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Name: Gemma Manning
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia

Welcome to Manning & Co's Marketing and Business blog. Manning & Co is an integrated marketing and PR consultancy with a boutique and highly personalised approach to service. We recognise that businesses of all sizes can be overwhelmed by the expensive fee structures of larger agencies yet still need professional marketing and PR support. That is where we can help. We provide senior marketing experience and support at price that businesses can afford. Our team is passionate about marketing and determined to keep our customers ahead in marketing excellence. Our blog is a reflection of our passion towards marketing and business. It will provide you some insight into our world and our thoughts, tips and advice on all things marketing and business. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

5 top marketing tips for businesses to survive the downturn

I watched 'Insight' on Tuesday night. The episode was all about confidence in the current economic climate. I think Jenny Brockie did a fantastic job of exploring this topic. What was discussed was incredibly thought provoking. Confidence does plays such an important role in turning the current economic downturn into a recovery. Confidence influences the willingness to invest - to commit money, time, reputation - or to withhold or hedge investment. SMEs will benefit if they themselves show confidence in the way they do business during this time. Confidence has a contagious, flow-on effect.

As a small business owner, I am often asked, "How are you coping?", " Do you wish you had not started your business when you did" etc. There is so much doom and gloom around but I am determined to ignore this rhetoric and seek the opportunities that exisit. Richard Branson in a recent media interview commented that the key to survive these times is to be creative, innovative and look outside the square at new opportunities that you may have not considered before.

Based on this, I have compiled some top essential marketing tips for SMEs to consider during these difficult times. Marketing doesn't need to cost the earth but is something that needs attention to at the same time. SMEs who are determined to get through this time and to remain positive and confident, need to avoid shying away from active marketing, promotion and the process of exploring new business opportunities.

Top 5 Tips

1. Revisiting the basics - review your marketing plan. Now is the time for businesses to review their marketing plans. Businesses need marketing plans and programs that take into consideration changing market trends and customer behaviour. Through the process of reviewing your plan, you may find that a previous unique selling proposition that you were using in your marketing activities no longer resonates with your customer base or is appropriate.

Businesses need to sharpen their pencils and get the creative juices flowing! Brain storm and really think about what is it about your business that is different, how can you bring or add value to your customers in the current environment and how are you going to get your message to them. A good marketing plan doesn't need to be complicated. It needs to be realistic, practical and can be implemented and measured.

2. Be creative and innovative - think outside the square. When you review your business or marketing plan, you really need to think outside the square. It can be hard for businesses to change the way they do things including review of their product/service mix, pricing and means of promotion. However it needs to be done. Sometimes having an external specialist come in to facilitate the process can make it easier and can get businesses across the line in terms of thinking about the business in a new, different way.

3. Be targeted in your approach. In times like these you want to make sure that you get the best bang for your marketing dollar. This means that you need to know and understand your customers, their needs, their purchasing behaviour and how to get to them. For example, rather than doing a blanket email campaign, segment your customers into groups (i.e. geography, industry sector, revenue size etc) and send targeted emails with specific messages that apply to that group of customers.

Do a basic customer value matrix to determine what group of customers that you should be investing in when it comes to marketing spend. This will have an impact on your marketing mix of activities and the way you go-to-market.

4. Look at the entire marketing mix. Research shows that customers often need to be touched 5 times by a brand before they make a purchase - whether it be a product or service. You need to ensure that you customers are touched by your brand in more ways than one. A PR campaign with a media mention on its own won't cut it or will a single advertisement. You need to look at all areas of the marketing mix - direct marketing, online marketing, partner marketing, media relations, referrals etc. When a customer reads about your business in the media, comes across you on the web and hears about your excellent service/product via word-of-mouth, your business is in a lot stronger selling position than if they were just to be touched once by your brand.

5. Commit to communicating your message regularly. Don't take for granted that your customers will automotically know what your latest products/services or specials are. Now is the time for you to push your message to your current and future customers regularly. There are a number of ways that you can do this that are cost effective. Email communication one part of the marketing mix to consider. Partner marketing - when having the right partners or alliances on board - is also a great way to tap into target markets. Social networking through sites like FaceBook and Linked In are other options also.

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Monday, 5 January 2009

Marketing in 2009

Over the last 12 months, there has been significant talk on the impact of the current financial crisis on the business community.

We are still in an economic period that is highly unpredictable so it is hard to say what 2009 will bring businesses. However it is clear that businesses need to remain positive, resilient and realistic for the year ahead.

Business costs including marketing expenditure have come under scrutiny and close review by organisations and business commentators. However, I note with interest that in BRW's 2008 Fast 100 analysis, 70% of the fastest 100 growth companies in Australia say that they will market more aggressively as a strategy for a further economic slowdown. Only 14% said that they would reduce staff numbers.

Like the savvy entrepreneurs running Australia's fast growing 100 companies, business owners and executives need to considered 'marketing' as a key strategy for survival and growth in 2009.

I think the challenge for marketers will be, 'how to get executives or business owners across the line to believe that an investment in marketing will deliver value and not be simply a cost burden?' For most of my career, I have faced this challenge - particularly in the corporate world. Marketing would often be considered simply as a 'back-office function' or 'a cost-burden' and was always an after-thought. This used to frustrate me as I have always been very passionate about what I do and the value that the marketing function brings an enterprise.

So marketers have a tough job on their hands in the months to come. Whether they are in-house or consultants working in an agency environment - marketing professionals need to become highly disciplined in the art of demonstrating a return on investment for thier marketing activities and efforts.

Measuring, tracking and recording marketing campaigns and communicating these results to senior executives and clients is more critical now than ever before. This has recently been made easier to do for the marketing professional with the recent release of AMI's (Australian Marketing Institute) standard marketing metrics that can be used by marketing professionals across Australia. These tools will be invaluable in the quest of gaining the support and commitment that the marketing function of any business deserves.

If you are a business owner or executive that is currently tossing up the value of marketing, remember that in the current economic period survival and success is underpinned by cutting through the clutter and getting your message out there to your customers. Your business needs to appear stronger and more robust than ever before and marketing and communications is key for this.

I hope to see savvy entrepreneurs continue the trend of investing in marketing to grow their businesses in the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

Gemma Manning - Director; Principal

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