Thursday, July 16, 2009

Marketing in Miserable Times

The economy is slow. That doesn’t mean your marketing should be!

I admit it. This article may appear to be a bit self-serving. But it is also intended to help you survive the interminable recession. After all, marketing is the first department cut in bad times, so you’re probably trying to survive with a skeleton crew.

If you’re like most of us, your first inclination is to tighten your belt. That’s what Kmart did during the 2001 recession. After two months of decreasing its marketing, Kmart saw sales drop 5%. Bottom line: Kmart lost more in sales than they saved in advertising costs.

Kmart’s blunder is borne out by studies dating back two generations to the
Great Depression. A 1927 study shows that companies which invested their marketing dollars well in the depth of the Depression gained market share and kept the momentum going afterwards. Companies that cut back were cut out.

If data from 1927 sounds like ancient history and therefore not applicable to today’s world, consider a 1993 study published by Penton Media which said “businesses that maintain aggressive marketing programs during a recession outperform companies that rely more on cost cutting measures.”

OK, cutting costs is truly important. Duh! But cutting communications with your base is cutting your own throat. Smart companies continue the dialogue, even in hard times. They listen and they learn.

Communicate with your customers. Email,…direct mail…telephone…visit them in person. You pick the method. Mix ‘em and match ‘em. But keep the channels of communication open.

Look for ways to differentiate yourself from the other guys. Use ideas, formats and technologies that maybe your base or industry hasn’t seen before.

Sure, you say. It’s Big Talk, but we have no budget.

So you think you’re different from everybody else out there? A small budget is just a big opportunity to be more creative!

If you’ve got nothing to invest but sweat equity, here are several ideas that might just help.

#1. Offer your customers and prospects something that they need. Something truly useful. It can be a whitepaper on your own industry trends (if you’re academically ambitious), a coupon (great for retailers), or an email newsletter providing relevant tips (it works—after all, you’re reading one now!)

#2. Promote your special offering through an online channel like a blog, e-newsletter or twitter. Point to a unique URL and require people to leave a small amount of personal data (name/address/phone/email) to “qualify” to receive the free info. Be sure to capture that data to track responses and capture potential sales leads.

#3. A number of industry websites are offering free whitepaper distribution. Simply let your industry association or leading industry publications know that you have created such a document and let them promote it for you, too.

#4. Seek out free publicity. For instance, one of our clients was recently featured in the Washingtonian Magazine as one of the best non-profits in the area. The extra coverage gave them great visibility and the third party blessing lent enormous credibility. Boy, did we make good use of that in their year-end appeal!

#5. Ask the eloquent and informed on your staff to do speeches at trade association meetings, chamber of commerce events, and other similar public events.

#6. Market your in-house experts to the media who always need a current list of who-knows-what about obscure topics. These in-house experts can keep your company name in the public eye and lend credibility to your company as leading industry experts.

#7. Recycle. Go to your industry periodicals and offer to write articles for them on leading indicators, trends, legislation that is changing your industry, etc. If you’ve done #1 and #5 above, the information is at your fingertips. Reuse it to your own benefit.

#8. Recycle the recycling. Go to your customer’s industry periodicals and offer the same information. Be sure to re-package it to get rid of any inherent industry jargon that may have crept in when you wrote for your own peers.

If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of coin to spend on
direct marketing, here are some ideas that cost, but can have big pay-offs, too! Use techniques and technologies that your customers and prospects haven’t seen before. It will make you stand out from the clutter.

#9. One of our clients launched a
PURL (personalized URL) program to better communicate with its marketbase. The two-way communications channel is open 24/7 and is exceeding expectations so far.

#10. Another client is using
VDP—Variable Data Printing—to market to his base. If you bought a blue Camry from this dealership in 2002, then your “Buy Back” postcard shows a blue 2002 Camry. The client is using variable graphics the way other people use variable data. Eye catching? Attention grabbing? You bet! The last postcard sold 47 cars in one weekend!

#11. Another client is using VDP to create customized brochures which he is using as a “leave behind” when he markets his services to prospects. Each brochure has the name of the buyer and his/her company prominently printed on it in color. He’d have to create a leave-behind piece anyway. For just a bit more money, he’s got a truly eye-popping document that says a lot about his firm and how innovative it is.
See where this is heading? Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. Sometimes you just need to brainstorm with someone else.

There are a lot of no-cost and low-cost ideas that we can use to help you promote your company. Additionally, we’re bursting with ideas and energy to help you make your marketing the most innovative stuff around.

Call Ellen at
Paul&Partners (703-996-0800) if you want someone to bounce ideas off. Or if you need an “out of the box” thinker to help you a bit.

Remember, when times are tough, the tough get going. Which side of the fence are YOU sitting on?

Paul & Partners Direct Marketing
43670 Trade Center Place,
Suite 150,
Dulles, VA 20166
Phone: 703.996.0800 Fax: 703.996.0888 1.866.365.2858

No comments: