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Ruedi: Adapt your marketing plan to inflationary times

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Consumers have become tentative and uncertain about the economy. Inflation has hit a 40-year high as of July 2022, driving up costs for everything from restaurant meals to electronics. And the vicious cycle of labor shortages and supply chain issues has created product and service delivery challenges for just about every sector.

You know the headlines, and you probably know the marketplace realities they have created.

What you may still be struggling with is the shape and form that your marketing should take during these turbulent times.

What to avoid

It’s tempting to keep your head down until this whole thing blows over. After all, why promote what may or may not be available to sell? Plus, a reduction in marketing spending can contribute to your bottom line, right? Of course, you will also need to raise prices to cover the increased cost of delivery — gas, supplies and labor.

The problem is this combination of going quiet and increasing your prices could potentially leave you out of sight, out of mind, and out of the purchase decision altogether.

You may reduce costs in the short run, but possibly at the expense of long-term loyalty, and maybe even erode awareness too. This strategy could make your product optional to the point of being forgettable, depending on how long these conditions continue.

Finally, passing along price hikes runs the potential risk of losing consumers forever. As they become increasingly less willing to tolerate higher prices, demand may weaken and buying habits may change, possibly for the long term. In the best case, consumers may increase their deal-seeking behaviors, intensifying the quest for market share. In the worst case, consumers may adopt new behaviors that leave your category or brand in the cold altogether.

Instead of going quiet and risking irrelevance, here are three marketing strategies tailor-made to consider for inflationary times:

Focus on staying top of mind

We believe brands that invest in marketing and innovation during economically difficult times are in a possible position to win the day when consumer buying habits inevitably shift. In this environment, short-term losses are likely. But the question is, will those losses continue after inflation settles and supply chains normalize, or will you consider those losses as a potential investment in brand awareness and customer retention?

Cater to the need to save

More consumers will exhibit value-seeking behaviors and grow to value those brands that deliver uncomplicated savings. If you offer a deal, you may not only meet a real need, but you will also help play to the heart.

Using coupons and other incentives may be exactly what is needed to attract shoppers who are ready to trade down or even skip the purchase altogether. And in the process of securing the sale, you may improve satisfaction and get on their list for the next purchase.

Smart advertising

Because of labor issues and supply chain disruptions, business owners may have no product to sell even if consumers are in the mood to buy. Restaurants and retailers have abbreviated store hours, grocery stores grapple with recurring out-of-stock items and some products, like cars and electronics, take extra time for delivery. So, it is particularly important to match your marketing to the available inventory and maximize sales opportunities in this environment. Making that happen is a matter of working smarter, rather than harder.

Connecting brand to consumer needs

As tough as it may be to effectively advertise with these economic headwinds, times are particularly tough for consumers. And the more empathic you are, the more impact you’ll have on consumers.

Though the exact tactics may vary, we know one thing: Going quiet is the last thing you should do.

John Ruedi is a regional marketing specialist with Savant Wealth Management in Bloomington.

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