the “r” Word:
the upshot on Marketing
during a doWnturn.
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.
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.
the top 10 recession
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?
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
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?
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
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.
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 www.dearagency.com. 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.
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 www.citrusbegin.com 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. i promise not to waste your time. after all,
time is money.
need a quick take on us? Visit www.citrusbegin.com
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 www.dearagency.com.