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Riding Out the Recession: Marketing Tips for Hard Times
(Marketing Memo, April, 2008)

When times are tough, companies often delay filling vacant positions, upgrading computers, and even launching marketing campaigns. While you may be able to wait to hire staff or upgrade systems, you should not delay or drastically reduce your marketing initiatives.


Marketing is about momentum. Cumulative marketing initiatives generate sales.

  • Myth: After the recession, we can quickly fire up the marketing engine again.

    If you are not marketing during a down turn, but your competitors are, you will scramble to catch up when the economy improves.

  • Myth: The money we spend on a very good one-time ad will have a big impact.

    Expect little payback from a one-time ad. Advertising builds awareness-over time. Besides, many in your target market will miss your single ad. Save money other ways.

  • Myth: Being out there is what counts.

    A "spray and pray" approach is generally ineffective. Sending huge mailings to unqualified leads is costly and ineffective. As someone once said, "More is not necessarily better."

  • Myth: Flash works.

    Proper targeting and messaging are more important than investing in flashy collateral or in expensive videos. You can make these kinds of investments when the economy improves.


When resources are scarce, more focused marketing is advisable:

  • Focus on recession-proof verticals. "While real estate and new construction get hit hard in recessions, remodelers and repair services are busier than ever," says Alan Chapman, Alan Chapman Communications. He adds, "Seek businesses or start-ups in recession-proof industries whose marketing techniques 'leave something to be desired.'" The security and healthcare industries are relatively recession-proof.
  • Refresh and refine your customer lists. "Invest in building your [customer] lists and in getting to know those prospects and customers," suggests Pam Kukla, a telecom marketing communications expert. By scrutinizing your list, you will gain a better sense of which market segments to target in the future.
  • Use affordable web tools. Kukla also observes, "Making relatively modest investments in web tools that will … entice prospects to visit the company web site and providing [somewhat] personalized … experiences can make a positive difference… over the long term." You can segment prospects and design a few new links with content for the different segments, without redesigning you entire site.

Market smarter when resources are tight. Make every penny spent on marketing work. Some customers will buy despite the economy, and others will remember you when things improve. Plan for future downturns by developing business in additional vertical markets and by developing offerings that your target group will need, regardless of the economy.

Companies often attribute revenue declines to the recession. We can explore whether other controllable factors are contributors, e.g., product performance, the sales process, or product support.

Copyright © Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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