With news over the last few weeks of business bankruptcy and budget reductions across Lincolnshire, cutbacks and closures are becoming routine.
From Blockbuster and HMV, to the City Council and Armed Forces, job cuts and calling in the administrators seems a stark warning that the UK is slipping back into recession.
But with marketing and PR often the first budgets to be slashed, is there anything you can do to keep ahead of the competition, retain margins and move with the times – not only on a tight budget, but also in an age of increasing consumer demand and switching loyalty.
Luckily for marketeers, there is! By making simple changes to your marketing approach and going back to basics, you can future-proof your business and retain corporate profits.
Communications isn’t just about publicising your products and creating consumer hype, it’s also about listening and responding to your customers, keeping them engaged with your brand and building trustworthy relationships.
By working with your customers, listening to their opinions and creating new and improved ways to satisfy their needs, you can excel from your competition, even in such difficult economic times.
Listening, however, is something that many businesses fail to recognise, becoming stuck in their ways and behind the times. The news of Blockbuster slipping into administration, for example, is testament to the importance of keeping track of consumer habits and maintaining an innovative approach to business.
Fortunately, being receptive to your customers doesn’t have to be a time consuming or costly task. In fact, there are a number of inexpensive marketing tools that are perfect for engaging and responding.
Social media, for example, is a great way of speaking directly to your audiences, responding to their requests, customising your offering to satisfy their demands and building brand ambassadors.
From Facebook and Twitter, to YouTube and blogging, the Internet is a perfect tool to engage with customers, and with 85% of the UK active online, it can often be more effective than traditional media.
These free online channels can provide first-hand responses to customer questions, keep you ahead of the latest trends and help to further direct your marketing strategy.
The most successful companies invest significant time in direct communication channels, and, as such, maintain financial stability in tough times.
Along with social media, direct response advertising and information sessions can really help to engage with consumers, keeping them keen, interested and an advocate of your business.
So, before cutting costs or jobs, review your marketing approach and respond to the changing needs and requirements of the market. Work with your customers to drive innovation forward and ensure you communicate constantly, rather than keeping consumers in the dark.
Failure often comes from a business becoming obsolete, so my advice is to listen, respond and move with the times.
I’d love to hear your views on innovation and responsive marketing, so why not leave a comment or follow me on Twitter.
Ed Willmott is a PR executive at Lava, an award-winning marketing communications agency in Lincoln. He is a B2B comms specialist, as well as a published academic. Ed has a first class PR degree from the University of Lincoln and previously worked as a freelance for the NHS, Nestle and the BBC.