Time to hold your nerve?

Marketing budgets are being cut all around. IPA Bellweather reported recently that companies are planning the deepest cut in marketing expenditure since the financial crisis of 2008/9. Largest cuts are in market research, events (unsurprisingly) and public relations. But advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing are also suffering.

But past experience tells us that cutting marketing investment in difficult times may be a very short sited tactic. Evidence suggests that, unless it really is a question of business survival, it could be high risk. Expect an inevitable loss of market share, slower sales and consequential slower recovery in profits.

It’s especially critical in the current garden retail situation, because customer behavior has radically changed in a very short period of time. Retail buyers are facing different challenges around stock availability and the new shopping environment as well as the shifting habits of their customers. The normal seasonal buying cycle is disrupted; major range reviews postponed. Supplier brands who remain front of mind in this tricky trading environment are likely to be able to take most advantage of new and changing opportunities.

Consumer shopping behavior is shifting too. They are spending much more time online – searching for products and ideas as well as shopping. I’ve written before about the new garden consumer who has emerged from lockdown. They’re new to our sector and not necessarily tuned in to the brands with which we are all so familiar. It’s vital for suppliers to capture their attention to build the brand advocates of the future.

All these factors make effective marketing activity more critical than ever. If brands don’t have a good conversation going with their retail buyers or their end consumers, the more agile challengers and new brands will step  in to take up the slack. The IPA Bellweather reports that 16% of brands plan to increase and adjust their marketing spend over the next 12 months. They are the businesses that will emerge as the new brand leaders.

But it’s hard to hold your nerve. How to balance the risk of cutting marketing budgets with the risk of financially over-exposing the business? How to work out the most cost-effective strategy when the garden retail world has completely changed? Spend on research and insight to guide your marketing? Or just keep doing what you have always done and hope for the best? Break out into a new digital communications programme to try and reach those new gardeners? Or stick to what has worked in the past? Or just batten down the hatches, suspend all marketing and hope for the best?

You may not have the optimum skills or experience in your business to answer these questions? Maybe you are just too busy keeping the day to day ‘balls in the air’ to give it proper consideration. Would it help if you could have the services of a garden-industry marketing resource that you can dip into – by the week, by the day or just by the hour? A low risk investment in garden category expertise to help you navigate the new situation and get the most from your marketing budgets.

For a completely no-obligation chat about what challenges you are facing, and to explore if there are ways I can build and deliver a cost-effective marketing programme for your business, please drop me a line. Or even better, call. I’d love to hear from you.