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Turn It Around

When the economy takes a tumble, don't let your marketing go down with it. Stay standing by retuning your message.

When the economy takes a tumble, don't let your marketing go down with it. Stay standing by retuning your message.What does the slower economy mean for your marketing campaign? During a recession, a knee-jerk reaction to cut your budget or back away from marketing activities could lead to significant losses for your business. Instead, you can successfully market your way through an economic downturn by implementing a recession-minded strategy. It's essential to adapt and retool to find the smartest routes to increasing market share and ROI.

Safely weather the economic downturn by taking these vital steps:

  1. Assess customer behavior. As belts tighten, consumer needs and wants shift. Economic pressures shape how and where customers shop as well as what they buy. Your most important tasks are to take a sharp look at how belt-tightening measures are affecting sales in your industry or marketplace and re-evaluate the relationship your customers have with your own products and services. How have customers' perceptions of your offerings been altered by economic changes? Some higher-end purchases, for instance, may now be considered dispensable luxuries and others suddenly viewed as small, affordable indulgences. To grab market share now, adapt what and how you sell to meet customers' emerging preferences.
  2. Measure ROI. Advertising designed exclusively for the purpose of branding or creating an image is entirely inappropriate in today's economic climate--if it was ever truly a smart move. All advertising must pull its weight with projectable and measurable results. Examine your current marketing tactics and ask yourself if you have an integrated campaign with synergistic tactics designed to drive customers to a purchase decision. For example, your prospects might see a magazine ad that sends them to a website, which in turn leads them to make a purchase. Each step along your marketing chain must lead to a measurable response and ultimately foster sales. Set up tracking mechanisms for all ads and train your staff to ask new customers where they heard about you. Then maintain this vital information in a database. In the months ahead, you can use it to evaluate your ROI and fine-tune your campaign.
  3. Market to current customers. In a recession, customers want to make safe choices with their limited funds, so they look to the companies and products they know and trust. Since it can cost considerably less to win additional sales from existing customers than to bring in new ones, your recession-era marketing campaign should include concerted efforts to upsell or resell to your current customer base. Providing superior value is key to holding on to these customers. Demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile by communicating with them more frequently and offering more services or product features. Regularly reach out to the customers in your database using a variety of tactics, from e-mail to snail mail to sales calls, depending on your industry. By varying your tactics, you can stay top of mind without wearing out your welcome.
  4. Emphasize price promotions vs. cuts . Now that the recession is hitting home with consumers, two-thirds of shoppers are more inclined to use coupons, according to an ICOM survey released in April. After 10 years of decline, coupons are making a comeback in households nation-wide on almost every economic level, and nearly 80 percent of the respondents age 18 to 34 say they're more likely to use coupons if they can be downloaded. The resurgence of coupons is a strong indicator of the trend toward price-specific promotion. Avoid full-scale price-cutting--which can injure your ability to survive and grow during a recession--in favor of short-term promotional offers. You'll stimulate sales from current customers and draw in new ones, all while maintaining your regular pricing and profitability on nonpromotional items and services.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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This article was originally published in the September 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Turn It Around.

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