10 affordable ways to be up in a down market.

10 affordable ways to be up in a down market.

It’s nice to talk about making lemonade out of lemons, but the fact is, we’re in a tough market. Large, national brands are challenged and we all know the impact on small and medium-size businesses. Here are 10 simple communication ideas that will fit any budget and help grow almost any business.

1. Spend to Business: Client acquisition is important, but we recommend focusing resources on client retention first. Add value, reward client loyalty and help solve clients’ problems and you will take care of yours.

2. Understand Your Customers: Now is the time to really understand, at the deepest levels, your current and lapsed customers. What are their needs and motivations? How does your product or service fit into their lifestyles? How do they consume, create and interact with media? Simple surveys, panels and one-on-one dialogs are affordable and easy ways to get into the minds of your customers.

3. Leverage Communities: Social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to find communities where your expertise matters. These networks allow you to isolate homogeneous groups for targeting: demographic segments (age, gender, income) as well as interest and lifestyle segments (Nature enthusiasts, healthy eaters, etc.). Focusing on segments allows you to optimize content and distribution according to your target audience. You can distribute helpful news and information, stimulate and observe discussion and build trust and awareness in groups that are relevant to your business.

4. Become an Expert: What really differentiates you and your company; what is your gift? Create awareness and demand, for this point of differentiation by participating in on- and offline discussions and seeking panels and other speaking opportunities to make your mission/cause as big as your business.

5. Quid Pro Quo: Look for opportunities to barter products and services in exchange for those you need. While this may not create direct revenue, it can address your costs and nurture partnerships.

6. Use Size to Your Advantage: A lot of prospective clients/customers are re-evaluating their current relationships. Being big and well-known is no longer enough. Big companies/brands struggle to justify their value more than ever. This is a great time for small, specialty brands to demonstrate real value.

7. Look Big, Even on a Limited Budget: Explore new ways of reaching prospective customers, such as blogging, mobile marketing, search engine optimization and pay per click advertising. Many of these options offer targeted impact in a highly targeted, action-based format.

8. Consistency: Avoid cyclical ad budgeting. The “right” ad budget is one that accomplishes the objectives on a straight line – no major increases in good times, or major cuts during bad times.

9. Sleep With the Enemy: When overall demand in a category declines dramatically, there are occasions when competing brands might consider creating shared opportunities. Co-promotions or “category building” events allow each partner to share costs and make noise for their industry.

10. Measurements: Every aspect of your communications program should be measurable. If you have metrics in place, study them and look for winners and losers in terms of media.

This article is written from the personal perspective of Bill Williams. The opinions and views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Miller Group Advertising.

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