Marketing and the R Word


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Marketing and the R Word

  1. 1. Marketing and the “r” Word: the upshot on Marketing during a doWnturn. noVeMBer 2008
  2. 2. open any newspaper—or internet news portal, for that matter—and you’re likely to see what’s become a sign of the times: a man in a business suit clutching his temples (or for variety’s sake, hanging his head) in despair. the specter of a recession has materialized into an economic haunted house, complete with tumbling stocks, flailing financial behemoths and fearful predictions of a pink slip tsunami and dismal holiday sales. Yes, times are tough. But what’s even tougher is figuring out what to do now. Fortunately, citrus has the answers—from a marketing perspective, that is. this white paper is a neuron-stimulating marketing package of tips and tactics to help your business survive—maybe even thrive—during the current economic climate. it’s the upshot of the downturn, a way to mitigate the bad times and maximize the good. Will it boost the economy? curtail inflation? solve mortgage mayhem? probably not. But it can help you weather the economic squalls still ahead.
  3. 3. recession: is it oFFiciaL? does it Matter? the definition of “recession”: a) a significant decline in the gdp b) a stock market drop of 20% c) doesn’t really matter the correct answer is “c.” Forget textbook definitions and economic indicators. if people believe that the country is in a recession, they will behave (and buy) as if it’s in a recession. the sands are shifting on a daily—even hourly—basis. one aspect, however, has remained the same: america’s mood. an october, 2008 peW research center study reveals a state of economic dysphoria impervious to political cheerleading. “americans are concerned about the nation’s economic problems almost to the exclusion of every other issue, and they register the lowest level of national satisfaction ever measured in a pew research center survey. Just 11% say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country -- down 14 points in the past month alone.” Because 21st century men and women wear their hearts on their digital sleeves, search activity can be a powerful barometer of public perception. the chart below shows google search activity for the term “recession.” as you can see, the term “recession” has been more than a little active.
  4. 4. the top 10 recession Marketing tips We’ve been spending a great deal of time discussing strategies and tactics for marketing in a recession with our clients. We have also been thinking hard about how to market our own business during the downturn (we are expert guinea pigs). the result of all that thinking, discussing and strategizing is this list of key marketing tactics that companies need to consider in order to grow. of course, depending on your specific business category, your mileage may vary. 1. Analyze, Prune, Build start here: analyze everything you can. determine what’s working. and what isn’t. Move here: spend smarter. eliminate what isn’t working. do more of what is. Walk the talk: Build programs where an roi can be measured. “how do i measure roi?” is being asked by every one of our clients. it is critical to build roi measurement tools—website and email tracking, telephone tracking, word of mouth tracking, etc.—into your 2009 marketing communications plan. kill what doesn’t work and keep on doing what does. 2. Hug Your Customers For years, we have espoused customer relationship building in white papers, podcasts and our own marketing philosophy. We strongly believe that creating “delighted customers” is critical in a recession. delighted customers buy more, buy more often, buy at a higher margin and act as brand evangelists who will drive viral marketing for you. and who wouldn’t want more of that? so how do you create delighted customers? strategies include customer segmentation, customer research to determine what makes customers delighted, and building customer databases for direct sales, direct mail and email programs. We also recommend leveraging the power and love of your current customer base via referral programs. as part of this program, analyze your customer touch points. these include all face- to-face, marketing and digital contacts. do all customer touch points support your brand positioning? are they aligned? is the messaging clear and consistent? do they delight? as silly as it may sound, many hotel customers love those freshly made chocolate chip cookies – and come back for more. pillow mints anyone?
  5. 5. as an adjunct to customer touch point analysis, consider creating brand new customer and prospect touch points. experiential marketing is growing fast. Marketers want to get up close and personal with their audience and smart marketers are creating the experiences to do so. i was in portland recently when Make-a-Wish, one of our clients, gave a child his wish to meet star Wars storm troopers. the event was held in a high-visibility location downtown, and the wish child and the crowd on the street were blown away when the troopers jumped off a street car. We added a bit of pr and the event was covered by tV stations, extending the experience beyond the participants. needless to say, everyone was delighted. 3. Focus on Who Not to Target in a recent american Marketing association study, 67% of marketers stated that refining target audiences it is an important strategy for reducing the effect of an economic downturn. if you can run a market segmentation study, take a hard look at where your business is really coming from and go after it with laser-like efficiency. try to assign a cost of acquisition to customer tiers, and then create a quintile analysis. it just might be time to cut off the bottom twenty percent of your prospects. the analysis doesn’t always yield quick answers or easy decisions. after all, while it may be relatively easy to figure out who isn’t a hot prospect, it might make sense to reactivate efforts that target dormant leads and past customers. 4. Invest in Growth gM’s stock price recently hit lows not seen since the 1950s. a key reason? too many gas-guzzling suVs and trucks on the lots. Who was surprised at this blunder? didn’t we all see it coming? take your resources, no matter how limited, and study your market to see where the growth will come from. then invest in these growing market segments. 5. It’s the Message, Stupid it was the economy for clinton. and it was the economy for both obama and Mccain. Maybe even you. this is good time to look—really look—at your messaging. are you telling the right story? are you delivering a smart value message? are you concise so that busy prospects can actually digest what you want them to hear? are you differentiating yourself from the competition in a positive and meaningful way?
