Marketing Strategically in a bad Economy

Marketing Strategically in a bad Economy

By John Tedstrom
Managing Director, Insight and Strategy

The current economic climate reminds me of the 90s when I worked for the agency doing marketing for GTE. GTE cut its Q4 advertising spending to zero due to a slowdown in its business. But research shows that may have been the worst thing to do. Firms that cut spending during a recession saw their business fall for the next two years, with impact for up to five years. Aggressive companies grow during a recession by taking advantage of softening media costs and competitors that cut back.
With bad news every day, it’s difficult to think long term. Warren Buffet recently said, “The economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 and, for that matter, probably well beyond. Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so.” Finding ways to think both short- and long-term is the best way to be positioned when that human potential is finally unleashed.
Here are five ways to accelerate your marketing strategy today, without hurting tomorrow.
1. Use iterative strategy planning tools to get to consensus fast. Quick-hit iterative strategy planning is in. There’s no time for long drawn out planning processes. Just be ready with contingency plans when things change.
2. Don’t cut marketing spending. Cutting spending can have negative impact and only provide short-term gains. Aggressive companies that spend their way out of the recession may be long-term winners. Although marketing strategies do need to be focused on short-term successes, the key is to drive short-term sales without sacrificing your brand over the long term.
3. “Get famous” with social media accelerators. Social media and word-of-mouth are low-cost ways to extend the reach of your marketing and get people talking. Start conversations with “comment-worthy” content and make it easy for customers to share. Join conversations where they are already talking about your products.
4. Leverage your brand. Brands like Wal-Mart have done well in the current market partly due to a brand orientation that resonates in tough times and connects with today’s high emotions. Wal-Mart’s tagline, “Spend Less. Live Better,” is a brilliant example of making a brand relevant today. Brands like Starbucks may do well positioned as a simple indulgence amidst a swirling economy. That’s short-term thinking with a long-term view.
5. Use traffic accelerators to drive quality traffic. Search marketing is one of the most efficient ways to drive traffic to your website because it catches consumers in the act of searching for your brand. With most conversion rates around 1-2%, optimize on traffic quality (not quantity alone) and make the most of it with search-correlated landing pages designed for conversion.
Now is not the time to be timid. More short-term focused than usual, yes. Think of this recession as a great new marketing opportunity. You might just feel better in the morning.

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