the best possible pricing you can and the most service from organizations with whom you work. Ambitious sales representatives may be willing to work harder. There may be barter opportunities if your business provides a product or service that could be valuable to a media company, or partnership-type opportunities with another like-minded company.

Consider reallocating staff responsibilities and resources into low cost marketing initiatives. Online newsletters and business blogs cost very little to deliver, but you will have to invest time and resources in creating and updating the content. Free publicity is available through editorial coverage in various news outlets, but does require developing interesting, timely story angles and devoting the time to pitch to various media outlets. Involvement in charity and community events can often take the form of barter services or products, and can be an effective means to stay connected to your customers.

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– Focus on your current customers: It is far more practical in a downturn to focus on your current customers rather than trying to find new ones. People are looking to their trusted sources and you need to remind them why they should continue to do business with you. You need to understand their pain threshold, reach out to them and tell them why your business can help.

If you are in the tourism business here in Aspen, you are in an enviable position because more than 70 percent of Aspen’s winter visitors are repeat visitors. Unlike most other resorts that have a higher percentage of skiers who try new resorts each year, Aspen visitors tend to return year after year. Now is the time to reach out to your past customers and be sure you are inviting them back this year.

– Buyers are looking for a deal: The name of the game is value-added. Rather than cutting price, think about elements that add value, but don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. If you are in the restaurant business, can you add a complimentary appetizer or dessert rather than cutting the price of your entrees or liquor? Lodging properties could consider adding complimentary shuttles, continental breakfasts or free entertainment. Hair salons might offer a percentage off a haircut with a color treatment. If you are a retailer, offer a discount on a future purchase with a full price purchase now ” for example, spend $250 today and get a $25 gift certificate on a future purchase.

– Out smart your competitors: No doubt that your business will be in a battle for market share. As your competitors reduce marketing or the services they provide, the most nimble businesses will be able to adjust and bring in new business by filling the void, or communicating more effectively. Keep a close watch on what your competitors are doing ” or not doing ” and make changes to capitalize on new opportunities.

– Maintain the integrity of your brand: No matter what your business is, it is essential that you maintain the integrity of your brand throughout this downturn. You may need to cut marketing spending in step with other cost cutting measures, but do not eliminate it. Maintain the quality and service you are known for and your customers will be there when things turn around.

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