This is no time for business as usual. To keep the customer and win the sale, a marketer has to outsmart the competition. But how do you motivate your customers to spend their marginal purchasing dollars on your product instead of the competition's?
Use smart tactics to navigate the tough times. You'll not only protect your sales, revenue, and profit margins but also maneuver your business into a better position to grow when the economy finally turns around.
1. Instead of cutting marketing/advertising budgets across the board, tighten your targeting to reach customers where you have a 50 percent or better chance of winning the sale
Cutting budgets across the board is never the right strategic move. It's more effective to use segmentation to identify product loyalists and high-probability customers. Focus on opportunities that reach key buyers. Examples:
- The National Restaurant Association (NRA) projects that although restaurant growth will likely decline in 2009, the managed-services segment will grow 1.4 percent. That segment includes schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, and other institutions. Kitchen equipment manufacturers should therefore target this segment of the food service industry rather than restaurants.
- If you're a flooring manufacturer selling to hospitals, schools, car dealerships, and large retail stores, you might want to concentrate your marketing on hospital and school construction.
Now more than ever you have to identify and target key prospects to maximize your valuable marketing/advertising dollars.
2. Arm your sales force with positive messages and encourage them to solicit valuable feedback from customers
Why? Because you can control the message and reduce speculation. The first question customers will ask is "How's business?" So give your sales force positive talking points. For example:
- Equipment sales are down but service revenue is up.
- We're putting a lot of effort into improving a specific product's performance.
- We've made changes to deliver more value by...
- Including the training videos with the standard product
- Offering same-day shipping
The sales force can use such information to initiate a conversation and engage the customer. The discussions should be a two-way exchange: Stress the importance of listening to the customer to gain useful insights.