Marketing in a Tough Economy
Robert Middleton, top international marketing guru asks the question on everyone’s mind right now:
"What is going to happen to my business if the economy keeps spiraling downwards?"
His reply offers solid advice.
There's a lot of shocking financial news recently. The two major mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae and
Freddie Mac, were just taken over by the federal government, the brokerage Lehman Brothers is in
bankruptcy, banks are either closing or being bought out, foreclosures are at an all-time high, the stock
market is plummeting and consumer prices are up all around.
Add to that a couple of major hurricanes and the uncertainty of the presidential elections, and a lot of
people are reacting with fear, uncertainty and hesitation.
Are you finding that your clients are reluctant to pay for professional services right now? Are contracts
not being renewed? Are referrals drying up? Perhaps it's not that dire for you right now, but when the
economy tanks, professional service businesses are often hit hard.
Are there specific things you can do to market yourself in a down economy? Yes there are. Let me
share a few with you.
1. Have an actual marketing plan. That is, a plan to carry out specific marketing activities. Most
professionals have no plan at all. Nothing! We wait for referrals and perhaps call up past clients to see
if they have any work. A plan is a definite strategy developed for the purpose of connecting with new
prospects and converting them into clients. What's your plan?
2. Accelerate and multiply your marketing. Most businesses cut back on marketing when the economy
slows. If you accelerate your marketing, you will be more visible than ever. You don't have to do
expensive activities, you just need to be out there more. Networking, speaking, events and tele-classes
are all relatively inexpensive. Get out there, don't hide!
3. Deliver programs, not services. The best way to market and sell an intangible service is to make it
tangible. Don't just sell "management consulting services." That's too vague. Create programs that
have very defined parameters and promised outcomes. Sell this program at a fixed price with clear
deliverables and guarantees. Increase your perception of value.
4. Be willing to negotiate. It's always better to sell "something for less than nothing for more." Your
clients are going to be looking for deals as well as great value. For instance, let them know that you've
re-structured your services so that they will need to invest less if they are willing to do more of the
5. Go to the bottom line. All professional services need to be seen as an investment, not an expense.
But that needs to be more than a cliché. How exactly will your services pay for themselves? If you can
document increases in revenue or decreases in costs, you'll get the attention of prospects. But you
need to prove it. Do some case studies of past clients showing the bottom-line value of your work.
6. Work on your mindset. This might be the most important of all. Negative external circumstances
tend to trigger "Constrictive Marketing Mindsets." That is, you start buying into the bad news and you
start to panic, avoid taking action, and retreat to a place of worry and paralysis. Question those
negative mindsets and find your place of power and innovation. I invite you to download this "Getting
Unstuck With the Work Worksheet" : http://www.actionplan.com/pdf/getunstuck.pdf
These are just a beginning. Above all else, don't stick your head in the sand and hope the economy will
change. Things may get worse before they get better, and those who are proactive about their
marketing (and their thinking) will do better in both good times and bad.
The More Clients bottom line: The key to marketing in tough times is to work at adding more value.
Prove that your services are a wise investment. Communicate about your services in more depth and
with more clarity. These are things you should be doing anyway, but when the economy is suffering,
these marketing approaches are more important than ever.
Sandra Yancey, Founder and CEO of eWomenNetwork, offers some additional thoughts for your
consideration. While acknowledging that times are a little tougher temporarily, how we act vs. how we
React is what will make a significant difference in our ability to weather this storm and come out on
the other side victoriously!
Those impacted the most by the down economy are BIG PUBLIC COMPANIES, which are a minimal part
of the total business environment. Smaller businesses represent the majority of business sizes in the
Don’t drink the Kool-aid! What is impacting big business does not necessarily impact you! And let us
not forget, whether the market is up or down, someone is always making money! Why not make that
Like with all things, you have a choice. You can either “believe what you see” or “SEE WHAT YOU
Turn off that negative news—don’t believe it. Remember that negativity is contagious, and the last
thing you want to be is a carrier! The next thing you know, you’ll end up hibernating until a new
season called “economic recovery” arrives.
