Create a free account to continue

Marketing In A Troubled Economy

By Amy Radishofski, Features Editor, As money and resources dry up, how can you still make the most of your marketing budget?

In this economy, manufacturers often find themselves struggling to do more with less, particularly when it comes to marketing. Sales are hard to come by, and companies need to do what they can to sell their products and services. But how can you be optimistic when a survey finds that 68 percent of companies expect sales to be down in 2009?

“Marketers are being asked to be more accountable, and they often have to fight with CEOs to get budgets approved,” said Chris Chariton, Vice President of Marketing Services and Product Management at GlobalSpec.

A recent marketing trends survey by GlobalSpec found that companies are feeling the pinch from the economic downturn, with 69 percent of respondents saying that they will closely monitor their marketing programs and reduce or get rid of those programs that don’t cut it. Moreover, 53 percent said they will look for marketing programs that are measurable, and 41 percent will increase how much they spend on online marketing.

While the economy is struggling, companies are turning their focus from brand awareness to customer retention, particularly because it is more cost-efficient than finding new clients. In 2008, 21 percent of survey participants said brand awareness was a top goal. In 2009, only 11 percent said brand awareness was a high priority.

The GlobalSpec study identified the top challenges companies face, which included fewer resources, both people and money; difficulties generating high-quality leads; and finding ways to improve marketing ROI. To address those challenges, Chariton says companies should focus on online marketing, and that they should be increasing the amount of money that they spend on online initiatives, especially when resources are tight.

“Companies are shifting to marketing online, but they aren’t moving fast enough,” Chariton said. “About one-third of companies spend 50 percent of their budget online, where nearly 100 percent of their customers can be found.”

The marketing trends study did find some encouraging results that companies are putting more emphasis on online marketing: 38 percent of participants are cutting back on print ads; 30 percent are reducing tradeshow attendance; and 48 percent say online will be a bigger portion of their marketing budget in 2009 than it was in 2008.

The GlobalSpec study also noted that some of the top marketing channels companies are exploring include online directories/Web sites, e-mail marketing, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), underscoring the push for online marketing. However, since 42 percent say they aren’t getting enough high quality leads, the move to marketing online clearly isn’t happening fast enough.

“You can market to a specific audience online,” Chariton noted. “You can get qualified leads. When times are tough you need to focus on where you can get the biggest return and you need to know where your audience is.”

When it comes to online leads, quality beats quantity. The GlobalSpec study found that lead quality, targeted audience exposure, and reach of marketing programs all ranked higher than lead quantity when it came to deciding how to spend marketing budgets.

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make would be to cut back on advertising and marketing when the economy falters, Chariton said.

“Companies have to keep their presence out there,” Chariton adds. “But you have to be smart and be able to get measurable results from your partners. Don’t just settle for basic web traffic.”

To accurately measure the success of your online initiatives and get those quality leads, you’ll need to go beyond traditional reach and exposure. Companies can do more with a few detailed leads versus a lot of anonymous clicks. Plus, analyzing measurements can show companies exactly what is working and what is not, so they don’t waste precious resources, and it allows companies to get more results.

“You need to go past clicks and impressions and take a look at how many downloads you get, or how many people filled out forms to request more information,” Chariton said. “Try areas where you can get quality leads with contact information.”

Whether it’s expanding into new markets, or shifting to online marketing, companies must keep up their marketing efforts to keep their customers’ attention. Moving online gets you to where your audience is, and choosing partners and programs that can provide measurable and high quality leads can help your business survive, even in times of economic hardship.

GlobalSpec is a vertical search, information services and e-publishing company serving the engineering, manufacturing and related scientific and technical market segments. For more information, visit