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How To Optimize Your Marketing During An Inventory Shortfall

Selling through your inventory can feel like a double-edged sword. 

When sales are surging, you're happy that revenue is up, but you might also feel stressed by the demands of keeping the shelves stocked. When you're facing gaps between when your product availability and customer demand, you have to scramble to keep customers on the hook and not fleeing to your competition.

It's tempting to halt marketing campaigns temporarily at this point to staunch the flow of customers and perhaps conserve a little cash, but that could end up doing more harm than good. Let's talk about why you should continue marketing even if demand is higher than your supply. 

Maintain Your Brand Awareness 

During periods of inventory shortfall, it's critical to keep consumers engaged and informed about your brand and products. The consumer journey doesn't end because you're out of products to sell.  

Consistent marketing helps new consumers become aware of your brand and keeps your brand prominent in the minds of consumers who have already heard of you. Consumers are most likely to purchase from brands that have top-of-mind awareness. Rather than halt all advertising, you should temporarily stop advertising that contains direct calls to action and instead focus on a brand awareness campaign. 

A brand awareness campaign involves frequent advertising that helps consumers quickly associate the types of products you sell with your brand. For example, if you sell pontoon boats, a successful brand awareness campaign should position your company as a great place to buy a pontoon based on your brand's unique value statement. 

Typically, a brand awareness digital marketing campaign consists of display or video/OTT/CTV campaigns, Facebook ads, and content marketing blogs. These digital tactics allow marketers to advertise frequently and help consumers positively associate the products they seek with your company.  

You may already be engaged in some or all of these tactics. Pausing them can make it more difficult for consumers to find your brand when they are in the research phase of the consumer journey. 

By the time your inventory levels return to normal, consumers looking for your products may have already decided to make a purchase with one of your competitors who continued to market. You can avoid that issue if you shift the focus of your existing marketing from direct sales to brand awareness. 

Keep Customers Informed About Shortages 

Consistent marketing also helps you keep your dedicated customers informed about inventory shortages. Longtime customers will likely stick with you if they know what to expect, and transparency helps build trust. Consider that many industries are dealing with widely publicized supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic, customers are likely to be understanding and come back to you when you can fulfill their needs. 

Keep existing customers up to date by using your email marketing campaigns to provide updates about your supply. Update consumers on your blog and social media pages as well, interspersing updates with valuable, engaging content. Doing so can help you generate leads to reach out to later when you have products to sell.  

If you sell products online, provide stock level updates on the product listing pages on your website. You may be able to do so automatically if you have an inventory management system integrated with your online product listings. If not, you may need to spend the time and effort to make these updates manually. It may be time-consuming, but it can also mean the difference between keeping and losing customers. 

Be Ready To Act When New Inventory Arrives 

You might have some downtime while waiting to re-stock. Use that time effectively to prepare for future sales, similar to how you might prepare during an off-season. The relative downtime can help you develop additional marketing materials that will serve you well when your supply is back. 

When your inventory finally gets restored, take a look at the behavior of your customers and target consumers when your supply was low. You may stumble across some insights that make your marketing efforts more effective in the future. For example, when consumers complain you don't have a hot-selling product, you may learn that many people bought it for entirely different reasons than you thought. Knowing this can help you tailor more effective ads that speak to your consumers' needs. 

Because your marketing stayed consistent and focused on brand awareness when inventory was low, it should be relatively easy to change your marketing messages to include more direct calls to action and drive sales. 

In addition, you can utilize your new shipments arriving as a marketing opportunity. Create a special event to excite and encourage customers to return to your store when you've got products in hand. Make announcements on your social media accounts and in your email marketing.   

Despite your best efforts at inventory management, it’s likely that your business will experience supply shortfalls at some point, often for reasons beyond your control. When they do occur, make sure that you resist the urge to quit marketing. Instead, focus on growing brand awareness, keeping customers engaged, and developing new marketing materials to position yourself for success when your shortfall is over.

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Lisa Sikkema

Written by Lisa Sikkema

Lisa Sikkema is the Director of New Business Development at Federated Digital Solution with over 25 years’ experience in sales & marketing and 13 of those years just focused on digital. Lisa’s passion for helping local businesses is what drives her to find and help as many local clients as possible. Lisa’s focus is to truly understand a clients business goals, challenges and expectations and then create customized strategies that will bring her clients the best ROI for their marketing dollars. Lisa loves when strategy meets technology to create measurable & consistent results.

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