Branding tips for a down economy

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Anthony Pappas
Anthony Pappas

No matter how the White House tries to spin it, our economy is on the brink of a recession. In these cash-tight times, market­ing budgets and brand-building activities are often the first cost centers to get the axe. But rather than slashing the budget and crossing your fingers, refocusing your marketing and brand-building initiatives can help you stay top-of-mind with customers.

First, love your core customers. When those economic wheels come off, it's time to refocus your branding and marketing ini­tiatives on core customers — the lifeblood of your business. Stay in front of them regularly with consistent messaging that reinforces your value propositions to this key audience. Love your core customers and they'll love you back, in good times and bad.

Next, ramp it up online. One of the mis­takes many organizations make in a down economy is to simply cut their current mar­keting mix by 30%. But using the same tactics and channels with less investment leads to predictable results: Fewer sales leads and lower brand recognition.

Instead of simply spending less money in the same areas, spend it smarter by ramping up online marketing activities. According the Pew Internet & American Life project, 81% of Web users go online to research products or services before they buy. Those are your prospects. Get in front of them with more aggressive search and online advertising cam­paigns. In fact, now is the perfect time to dive into local search to attract online users right in your backyard. The beauty of these tactics is that they're infinitely trackable, allowing you to calculate ROI and adjust budgets to your heart's content.

However, as you move more online, don't forget branding initiatives. Many organi­zations, especially small and midsize busi­nesses, do away with brand-building activities — such as print advertising, online banner ads, direct marketing and broadcast media — in tough economic times, simply because their competitors are doing the same. Instead, use that herd mentality to differentiate your business. Step up brand awareness by filling those channels just as your competitors are leaving them. You can often score media buys at a discount, and even modest investment can reap big rewards: Once the economy brightens and competitors rush back, custom­ers will already be familiar with you.

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