20 Tips to Survive and Thrive In Today's Economic Turmoil or Marketing on a Budget part 1.

I have spoken with many business owners lately concerned about the economy and how to best respond.  A dentist told me, well people still get cavities but they are putting off braces and elective procedures, a physical therapist said he knows some competitors are pulling their advertising and he doesn’t want to (he is smart you know) but is not sure if he can still afford to continue with his current program.  

I have worked with major corporations and mom and pop shops so some on this list may not apply to you, but the key to marketing and advertising right now is exposure.  You have to keep in front of people.  Your competitor is about to go out of business.  What happens when he does?  This is the most important time to ramp up your advertising efforts.  

But Scott….(whiny voice) we don’t have any more money…we need to cut costs…we don’t know when this is going to get better….

Yes.  I have heard all of the reasons why you want to cut advertising budgets.  Thats largely why I am giving you this list of 20 ways to market in the midst of the financial crisis.  

1.  Pull billboards and go with Adopt a Highway signs.  The same budget reinvested in this fashion, depending on market, yields roughly 20 times the impressions, brands you as a green environmentally concious company, and is generally more PR friendly.  Contact your local reporters and you may even be able to get some press off of it.  Consumers often report that all things being equal they will choose a cause oriented brand over one who does not give this impression.

2.  Cut your TV airtime budget.  Reinvest in promoting an online video contest.  Make the prize something great and brand relevant.  Multiple exposure points.  Videos tend to have viral potential.  Creativity gets noticed in magazines and papers, and by the media.  Great videos might even get some primetime news coverage and they cost you nothing to produce hundreds even thousands of commercials.  Also, folks who may not be passionate about your brand but are about your contest will learn and repeat the selling points of your brand.  Could get some new fans.  Fans are more important than customers.  Fans sell your product to many.  One new customer is one new customer.  One new fan is a firestarter.

3.  Unleash your team to spend time with customers and prospects online, through blogs, social networking sites, etc.  All things being equal people want to work with their friends, all things not being equal, people still want to work with their friends.  Utilizing social media tools your organization can provide exceptional immediate and public customer service, reply to questions and respond to rumours.  The market research, mixed with the ability to form genuine relationships with the public make this a no brainer and the labor costs (when using the right tools) are far outweighed by the long term benefits.

4.  Letters to the editors of magazines and newspapers or comments on blogs anytime someone mentions you brand in a positive or negative fashion.  Done well this can do much to promote a great public perception of your brand.  Again it need not be time intensive given you utilize the right tools.  It is important to be polite.  Consider the following two approaches:  

“Thank you for your thoughtful critiques of our most recent (product, service, etc).  I wanted to take a few seconds to clear up a few misunderstandings in your otherwise excellent review….”

or

“F*** you to dirty son of a b*****!  I’ll show you who lacks the (feature, looks, speed) of our competitor. I’ll come down to your office and put that hit job so far up your….”  

As you can see one has more power over getting positive press.  Choose wisely how you respond.  But respond.

5.  GIVE, GIVE, GIVE!!!  Donate as often as you can, wisely for your finances of course.  But your product in a charity silent auction is amazing branding as a company people want to do business.  Your product given to a disadvantaged family on a popular daytime talk show is branding as a company people want to do business.  Even your product given away by another company doing a promotion is a great cross promotion deal and people who believe in company A will be suddenly excited about company B.  Plus it’s the right thing to do.

That’s the first 5.  Stayed tuned for more, but start working on those today.  My son is awake and I have a ton of client work to get to today.  Let me know if you have questions.  If you have ideas let me know too.  Maybe you will see them, with credit of course, in the next list.