You don’t need to be Nostradamus to predict that 2009 is going to be a tough year – especially the first couple of quarters. It’s a given that every penny you spend on marketing needs to be effective – but to be honest, that should be the case at any time, not just when times are tough. But what will be the most effective ways to market your business in 2009?

Don’t sit on your hands

It can be tempting to do nothing for a few months to see how the economy pans out. Tempting, but suicide. If you do nothing, you’ll reap nothing.

Focus on your current customers

As one-to-one marketing gurus Peppers and Rogers will tell you, it’s cheaper to extract a sale from someone you already deal with than it is to acquire a new customer. Think about your product/service range, and then think if:

  • your customers really do know about everything you can offer (many customers only buy a small percentage of a company’s offerings, and often because they aren’t aware of the rest).
  • you can develop add-on services which will enhance those already on offer.
  • you can partner with a third-party company to provide a new joint service, to deal you into a new game with your customers, while (as us marketing people love to say) leveraging (ouch!) your current relationship.

Create reasons to communicate with customers

While you’re not talking to your customers, someone else is. Make sure you communicate regularly, with stuff that’s interesting – as I’ve previously said, review your offerings to see if they can be improved, giving you a reason to pick up the phone, send an e-mail, fire out a publicity release or whatever works for you best.

Whatever you do, do it well – very well

Cutting costs shouldn’t be about cutting corners – it’s more about focusing your efforts. If you’re going to do some e-mail campaigns, do them really well – don’t use Outlook, use a real mailing service such as MailChimp, so you can have really well designed e-mailers and lots of campaign statistics. Use a copywriter or marketing person, don’t draft it yourself. Don’t send out spam, make sure your mailers go to people who know you and whose permission you have to send e-mails to. You can’t afford to get it wrong and risk losing a customer. Yes, doing things well may lead to you doing less – but it is far, far better to do fewer things really well than to do lots of things very poorly.

Set clear objectives

Businesses are used to budgeting for marketing, but usually in terms of ‘so much for leaflets, so much for Web pages, so much for mailers’ and so on. No wonder so many companies don’t know if their marketing is effective – it’s not targeted. Targets can be a mix of things – so many new customers, so many sales, or even driving home far clearer service awareness with customers.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

I’d be the first to say that it wouldn’t be wise to spread your marketing efforts thinly, so that you’re doing too many things without the time or money to do them well. But you still need a mix – just doing one thing, however well, is seldom enough.

Think about print

Since we’re primarily a Web marketing business, it does surprise some people that we also do a lot of print design too. But the two do go hand-in-hand. We’re big fans of using PDFs wherever possible: it saves on trees, print costs and postage costs and gets the information into your customers’ hands as quickly as you can send an e-mail. But for some things, printed literature gives you a clear edge – for example, a company brochure, or brochure of case studies. These are great to leave after a successful meeting. Where you are using PDFs, make sure these are professionally designed. You can save lots of money by knocking up something in Word on your own, but you can lose lots of customers too. Homespun says ‘small beer’.

Offer first-rate service

You need to keep your customers, so you need to keep delighting them. Go the extra mile, get closer to them, deliver a strong service all of the time – and communicate regularly.

Don’t do bad business

When times are bad, it can be really tempting to take any job at any price. Resist that temptation. Business that doesn’t make you a profit, or is outside of your core proposition (making you ineffective at delivering it) is bad business. Turning down bad business does nothing more than free up time to find good business.