Marketing in a challenging economy | Patti Rowlson

By Patti Rowlson
Contributing writer 

Marketing a small business during tough economic times is challenging. For the past four years, small businesses have searched for ways to trim expenses of all kinds, including what they spend on marketing. At the same time, they have been looking for new and affordable ways to increase revenues.

When it comes to trimming marketing expenses, it’s important to look at where your marketing and advertising dollars are really being spent, and to evaluate whether or not those efforts have made a difference.

Reviewing marketing expenses can be as simple as running accounting reports and checking out return on investment (ROI) statistics/measurements you have access to.

It can also entail meeting with company managers or a trusted adviser to discuss results, brainstorm ways to increase effectiveness or leverage an investment, or identify marketing programs to cut altogether.

As far as looking at new and affordable ways to increase revenues for your small business, there are many options and great ideas out there.

Here are five low or no-cost methods you could implement today.

– Evaluate products and services. Get rid of slow moving inventory or services that customers are not using so you can focus your energies, and marketing budget, on areas of your business that are producing results. Ask customers what else they think your business should offer—you may be surprised by their ideas.

– Review pricing. In recent years, consumers have learned to look for value. They want to feel like they are getting the most for their hard earned dollars. Consider bundling products to offer added value or negotiating with suppliers so you can adjust pricing in another way. Stay competitive by checking your competitor’s prices. They might have made adjustments that are having an adverse impact on your business.

– Reward advocates. Are there a handful of customers, friends or fellow business professionals that consistently send new business your way? Make sure to acknowledge their support. Reward them with a freebie from your business, take them to lunch, send referrals and business their way whenever possible or write a testimonial they can use in their own marketing materials.

– Invest time in networking. Get out there and spend “face time” with people in your target market. Join a networking group, attend a social media meet-up or invite key contacts to coffee. If you are already paying for memberships in networking or business groups, make sure you leverage that investment by actively attending their events.

– Maintain a positive attitude. People prefer to associate with successful, positive companies, so make sure you are not grumbling about your business or the economy out in the community. Remind your employees about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude around customers. Spend time talking about aspects of your business you are proud of, like a new order that may have come through or a project your company recently completed.

Many folks in our area have been in business for years—including readers of this article. If you have additional tips for increasing revenue or trimming costs, please feel free to comment below.

Patti Rowlson of PR Consulting Services is a publicist and marketing consultant in Whatcom County. Her columns appear on on the last Thursday of each month. Connect with Rowlson on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for additional marketing tips, or visit her website at

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