Contributed Column

Veronica Williams, hmc2 Advertising

Marketing Essentials

by Veronica Williams, hmc2 Advertising 

Smart marketing for uncertain times

No doubt, these are interesting economic times. The kind that make us question everything.  Including the best way to weather the storm. Businesses of all sizes are asking themselves not just how to market — but if they should market at all.

My answer is a resounding yes. This is the time to position your brand through smart marketing, not only to weather this storm but to be better poised to capitalize on the up-tick of the economy when it comes. Brands that have the courage to stay the course will find themselves in market leadership positions when that happens. Will yours be one of them? 

Remember, a brand — your brand — is so much more than a symbol. It is the fulfillment of a promise. A promise you’ve made to your customers about how your brand will help them fill needs, get things done, and add enjoyment to their lives. Today, your customers have access to other customers, and they mightily influence one another ... which leads me to my marketing smart list:

1. Gain brand clarity

Sure, you think your brand is great, but the customer is rightfully asking, “What’s in it for me?” Now is the time to candidly assess this: What are the unique attributes of your brand? What separates you from the competition? How are you creating a brand experience that no one else can replicate? 

Brand clarity requires thinking beyond the shiny wrapper to the way customers interact with your product or service. Distilling your brand strengths now can yield a “right message” and make all your marketing efforts more efficient in the year to come.

2. Understand your customers

No asset is more precious to a business than its customers. Beyond its ability to drive revenue, your customer base can yield a wealth of information that can inform every part of your advertising and marketing strategy. Savvy marketers are taking the time to learn who their best existing and potential customers are — and what drives them. The result is better connections, deeper relationships, and a more valuable approach to maximizing marketing investments.

3. Be a leader

In this economy, inertia is often tantamount to failure. Leading companies understand that when competition is fierce, a cut to marketing budgets can lead to a dramatic drop in market share; and that once eroded, customer confidence is hard, or even impossible, to regain. With massive information distribution and dynamic accountability the modern-day norm, emphasizing how you fill a need or bring increased value to your customers could help you survive and thrive.

4. Make it count

Gaining a sale is not the same as gaining a customer. The value of customer loyalty in any economic climate cannot be underestimated. Earning loyalty means enacting an innovative contact plan that moves your thinking (and your budget) from transaction-based to relationship-based. If you’re not sure how to achieve that, an agency can play a vital role in helping your company look at its business from 30,000 feet in order to formulate a sound, long-term strategy that keeps your brand fresh and relevant to your best customers.

Across the board, companies are assessing their spends on everything from marketing to milk to keep their brands afloat during these turbulent times. Yes, efficiency is everything — but it is not synonymous with subtracting advertising and other forms of communication from your balance sheet. 

The “If you build it they will come” business model is a dinosaur — and a sure-fire way of finding out just how quickly your brand can become extinct. 

Be intuitive. By remaining nimble and smart — and looking for ways to innovatively create continuity in your marketing strategy — you can shore up your brand in this, or any, economy. •

Veronica Williams is president of hmc2, a full-service, 4A’s-accredited marketing firm in Richmond.

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