You might be tempted to slash your marketing expenditure as part of a cost-cutting strategy during the downturn. But, as Naomi Marks explains, it could be wiser to review the impact of your marketing and spend the same budget more effectively
"People may seek better value or spend in a different way in a recession, but they will still be spending," says Ray Jones, head of communication for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
"Businesses need to review and adjust their marketing plan to get the most from it," he continues. "But if the plan was good, then you just need to refocus."
"Much like retailers who instinctively put umbrellas out when it rains, businesses with a good research-based understanding of their customers should be able to identify what they want when times are economically hard," Jones explains.
It is never too late to do some basic market research. This could simply be a matter of talking to your customers, asking them to fill in a short survey, checking out competitors or accessing industry and social research via your trade association or the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The key is to develop an understanding of what your customers and potential customers want, how they find out about your products or services and the messages and offers they respond to. You can use this knowledge to review your current marketing and fine-tune what you are offering.
"You need to decide what expenditure is worthwhile," Jones clarifies. "You can measure most marketing activities, so study the statistics and make decisions based on this. If you can't measure it, you should question whether you should be doing it at all."
Jones emphasises that there is no such thing as free marketing - but persuading your customer to work for you is both low-cost and effective. "Make sure your service remains exemplary and your customers will be your best salespeople," he adds. "Look after your customers and they'll evangelise for you."
The internet provides a key medium for word-of-mouth recommendations, and customers are increasingly registering their satisfaction - or dissatisfaction - with goods and services through website reviews and blog comments.
While you can't solicit online comments, investing time and effort in internet marketing can be cost-effective and generate good results. Jones warns against the false economy of doing it yourself, however.
"Search engine optimisation is a specialist skill, as is web design. It's all about return on investment," Jones says, pointing out that activities such as advertising may be relatively expensive but they may also bring better results. "To make your marketing budget work, it's all about studying the results."