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Don’t cut your marketing in tough times

Bob Schumacher
Vail, CO, Colorado

When a small business cuts back advertising, it is like tossing kerosene on a fire ” in this case, faltering sales.

If promotion is considered a “soft” expense, many small businesses reduce the size and/or frequency of their advertising.

Big mistake.



Small businesses should resist cutting back on anything their customers will notice or that will drive them away or fail to bring them in or back. The No Cutback List should include:

– Maintain portions at the same price.



– Resist reducing the quality of your products and services.

– Make sure your staff is knowledgeable and caring.

– Provide hassle free returns and adjustments.



Add advertising to your No Cutback List, too.

The deeper-pocketed big boxes can and do cut back by indiscriminately reducing payroll, closing under-performing locations, slashing prices, and generally angering consumers ” all of which spell “opportunity” for the more tightly-niched small businesses.

When the economic light starts blinking red, savvy small business owners can make some hay by helping customers and prospects understand how their business can do a better job than their competitor down the street.

Word of mouth by itself won’t cut it in tough times. Effective advertising will.

Four-dollar gasoline and $2 loaves of bread are taking a larger bite out of everyone’s wallet, but people do and will continue to buy what they want or need, especially from businesses that back up their advertising with over-the-top service and quality products and services.

Many consumers have cut back on discretionary items, but they are still spending. In a shaky economy, buyers become more picky about where they shop and more selective about allocating their dollars. Small businesses have to work harder to get their cash.

Curtail and cut out the shotgun ads aimed at no one in particular. When the big boxes are hawking price and closing checkout registers at the same time, small business guerillas can move in and build their own customer base, but only if they continue to advertise ” not when they pull back or out.

Guerilla marketers often maximize the effects of their print and broadcast ads by reproducing their advertised offerings on quick printed hand-outs (flyers) and on jumbo copies of their ads strategically placed inside their stores and in their windows, thereby adding impact to advertised promotions.

Well-run small businesses do not furlough good help. Instead, they get every member of their team re- focused. Be honest and frank. If sales are down, say so. Cut loose non-performing employees. Redeploy more people to sales and marketing. Identify and eliminate busy work. Get out of the office and on the street or the sales floor.

Like advertising, resist cutting employee perks. As tempting as it may be, eliminating free coffee and bagels or holiday parties can make employees feel undervalued and potentially lead to losing them. Small extras tend to be taken personally. Retaining perks maintains employee confidence in your company and may even inspire them to go the extra mile.

Take good care of your loyal clients along with your keeper employees. It costs less to retain a valuable existing customer than to find a new one. On the other hand, fire customers that cost you money. Figure out why customers come into your business in the first place as well as what will keep them coming back.

When the going gets tough, be smart enough to ask for help from others. There is remarkable strength in new and different ideas. Ask your customers, “How can we better serve your needs? What additional needs could we serve?”

While you’re at it, ask your employees the same questions.

Stop being busy “being busy.” Get strategic. Slow down. Think about your own situation and ignore gloom and doom headlines. Break up those lofty longer range game plans into 90-day action plans. See to it that every one of your team members shares accountability for implementing the plan at hand. Make it a big deal when the team meets a goal.

Buy your outside vendors a cup of coffee ” printers, suppliers, and others ” to discuss ways that might benefit both of your businesses and cut costs at the same time. Brainstorm ideas that will keep your businesses percolating even when coffee is $10 a pound and rising.

When tough times hit, the primary goal of small business owners should be to not only survive but to position themselves to thrive. Cut expenses and reallocate your dollars by daring to invest more in marketing and advertising.

Going this route is good business for small business.

Bob Schumacher has more than 40 years experience in retailing and marketing. His Web site ” http://www.20do80.com ” offers 74 free articles on small business advertising and marketing as well as information on how your business can benefit from a marketing audit performed. Direct comments and questions to marketingemporium@bresnan.net.


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