Only by then it’ll be too late. Because there are a couple of guarantees or promises I can give you:
1. The economic downturn will end. I can promise you that … because it always does.
2. When the big public companies do emerge, that’s when the real race begins because success
will ultimately be bestowed on the fittest … those who have been utilizing their time expanding
their customer base and reassessing, restructuring and refining their businesses!
We need to see today as “training camp.” Now is the time for small businesses to seize opportunities
that normally don’t exist for us in a robust economy.
1. Borrowing rates are down! Now is might be an excellent time to consider how you can expand
your business … buy that new computer … maybe even buy that pesky competitor!
2. Put your business under a microscope and evaluate:
What hasn’t been working so well?
What do you know you need to do differently?
What are the ailments in your business that are preventing you from exceeding your
customers’ expectations or expanding your customer base?
Adrienne Zoble, marketing specialist, loves to debunk what is commonly known as conventional
wisdom and show how it is rarely true wisdom. Major Business MYTH: Business is slow. Time to kill
our marketing expenses!
Oh no, you don’t. Cancelling organizational memberships and meeting attendance, trade shows,
media advertising – these are just some examples of marketing conventional wisdom at its worst.
When times are slow, it’s time to ratchet up, not decrease your marketing. This doesn’t mean you
have to spend more. After all, in marketing it’s not what you spend, but how you spend it. It does
mean, however, that you have to keep your company name in front of people. This is not the time to
barricade yourself and your staffers in the office!
One of the most important aspects of marketing is positioning – how you separate yourselves from
your competition. Since the above “kill” reaction to a business slowdown is so prevalent, you’ll be
standing out, merely by being “out there.”
Engage a marketing consultant to help you with a simple Marketing Plan for the coming year. Take
clients/customers to breakfast, lunch or coffee. Form alliances with those in related industries with
whom you can refer back and forth. Pay attention to your vendors, who very often thank you with
referrals, merely because you showed them respect and attention, not to mention prompt payment.
Even when business slows down, someone is always buying something. It’s marketing’s job to
ensure they buy from you! People can’t purchase from you, if you don’t have a presence.
So stop panicking. Quit dropping prices. Try marketing the way we used to before technology became
so prevalent and impersonal. Market face-to-face and voice-to-voice. What a concept! After all,
marketing is emotional, not logical. People buy from those in whom they have confidence, with whom
they feel comfortable, from those they trust.
Today in marketing the personal approach is in. Build relationships and watch your sales, referrals and
additional business from existing clients multiply.
Addressing and answering these NOW will ensure that you’re ready to compete in the turnaround.
Sandra Yancey: We can never forget that when it comes to business, there’s no business like your own
business … and small businesses are the backbone of this nation!
We don’t have to get burdened by the drudgery it takes to re-vamp and re-shape a huge corporation.
They are like cruise ships; it takes time, energy and more time and more energy to turn these boats
around! No wonder it takes them so long!
We, on the other hand, have the luxury of operating more like speed boats! Now is the time to take
advantage of the fact that we can make swift changes that move us quickly and confidently.
If we maximize this precious time we have now, when the economy turns around and the flood gates
open, we will be the strong, the agile, the flexible, the focused, the leaders who will leave those that
have been hibernating in the dust.
The weak won’t make it … but remember what I said earlier … don’t believe what you see … we’ve been
called the “weaker sex” for far too long. We know better … so let’s get busy and go, grow and GLOW
Compiled by Saralyn Collins, Director of Training and Development for eWomenNetwork, from
documents written by Robert Middleton, top international marketing guru, www.actionplan.com ,
Adrienne Zoble, eWomenNetwork member and marketing consultant, www.azobleassoc.com and
Sandra Yancey, Founder and CEO of eWomenNetwork, the number 1 resource for connecting and
promoting women and their business – worldwide!