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Sailing stormy seas

Small is beautiful – or at least it was for the captain of the QEII cruise liner as it was hauled off a sandbank in the Solent by a couple of helpful tug boats this week. By Deborah Rowe

The delay to the last leg of the liner’s journey, before heading off to Dubai, was down to bad weather. It did however make me think of big business leaders steering their corporate ships through choppy waters and what some smaller companies might be doing to navigate their way through it.

Like the QEII, big companies, in the present climate, may be struggling to manoeuvre and may be hoping for a helpful shove off their particular economic sandbank.

For some small and medium-sized companies, like the aforementioned tug boats, it should be easier to change direction quickly to avoid trouble or at least lay low until the storm passes.

That’s not to say that they won’t be feeling buffeted by the economic storm, but the chances are that they will be closer to their markets and hopefully more sensitive to their changing needs.

Small businesses are used to marketing on a tight budget and because of that they tend to be smarter about what they spend it on. They have learnt to keep their marketing simple, consistent and relevant. They know the importance of managing client relationships and they are generally in a better position to act when the market shifts.

Whatever the size of the business, as budgets tighten marketers need to get smarter - not just about what they do with it but what they are seen to do with it.

It costs less to develop new and existing business streams, with existing clients, than it does to win new business with new clients.

Now might be a good time to strengthen those relationships, add even more value, and make sure that they are getting what they need when they need it.

A happy client could be your best advert. Referrals and word-of-mouth have their place and, at a time when everyone is feeling vulnerable, personal recommendations are more valuable than ever.

Of course, this is just one small part of the marketing that needs to continue if businesses are to make it through difficult times, but the point is that good marketing doesn’t need to break the bank – sand or otherwise.

...And finally, we’re well into the exhibition season and it’s Civils 08 next week. Come and hear how you can put the wow factor into your exhibitions without blowing the budget, at the next CIMCIG networking event ‘Getting the most from Exhibitions’, 11 December. See for details.

Deborah Rowe, principal consultant of Sheba Marketing (, is a committee member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group.