Web marketing: Alternative marketing in an economic downturn

By Manoj Aravindakshan

In March last year, John Quelch, a professor at the Harvard Business School, wrote a brief article titled ‘Marketing through a recession’ , where he listed eight suggestions to bear in mind when making marketing plans for this year. One of those messages was: “Maintain marketing spending. This is not the time to cut advertising.”

However, this advice does not seem to be palatable to companies, as all kinds of cuts galore. . ‘Marketing is a discretionary spend- and we are cutting down all of that’ is a common refrain that companies like ours unfortunately have to hear quite often these days. Not only that, we are seeing a sharp decline in online searches for marketing and branding services, an indication that, in general, companies are playing their marketing cards very cautiously.

Question is, will this really help them tide over the economic downturn or are they playing themselves into a vicious cycle? Considering that one of the major characteristics of economic turmoil is reduced consumer spending, the solution lies in being able to stimulate spending. Only advertising can do that, argues Bob Pittman, former Chief Operating Officer of Time Warner and a contributor to Fortune magazine. In fact, in his article , he calls for the US government - which came out with a $800 billion stimulus package- to come up with incentives to help companies advertise so that consumer spending gets the much-needed boost.

Irrespective of whether such incentives become available anywhere, it is important that companies do not adopt across-the-board cuts in marketing spend. Cut any and all wasteful spend by all means; however, ensure that the marketing machinery doesn’t run dry. Focus on optimizing the marketing mix to get maximum return on investment. One such option is to consider using the Internet for marketing more than before.

Web marketing and advertising- a great alternative, particularly for small businesses
While I do have a vested interest in promoting the web as a marketing medium, I doubt if there is a better choice when it comes to cost-effective marketing, particularly when everyone is trying to penny-pinch. This is particularly true for small to medium sized businesses, whose marketing budgets are usually small in any case.

Unlike the times of the dot-com bust, when Internet advertising was still in its infancy, we face today’s turbulent times with the web as a matured medium offering a number of options and unprecedented measurability. Whether it is search engine marketing (both organic- or popularly known as search engine optimization- or paid search advertising), banner advertising on web properties, online classifieds, or social media advertising, options galore for marketers.

Web marketing is a much more viable proposition because it offers marketers:

-  Innumerable ‘Free’ options: Well, almost. Nothing is absolutely free- particularly if we were to consider that time spent is equivalent to money spent- however, the Internet offers so many options for getting visibility without spending cash out of one’s pocket. Try getting that in any other medium!
-  Great control over marketing spend: Unlike most other media, web advertising offers a number of different pricing models, many of which (eg. paid search advertising) are auction-based. An advertiser gets to choose how much to spend and when, often with no minimum commitment in terms of time or budget.
-  Excellent targeting options, thereby increasing the probability of success of the campaign. Marketing no longer has to be a ‘spray and pray’ activity.
-  Flexibility to alter the marketing message/creative very quickly
-  Precision tracking: Just as web marketing has evolved, so has web analytics. Marketers can now get a fairly accurate measurement of the return on investment on each campaign and quickly make changes to their campaigns. It is very easy now to know which half of advertising is wasted!

Manoj Aravindakshan is Managing Director of On Target Marketing Solutions, a Mumbai-based Internet marketing company , specializing in search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising. Contact us today by submitting the inquiry form to your right or calling 022-64506796 to discuss how we can help strategize and execute a comprehensive and cost-effective web marketing campaign for your business.

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