A couple of years ago, I was approached by a client who was looking for help on the marketing front.
In the previous years they have dedicated hundreds of thousands of dollars to advertising and marketing campaigns to sell their products.
Despite all their efforts, their products weren’t selling and they were spending more than they were earning. So, they did what many would do in their case: lay off some staff and cut down on the marketing and advertising budgets. But that still didn’t help.
After analysis we came to realise that the problem wasn’t so much with their marketing efforts but with the products - and they took some deep convincing. When they launched the company they were advised by the best strategists that they should launch products x,y,z, but because these consultants were foreign to the region, the products didn’t appeal to local customers and the offering was lost in translation. What needed to be done was to change what they were offering.
Fast forward, they are doing better and don’t need to spend so much on marketing to push their products. The products are speaking for themselves.
Marketing is one of the many components of running a business and works hand in hand with the other aspects. Although it often seems like common sense to cut down on the marketing budget, especially when things get rough, you need to consider the following scenarios that could be negatively affecting your business:
Lack of customer service
This is a situation I often face with local businesses on social media. Many businesswomen are behind some beautiful creations in fashion and they don’t even need marketing to sell their products. However, when it comes to customer service, they fail terribly.
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Some only operate on WhatsApp messenger and don’t share phone numbers for their customers to contact them on. And email is out of the question because many don’t even check theirs, nevertheless respond to it.
Customer service can weaken or strengthen the relationship clients have with the brands. It could make your customers run to or from you.
Just as in my client’s case, you could be spending a great deal on marketing but that effort doesn’t convert into sales. If you find yourself in such a situation, I strongly advise you to revise your business strategy, conduct focus groups and confirm that nothing is wrong with your product. You don’t want to realise that there is after you have invested a lot of money into your marketing.
Focus on what people like and do more of that
You could have one more product that your customers just adore and the others aren’t doing so well, and this is the case with many businesses out there. Take that into consideration and focus on that product’s attributes. What traits does that product have that could be applied to the others and improve them? Or perhaps you could just focus on providing that product instead of wasting your resources what won’t sell.
This is not say that marketing is not blame. In some cases, the products are fine but the marketing isn’t and that could be attributed to either hiring the wrong marketing professional or agency, which is a mistake that many businesses make.
And this is why I strongly advise clients to take their time when they are hiring a marketing agency. Do not simply just sign an agreement with the first company you meet. At the same time you need to make sure that the one you do sign understands your culture, your product and will be able to communicate your offering effectively.
If you are appealing to a very specific local target audience then perhaps it’s best to go with a very local specific agency or a professional who knows their market best. Some of the best local marketing professionals are freelancers and don’t work with big agencies.
Whatever is causing your poor business performance, don’t instantly slash the marketing budget. Take your time to analyse all aspects of your business structure and act accordingly.
You may even find that more than one aspect of your business needs addressing.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications firm in Abu Dhabi.