The United States has experienced a turbulent economy over the past
few years, with various retail sectors being faced with tremendous
challenges. But to a smart marketer, challenge can equate to opportunity.
Despite the fact that providers now may be operating with smaller
marketing budgets than in years past, there are many effective marketing
strategies and tactics that can be employed at little to no cost.
While your marketing budget may be smaller, you are at an advantage
because the products you offer are truly need based and not frivolous
consumer indulgences. Furthermore, those who market during economically
challenging times can find themselves at an advantage as their
competitors cut back in their marketing and advertising spending. It’s far
easier to get your message heard when others are not talking. With today’s
challenges, it is more important than ever for you to maintain an aggressive,
consistent marketing message rather than retreat into silence. You
may be surprised that you can actually increase your marketshare position
on a small budget.
The Consumer Mindset Is Different
It’s important to understand the unique consumer mindset during economic
turbulence. Consumers are much more likely to stay at home rather than
go out and shop due to high gas costs. Online shopping increases by
approximately 30 percent during times of economic uncertainty. Consumers
become risk averse, are more pessimistic and under greater stress. They are
more likely to try new products if they are on sale, or if consumer financing
is offered. Consumers will do more homework to assess product value and
quality prior to purchase. Most often, this research is conducted online.
Consistency Is Key
As marketers operating with smaller budgets, consistency is critical.
You have fewer dollars to spend to reinforce your message. You must be
consistent to communicate your company’s unique value proposition. Do
not change your corporate logo, tagline or your brand proposition often,
as your message will become diluted. Ensure your company name is easy
to remember and descriptive. Increased consumer stress makes it harder
to capture attention, so easy-to-remember branding is helpful to make an
Offer Trusted Brands to Gain Consumer Confidence
Align yourself with top-quality manufacturers, as your reputation depends
greatly on the products you offer. If you associate with reputable, wellknown
quality brands, it is far easier to be perceived by consumers as a
reputable, quality provider. Conversely, if you only offer products that are
known as low-cost options with questionable quality, your company will
inherit the same reputation. When budgets are tight, you need to recognize
more than ever that your associations will be critical in establishing
The Media Is Your Friend
Public relations is a relatively inexpensive
way to advertise and market your
company. If you have not built a rapport
with your local media, work to do so.
Most news media wish to balance the
constant negative stories on the news
with more positive, uplifting stories. As
a provider, you do noble work helping
people with mobility issues achieve
greater independence. You can provide
your local media positive, inspiring
stories they want to cover. Also, ensure
you are promoting any events to the
media. Customer appreciation days, open
houses, the opening of a new location
and participation in community service
are excellent examples of the type of
events you should share with the media.
Presence in the press is basically free
Make Your Showroom Inviting
If you have a showroom, recognize the importance of appearance and
merchandising. Your showroom is often the first impression you make on
a customer. There are a few simple, low- to no-cost things you can do to
make a great impression and create a welcoming environment.
Implement a custom floor plan. Keep it clean and neat, use warm,
inviting colors on the interior design and play music that appeals to
the generation you are largely servicing. Change your showroom every
few months or with the seasons, just as major retailers do. Use up-todate
merchandising materials, and stock different colors of products.
Be certain you have well-lit, well-branded window displays that allow
people to envision themselves using the products. Employ a friendly,
well-informed staff wearing uniforms and nametags. Run a loop tape
on TV screens in the showroom so customers can view more about the products you offer. Display complementary products near each other,
and have consumer financing program information prominently displayed
throughout your showroom.
Partner with a manufacturer that offers the merchandising collateral
to help you accomplish the above goals. A manufacturer should have a
number of support services to help you meet your merchandising needs
and can often offer advice on the most effective techniques to get people
in your showroom.
Advertising Can Be Affordable
Advertising does not necessarily equate to great expense. For example,
staff attitude in a showroom is a form of advertising, as it can reinforce
your brand image. Think about Southwest Airlines. They have carved out
a niche in the air travel industry as the “anti-airline,” meaning the airline
that puts the fun and customer service back into flying. They have their
fl ight attendants interact with the passengers in a friendly, fun way. For
example, they sing (and even rap) the safety instructions and reinforce
their “putting the fun back into flying” brand positioning via the persona
they show the passengers. This is a very low cost thing to do, but
Advertising can also be as simple as e-mail blasts to existing customers
about additional products you offer. QVC, for example, is a master at this.
They really know how to capture data regarding customer purchases, and
they regularly follow up with customers every few months on complementary
purchases that may be of interest. So, if you have an oxygen patient,
perhaps you should consider an e-mail blast to that customer letting them
know you offer lift chairs. It is far easier and less costly to market to your
existing customer base than it is to go out and find new customers.
Don’t worry, because there is no Medicare prohibition against marketing
to beneficiaries via mail or e-mail. The only prohibition is for telemarketing,
which is outlined in the Supplier Standards (number 11).
Advertising can consist of many different media, from print to TV,
billboards, Web, direct mail, bag stuffers, etc. Often, people think “big
bucks” when they consider TV, but that’s not necessarily so. Many markets
have inexpensive cable buys and local news stations that allow you to run
TV advertising rather inexpensively. And if you consider tagging a preproduced
TV spot, the production costs to you are nominal. And as people
during times of economic turbulence are much more apt to stay at home
and shop online, consider development of an e-commerce site or, minimally,
have an educational Web presence.
Again, partnering with a manufacturer who offers comprehensive
marketing support goes a long way in helping you reduce cost.
As you see, there are many simple and low-cost things you can do to
effectively market your brand, from employee/consumer interaction to
developing an online presence. Remember, marketing is supposed to be
fun, but it doesn’t always have to be expensive.