For Natural Products Marketers, It’s a Great Time to Do Business-in a Very Fresh Way

October 5, 2010

Knowing how business cycles work is part of strategic communications planning. We recommend that our clients follow a strategy that provides dual marketing budgets. One is a standard, “allocated” budget. The other is a newer concept, an “opportunities” budget.

Remember the skimpy national magazines of a few months ago? Personally, I recall picking up a health and fitness magazine that felt very limp and unfit. In down times, many companies seem to disappear in terms of advertising. However, they don’t really go away. They simply decide to pull back their marketing budgets and lie low.

Forward-looking companies see the opportunity to leverage lower media rates that may be available during difficult economic times to reinforce their brands and solidify their customer base. While they may cut back on advertising to a degree, these companies don’t raid their advertising and marketing budgets to cover other company needs. This is why these companies and their products are the ones customers see on a consistent basis. And, when the economy reboots, these companies hold a competitive edge because they’ll have been top-of-mind with consumers all along.

Knowing how business cycles work is part of strategic communications planning. We recommend that our clients follow a strategy that provides dual marketing budgets. One is a standard, “allocated” budget. The other is a newer concept, an “opportunities” budget.

The allocated budget is the big boy, so to speak. It sets the marketing course for the year and needs to do the heavy lifting and deliver. It charts the safe course of tried-and-true results and includes the media and marketing needs for the year based on information currently on hand. It covers advertising, public relations, social media, online media, and other components. In short, the allocated budget is the dependable workhorse.

The opportunities budget is allocated for following new paths. It is strategically held in reserve to capitalize on developments that may not be present at the time the annual budget is planned. It exists strictly to take advantage of opportunities that may arise later in the year. For instance, when media representatives get in touch with special deals and bonus pages, the opportunities budget comes into play.

When marketers have major successes, the opportunities budget provides resources to develop case histories, photography, web postings, direct mailings, and trade show handouts to advertise this success. When good things happen, the opportunities budget provides the funds to promote them. Conversely, this budget can also be spent when marketers need to partner with other marketers to fight legislation or ideas that are bad for the industry.

The idea behind the opportunities budget is to spend it just like the allocated budget. It must be tracked and documented in very real terms. The opportunities budget is very intentional; the dollars spent are to support and leverage sales and marketing efforts and are accountable in every way.

In the end, I don’t expect to see more money in client budgets, but I do intend to apply new ways of thinking about how to best leverage the money that’s there. All of us have learned to have some cash on the side to survive in economic hardship. How about having some cash set aside to help a company grow and prosper?

Nancy Wilhelms is president of WestGroup Marketing Communications Inc. She has worked in the natural products industry as marketing director for a natural products company. As president of WestGroup, she has been serving the marketing and public relations needs of natural products companies and businesses since 1982. She is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America. Contact Nancy at nancyw@teamwestgroup.com.