  6. 6. seth godin, quite possibly the most-read marketing writer and blogger, talks about the importance of choosing the right brand story to tell. he points out that in a recession, mass psychology changes and the stories we tell ourselves change as well. he points to starbucks, which might need to change its brand story from the “indulgence of someone happy to blow $4 on a cup of coffee” to a smaller indulgence for “the person who just traded down to a small rented apartment.” it also might be a good time to conduct market research to unearth some customer gold. as godin indicates, people’s attitudes are shifting. now more than ever, knowledge is power. is the message price or Value? While everyone is focused on bears and bulls, let’s not forget that one of the most important indicators of americans’ economic psyche is marketing. Marketing speaks volumes about what’s on people’s minds and what they want to hear. already, marketers have gone with the financial flow, honing their messages to reposition benefits and inspire consumers to spend their hard-earned—and in some cases, diminishing—paychecks with them. although some marketers rely solely on communicating an empathetic, we’re-all-in- this-together tone, we’re starting to see a big move to value positioning and messaging. a clear value message provides a strong and compelling reason to purchase. kool aid is talking up how many drinks you get from each package and how the cost of each drink compares with a can of coke. the oregonian is hyping the amount of coupon savings ($106) in a recent sunday paper. one of my favorite value stories is the current advertising campaign for hilton garden inn. hilton’s research indicated that the benefit of the benefit (a comfortable hotel experience) is a good night’s sleep. here is how hilton described the campaign in a 2007 press release, “the focus of the advertisement is not the bed but rather the guest. emphasizing people first is part of the brand’s overall goal to help travelers work smart, stay fit, eat well, and, as illustrated in this execution, achieve a ‘sleep deep’ experience - showing that whatever guests need to achieve, hilton garden inn offers the services and amenities for travelers to have everything, right where they need it.” i couldn’t say it any better myself.
  7. 7. 6. Think Different When the competition zigs, it’s time to zag. it is amazing how conservative marketers become in a downturn. and that’s fine. Just make sure that you are the one that’s different, “smart different,” so that you stand out from the pack and catch a bit of attention. examples of thinking different are: < apple and its ipod and iphone product strategies (that one’s a gimme) < iBM, which shifted from hardware to software and services < cadillac, which finally started to run advertising that was relevant to the under 60 crowd < the oscar Meyer Weiner-mobile thinking different doesn’t have to be expensive. our internal review of research on why clients change advertising agencies and how hard it is for them to channel donald trump and say, “You’re fired” led us to build this site has had over 9,000 visits since its launch in March (with about $500 in marketing and an aggressive blogger campaign). We’ve received some promising new business inquiries as a result. 7. Price it Right no, panic pricing won’t work. But a smart pricing strategy that includes well-conceived pricing tactics is critical. here are a couple of ideas: rather than dropping prices on your highest priced products or services, consider creating flanker products that deliver lower pricing to lower-value customers. service business? if you can isolate pricing by customer, it might make sense to go for cash flow right now and be a bit flexible with your margins. consider short-term promotions to drive traffic and interest. not surprisingly, the redemption of consumer coupons is on the rise. however, be careful not to do this too often or you will train your market, pavlovian-style, to wait for specials to make the cash register ring. 8. Go Souk When i first visited the souks, or markets, in the Middle east, i was told that americans are poor negotiators. Well, get your fez on because when times are tough, it’s time to negotiate—with the media, that is. Media companies, with their perishable product, are quite willing to negotiate off the rate-card. You can use your newfound leverage to get lower pricing or serious extra value in bonus spots/ads or promotions. it’s like shopping in a market in Marrakech. More or less.
  8. 8. 9. The “Why Nots?” of New Media take a very hard look at your website. if it has become your major communication tool and “brochure,” then it’s worth looking at again (and again) to ensure that it’s performing and meeting your latest objectives. Websites are living and breathing entities. don’t assume that if it worked in the go-go days of 2006, that it’s working hard for you in 2009. Why not take a fresh look at your old site? search engine marketing will continue to grow. With precise targeting and measurement (including conversion tracking), why wouldn’t this be a part of your media mix? 2007 saw the use of seM grow across a range of categories: retail accounted for 49% of the total; automotive 22%; leisure 13% and packaged goods at 8% (source: iaB). sure, it’s getting expensive with more of your category’s marketers bidding up key words. that said, seM experts can help you build smart, efficient programs if used wisely. citrus has been recommending mobile media as a savvy new marketing tool. Mobile marketing is sending brand messages and building relationships via the most ubiquitous media device of all: mobile phones. With phones in virtually every pocket in america and opportunities in low-cost text-based marketing, why wouldn’t you want to get there ahead of your competitors? Visit the thinking section of our website at to get a pdF of our mobile marketing white paper, “Mobile Marketing. a good call.” 10. The Future i was going to stop with nine tactics. however, according to the gods of whitepaperdom (and stone tablets, for that matter), the best lists of rules have 10 points. While we’re fretting about today’s down market/up inflation/down housing, we should also be thinking about the future. or at least a few months out. the future is, and has been for a few years, digital marketing. i could go on for pages about how most marketers are not even covering the basics, like having a segmented customer and prospect database, a smart email program, a clear understanding of what blogging is all about, how to place an ad on google, or even, as i mentioned earlier, an updated website. But i won’t. instead, i’ll make a single suggestion: spend some time learning to understand the power of social media. social media are the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences and perspectives with each other. it’s the digital water cooler, and it’s attracting more people than ever. You probably first saw social media on amazon with robust reader reviews. then you read some blogs. today it’s everywhere, and sites like Myspace (younger), Facebook (a bit older) and business oriented Linkedin (you need to get on this and i’ll be your first friend when you start) are where many local and national consumer dialogues are taking place.
  9. 9. using social media for branding, reputation-shaping, consumer research, even recruitment will become a critical element of your marketing programs now and in the future. Want to know more? Want to review your marketing strategy in light of the recession? give me, peter Levitan (i am the ceo here at citrus), a call at 541.419.2309 or send an email to i promise not to waste your time. after all, time is money. need a quick take on us? Visit oh, if you are ready to jettison your current agency today to move to a more roi-friendly group, you might want to use that handy-dandy “We make it easy to fire your current agency” tool at