It seems as if for now, the dust is settling from the recent economic turmoil. Though the outlook is somewhat positive, it may be months before businesses get back on track. This means that marketing dollars are still tight and in some cases, nonexistent.
The past few months have been very difficult for the company I work for. We serve the automotive industry and have been faced with situations that have almost forced our marketing and advertising budgets to zero. This isn’t because we are cutting back, but because there just wasn’t the available capital to move forward. This put me in an interesting position and I believe it has been one of my greatest challenges to date – how to successfully market a companies products and services with just a few penny’s in the bank.
In a recession, the marketing and advertising dollars are typically the first to go, even though sometimes it doesn’t make sense – I was presented with this dilemma late last year. My first priority was to be sure the company wouldn’t quickly be forgotten as our presence in magazines, on Google and at tradeshows was withdrawn. There were several exciting new products coming to the table at the time and I quickly arranged (free) press releases with our advertising partners. Most of the last quarter was spent negotiating the continued placement of monthly articles we produce for the print publications even without contributing advertising revenue. Though an ad may not be present, the articles could potentially draw just enough attention standing alone.
As our advertising contracts expired I noticed a very quick decline in leads – this was expected. By this time, I had already began implementing a plan for budget-less marketing.
One of the first things I did was prepare a detailed database of each email contact and started perfecting the data. Cleaning email databases can be very, very time consuming but if there isn’t money to spend – there’s plenty of time to do the things you wouldn’t be able to do in normal circumstances. My goal was to improve upon our email marketing campaigns (that are practically free) by importing a CLEAN database into a 3rd party tool that could provide detailed reporting and personalization capabilities. Soon after, our newsletter became one of the most popular forms of contact with clients and is well received each month. I have expanded the email campaigning with a monthly specials email and have recently added a quarterly ‘Secret Specials’ campaign that will go to select groups of email addresses belonging to clients that may need a jumpstart.
In one of my more recent posts entitled ‘good times with vseo’ I shared some ideas that could help boost website traffic by experimenting with video. My co-workers have now grown accustom to seeing me with a camera around the office. Take the time to buy a simple editing program (MoviePro @ BestBuy – $49.95) and a JVC camera ($395 @ BestBuy) and learn to use these things to your advantage. Come up with some creative ways to generate interest with video and develop a YouTube website. Use your email marketing tools to promote these videos and be sure to get everyone from the company involved from the President to the production staff. This will help to offset the reduced traffic to your site and allow you and your co-workers to have some fun!
My last tip for budget-less marketing is simple. Be sure to take a hard look at customers that discontinued business and leads that haven’t been closed in the last twelve months. Do some joint research with the sales team and see if you can form a campaign that will spark new interest. Become aggressive and start making calls from the marketing department, send individual and personalized emails, contact sales representatives and ask what the status is of a lead from eight months ago. Now is not the time to worry about hurting someone else’s feelings at the office or in the sales field, now is the time to strap in and do whatever it takes to generate interest and grow sales. In my opinion, if the marketing dollars are taken away – you can either sit tight and wait to lose your job or get serious and make you and your department valuable. Use the down time to learn new things and prep a new campaign, get in touch with customers and experiment. There is no time like now.