Following on from the flexible business model that we developed to ensure the perpetual survival of businesses it makes sense to explore how growth can be achieved with flexible marketing without ‘betting the farm’.
The principles of flexible marketing are similar to those of survival as they involve tight cash management and being aware of the fixed nature of many contracts for promotion initiatives that either don’t work or become a financial burden.
Marketing can be complicated and there are lots of alternative ways to achieve marketing objectives where it is often difficult to measure success in terms of ‘return on marketing spend’ or ‘bang for buck’ when developing a marketing plan.
Marketing activities can serve a number of purposes which makes measurement even more difficult. The model that works best will be different for every business, but when markets are so uncertain and cash is tight marketing can make the difference between failure, survival or growth. The key is to understand then manage the relationship between cost and return for different marketing activities. Flexibility reduces the cost of switching between activities which in turn reduces the cost of getting it wrong.
Possible marketing objectives include generating new sales leads, selling different products or services to existing customers, launching a new product, persuading potential customers to buy from you, or reassuring clients by building a reputation, particularly for those firms selling advice or professional services when they want to set up or move into a new geographical market.
Having established your purpose and defined objectives you need to consider various marketing initiatives, affordability and how they might be measured in terms of cost and outcome. Essentially flexible marketing is based on a process of trial and error where you can afford to get it wrong.
Simply placing a single advertisement can work for some firms even if it is expensive, providing the results justify the cost.
Affordability versus flexibility can be an issue especially when payment is spread over a period of time. While flexibility is likely to cost more, most initiatives can be easily trialled and measured without the need for a long-term commitment to test whether they work, e.g. pay per click such as Google Adwords, internet banners, leaflets, posters, adverts on print, radio or television, redemption vouchers, point of sale promotions, text based promotions, stands at trade fairs and even short-term rent or pop-up shops.
Less easy to measure are longer term marketing initiatives such as publishing articles in online media to generate visits to a company’s website. Similarly public relations and press releases to relevant media can generate press interest that raises awareness but may not produce immediate sales. These are more speculative, need not be expensive and can help establish a reputation for the business as an expert in its field. They offer longer term benefits since they tend to be picked up by search engines and therefore have a long life. Using such methods will depend on whether the business firstly can afford to invest the money and secondly is looking to a longer term return than immediate sales or orders.
Whatever initiatives are deployed, the marketing mix needs to be continuously reviewed and refined in exactly the same way as applies to using a flexible, cost sensitive business model.
Add a flexible marketing model to a flexible business model and you can both ensure perpetual survival in a difficult economic climate and perpetual growth.