Marketing is never an easy discipline. It becomes even more complicated when an economy, and market, is having trouble. Occasionally, the trouble is market related which leaves more options, but other times it is a global turbulence that muddies the water for all who swim in it – business and consumer alike.
It is these times that test marketing flexibility to its maximum. Finding ways to inspire a market to action when the consumer is feeling particularly conservative is a venture in not only marketing prowess, but psychology as well. During problematic social and economic times, it is natural for consumers to “batten down the hatches” and focus their attention closer to home and family. Typically, people will save money for a rainy day and use any excess cash to pay down debt rather than lavish on consumer items.
This consumer conservatism is where the challenge lies for marketers. It is key, always, to remember that even during such a phase money is still being spent, it is just being spent differently. Some marketers make the mistake of believing that this is the time for the “hard sell,” shouting offers and specials at hunkered down consumers. However, the reality is that this is not the time to create sales, it is the time to create buyers.
In any time, it is an everyday truth, that people do not buy only on price and performance, they buy on value. In turbulent times this is even more important. Perceived brand value does not happen on its own. Marketing is needed to communicate the value that the business wish the consumers to have of their brand and products. Value is not maths it is a mindset – it is a mental process evaluating the value of a brand’s business based on the total experience, the functional benefits as well as the emotional and social rewards versus the total cost – money, time and effort. There is, however, a new component to this equation: Trust. Trust is a value multiplier; it is the consumer’s faith that the brand will deliver the promised experience relative to the expected costs. This also means that if trust in a brand is affected, the value of the product or service is affected.
If a business wants to endure through challenging times and build lasting loyal relationships with their market, they must build trust.
Here are five key actions to navigate a troubled marketplace:
- Do not confuse price and value.
Many business owners and marketers still use these terms reciprocally. However, “price” is what consumers expect to pay for the product or service, “value” is what consumers expect the product or service to be worth. This means that something’s “value” is not a low price.
- Avoid flooding the market with special deals.
Focusing on special offerings and discount deals do not create brand loyalty, it creates discount or deal loyalty. It devalues the trust metric in that they increase the consumers perception of price elasticity, thus bringing the brand’s worth into question. Price is important, but value should not be linked only to low-price offers, it should be delivered at every price point.
- Maintain or increase quality.
When consumers are unsettled it is not a time to cut corners on quality of product or service. Consumers will notice a decrease in quality, and this will lead to a degradation in the perceived value, one of the pillars of a solid consumer relationship.
- Nurture the consumers you have.
Build brand loyalty with the consumers you have already supporting your business before focussing on luring new consumers. Loyal consumers are the best brand advocates any business can have, it is unsound to risk alienating them by putting all energy on gaining new consumers – especially at the expense of reinforcing the existing relationship. Show appreciation to the consumers who are already loyal to your business.
- Keep talking to your consumers.
“Where business is the selling of products and services, ‘marketing is the exchange of specific information for consumer interaction’ Marketing, then, is the conduit through which a business communicates with its customers and clients and this communication needs to be a continual process in order to retain the share of the market space a business needs to continue thriving.” [Why do marketing if you are an established business?]
Oftentimes, during difficult times, businesses will attempt to save costs by cutting marketing and advertising budgets. It is important to consider, however, that when these costs are cut the conduit of communication is compromised. Not only will brand awareness suffer, but the business itself may suffer irreparable harm during such a period of radio silence by a drop in sales. It also offers a perfect opportunity for competitors to steal some, or all, of the market share.
Marketing in difficult times is certainly not easy, but it does offer many rewards. Relationships and loyalty built during these times last into the better times – and survive future turbulence.