Marketing in Tough Economic Times

These are difficult times. Even so, if sales have decreased by half in your field, half of those who usually make purchases still are. As the marketing person at your company, you can create ways to access those buyers and generate more leads and sales – even when working with a reduced marketing budget. Cut out the marketing projects that you may never get around to. You can add these tasks to your list of action items when the economy turns around. Keep the programs which have the most impact on lead generation and short run sales at the top of the list. These projects should receive full funding and be implemented. Company image and awareness is important, but don’t attempt to reach the entire market with general messages. Focus on describing the features, benefits, and applications of your services to targeted prospects. Instead of spending a small budget on an advertising campaign, improve your company’s image with the quality of your response materials and website. Concentrate your efforts on communications methods that have had measurable response in the past. Eliminate programs that didn’t return your investment in previous campaigns, as determined by leads or hard sales.

Ask your sales people which tools were most effective for making recent sales. Monitor their responses and make budget allocations accordingly.

Direct Mail Outs

In hard times, think about ramping up use of email, fax, and direct mail as inexpensive ways to deliver targeted offers to your best prospects. Instead of ‘shotgun’ mailouts to purchased lists, repeat mailouts to those who inquired in the past. Perhaps you don’t have your own email list to market to. If not, think about renting a list from a publisher or putting ads in other targeted email newsletters. This can be a great way to generate quick response by reaching your market.

Getting Published

Taking advantage of public relations opportunities can generate more bang for the buck.Writing an article for an industry publication is a great example. Article contributions can include success stories and customer testimonials, as well as article bylines that illustrate your expertise. Another method of keeping your company in your customers’ minds is the newsletter. By maintaining the newsletter circulation, a brief prerequisite survey can ask subscribers some qualifying questions. The answers to these questions should be entered into the database, and follow-up steps should be taken if appropriate. Both the newsletter and article contributions can be re purposed for the Web.


Promoting your company executives as speakers at important meetings and conferences is another economical marketing tactic. These events can be used to generate leads by sending audience members a white paper or copy of the presentation in exchange for their business cards.

Trade Publications

Your company will most likely benefit more from a frequent presence in a couple of publications than from an infrequent presence in several. Ask your media reps for BPA statements, and study them to discover the percentage of a publication’s readers who are actually part of your target market. Also, in tough times ad sales tend to suffer. It may be possible to negotiate a lower rate with publishers.


As trade shows are often costly affairs, think about eliminating those that haven’t paid off in the past. If, however, your exhibition at various shows has been proven effective, consider downsizing your booth. By sending mailouts before the show, you may increase the amount of visitors to your booth, and you can recruit distributors and resellers to help staff it. Continue to send post-show mailouts and follow up with telemarketing to convert those inquiries into leads.

The Website

You can improve the return on your investment in a company website by working with other organizations, increasing the number of links to your site. Careful keyword selection can help your site rank well among your intended audience’s searches, and by posting article content and case studies on your site, you have more pages to register with search engines.

Workshops and Seminars

Cut down the cost of your workshops and seminars by hosting them as teleconferences and web events, eliminating the need for support staff to travel. Often, these ‘virtual’ events have better audience attendance than in-person events because attendees won’t need to leave the office in order to attend. Still, these events will need to be properly promoted and executed in order to have a positive impact.


Partner with a good literature fulfillment company to reduce shipping costs, distributing a smaller quantity of materials to your sales staff and reps. Research indicates that 30% of requesters want materials to share with their clients or colleagues. The majority would be happy to download PDF files or print web pages, reducing your costs to get the word out. By making print materials smaller, avoiding expensive inks, and asking about discounted surplus paper supplies, you can lower your print material costs.

Marketing Partners

Team up with businesses whose products compliment yours. By pooling resources, you can both fare better than you would be able to alone. For example, what about a co-sponsored mailout? The investment is decreased by splitting the cost, but the increase in prospects from sharing info could be substantial.

Referral Programs

Leverage the influence of your existing clients by creating a referral program to reward them for passing new prospects on to your company. An incentive may not even be a necessity, depending on your relationship with the customer.

Think About It

By sitting back and thinking about it once in awhile, you may discover new ways to cut out the unnecessary programs in your marketing campaign, and come into a clearer focus. By netting a better overall return on investment, you’ll improve your reputation among senior management staff and stand out as a valuable contributor during difficult times


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