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Marketing Your Way Out of the Recession

It’s anyone’s guess when the recession bottoms out and we get back to growth.  Rather than remain in a “state” of denial – like California did for too long – or adopt a hunker down mentality – “let’s just ride this one out” – as many companies have, there’s a middle path of taking proactive measures steps now, so that when growth reappears, your company is better positioned to gain an unfair share of the increased customer demand that will be there to harvest.  Here are a few considerations to come out will your guns ablazing. 

Get back to basics.  One of my colleagues recently said to me, “since when did marketing strategy become an oxymoron?”  What he meant by this remarks is that the recession is causing many marketers to start changing strategies on the fly and resort to strategy-de-jour or reactive tactics at the expense of strategy.  Doing so runs the risk that any near term gain may lead to an erosion in your company’s long term growth potential.   In the drive to generate sales now, I understand the need to be flexible in adjusting the marketing mix and go to market tactics.   What I don’t understand are companies who forsake their established brand position and value proposition in the process. 

Everything starts with how your brand, products and services are perceived by your customers and prospects.  If, for example, you have a recognized position as a premium offering, does it make sense to start claiming you’re the “truly affordable solution” just because we’re in a recession?  Do so could diminish your market position and why do this for customers who may not remain loyal if they only selected your company based on price? 

Don’t forget segmentation.  All customers and all markets are not equal in terms of attractiveness and value.  Of course everyone may know this, but it surprises me that many companies still treat most segment opportunities as if they have they are equal.  In all markets, whether developing or established, there are always segments that are more likely to adopt your particular product or service, and certain ones that are also willing to pay more due for your solution if you can solves the most painful customer problems.  Why not focus more of your dollars, programs and efforts on the higher value customers? 

The second aspect of segmentation that is key in gearing up to ride out the recession is to balance the marketing investment between acquisition, conversion and retention (or upsell) activities.  Your place in the technology lifecycle adoption curve (e.g. early market or mainstream), and how much revenue you can realize from existing customers versus new prospects should also influence how much you allocate to each segment.  The question about marketing mix (e.g. how much for print vs. online, trade shows vs. webinars, email vs. telemarketing, etc.) should always come after prioritizing customer segments according to attractiveness.  Which segments are comprised of customers more likely to buy, remain loyal, and be open to cross sell and upsell opportunity? For new companies and/or new products, this decision can be more difficult to ascertain, but when companies have achieved a critical mass in several segments or industries, historical sales and trend analysis can lead to a more intelligence and productive allocation of marketing resources.  Sticking to a sound marketing strategy, or revising one this is no longer working is worth the time it takes to get it right and it increase your odds of exiting the recession revved up versus stuck in neutral.

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