This article is the fourth in our new series: Marketing During An Economic Downturn. Throughout this series, we will be sharing articles that aim to guide businesses through tricky economic terrain. Across a series of marketing topics, you’ll learn actionable tips for using proven tools to help guide your business. From handy product insights, to ideas and inspiration, this series will be a valuable resource to any business looking to meet today’s challenges head on.
So, you’re running a business during an economic downturn. Now what?
As a business owner, you may notice your usual investment in marketing activities are returning less than ideal results. Your return on ad spend has begun to drop and it’s hard to justify the same marketing budget when everyone is feeling the pressure.
Working with other businesses in your network is one way to continue to grow brand awareness and sales opportunities when things are tight. Forming new professional relationships and nurturing current connections gives rise to avenues for collaboration and cross-promotion, not to mention mutual support during tough times.
The benefits of networking within your own ecosystem include reducing ad spend, accessing new markets, creating authentic brand experiences and building meaningful business relationships. Stuck on where to start, or maybe you’re a little nervous about networking for the first time. Here are a few tips to get started.
Grow your business ecosystem
Take the time to map out your current business relationships, from suppliers to friends in the same industry. What overlaps can you see in terms of sharing brand values? What gaps would you like to fill in your own marketing strategy that others do well? Get clear on your unique position in the market and what you can offer others.
Attend industry events
In person and online events are a great way to meet other business owners. Look for industry peak bodies, conferences and talks that are relevant to you. Learning together about trends and exchanging business stories is a great way to get to know people. Listen to the challenges others are experiencing and consider how you might be able to help each other.
Show support on social media
Make business friends online by engaging with their content. Do they have educational posts that you find genuinely useful? Do you appreciate the quality of their product? Don’t hesitate to let other business owners know you admire their work! You might be on their radar too – mutual interest can turn into collaboration ideas organically.
Nurture current relationships
Keep in touch with your current professional connections, including mentors and former colleagues. Meet for coffee, share contacts and talk shop. You’ll be top of mind when opportunities come along.
Leveraging your network for marketing activities
When in conversation with another company, identify the value you see in teaming up and be clear about your objectives. For a corporation, working with startups or social enterprises often allows them to position themselves as more cutting edge or authentic. Similarly, for small brands, access to new or larger audience segments can be the appeal of working with more established companies.
Cross-promote to new markets
Running a cross-promotion with a like-minded company can help get your product seen by another brand’s audience, and vice versa. A giveaway of both brands’ products as a package, promoted through both brands’ platforms, like Instagam and email marketing, is a popular model for growing social audiences. Consider how to maximise the opportunity, like asking giveaway participants to tag their friends as well as follow each brand as a condition of entry.
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Be a contributing guest
Do you have knowledge to share? Contact the organisers of events pitching the unique experience you’re willing to share with other businesses and the public. You can also tell your story and offer advice by writing a guest blog for another business’ website, hosting an Instagram takeover, or posting Instagram Stories for a day on another brands’ account. Creating worthwhile content for a brand partner simultaneously raises awareness of your own brand.
Collaboration as a long game
Some networking efforts may require a deeper time investment, like co-designing a product or an experience as part of a service-based offering. If you’re running a boutique hotel it could be reaching out to linen designers to create custom bed sheets or a local beverage maker to host facility tours. Collaborations that happen over time tend to create strong brand associations and partnerships that then lead to future opportunities.
During a difficult economic climate, leveraging your network is a great way to get your business out there as well as support other businesses, strengthening the market by working as a team.