Archive for July 2009

Are You Creating the Right Recession Impression?

July 30, 2009

hawkerDawg-250Maybe it’s time to give yourself and your team a little pep talk. Get your facts straight. Know what you’re talking about. Create a results-oriented plan that will improve sales today and better position your company for tomorrow. You can do it. What’s more, you need to do it.

Going “dark” to your customers is exactly what your savvy competitors hope you will do. They recognize that there are opportunities in today’s economy. Just as importantly, they are thinking about the mid-term and long-term gains they can achieve—at your expense—by being more aggressive now.

Accountants Can Put You Out of Business.

Cutting marketing to the bone might satisfy the accounting department, but some financial people (and operations, too) often question whether marketing really sells print. A down economy is just an excuse to do what they’d like to do anyway. It’s up to you to demonstrate that crippling marketing is a bad decision—especially now.

I’m always reminded of the story where William Wrigley is riding on a train and one of his colleagues asks him why, with a dominant market share, did he continue to promote his chewing gum so aggressively. “How fast do you think this train is going?” Wrigley asked. “I would say about 90-miles an hour,” the colleague responded. “Well then,” said Wrigley, “do you suggest we unhitch the engine?”

That’s an easier position in good times than bad, you might argue. But there is not one shred of evidence that cutting marketing during a downturn will help your organization. Consider these recession research studies:

  • Yankelovich/Harris
    Execs agree that seeing a company in a down market makes them feel more positive about the company and keeps them top-of-mind when making purchase decisions.
  • McGraw-Research Laboratory of Advertising Performance
    Study of 600 BtoB marketers found that those who maintained or increased advertising during a recession averaged sales growth of 275% over the preceding five years.
  • American Business Press
    Study revealed sales and profits could be maintained and increased in recession years and in the years following by those who maintain an aggressive posture while others become non-participants.
  • Harvard Business Review
    Report of 200 companies found that sales increases came from companies that advertised the most during the recessionary year.

Is It Too Late?

No, but depending upon your situation, you may need to regain the confidence of executive management. You may also need to help your clients regain their confidence in marketing. And you will almost certainly need to be creative with your budget, reallocating money to areas that will generate the most measurable results. You should focus on:

  • Adding Value. The last thing you want to do is engage in discount battles. Price cuts not only hurt current profitability, but they also can be difficult to escape later. A low price tends to become the expected price. Demonstrate instead that you identify with your customer’s challenges and build on values such as greater effectiveness, lower total cost of ownership, speed-to-market. When you must deal with price, focus on cost lowering programs like web-to-print, co-mailing, soft-proofing and other value adds that don’t impact your pricing structure.
  • Selling More to Existing Customers. Returns are so much better and less expensive than prospecting. Increasing your share of customer can do wonders for your bottom line.
  • Improving Data Mining. Whether you are selling to existing customers or prospecting, nothing will increase results more that instituting database marketing best practices. Get your data into a centralized database that offers a single view of each customer. Then you can begin working on segmentation and other database marketing practices that are likely being overlooked or underutilized by even large companies.
  • Adding Sales and Marketing Automation. You can streamline your marketing program and improve results through contact management programs that can automate a wide range of activities for both field reps and management.
  • Integrating Multiple Channels. We know that the best returns come from campaigns that skillfully integrate multiple channels. Just make sure you commit your limited funds to the right channels and remind your customers to do the same. Digital alternatives have a huge lure because of low costs. But keep in mind what Gregg Ambach of Analytic Partners said in an article that appeared in the July 2009 issue of Deliver magazine: “(Digital) is incredibly efficient, because the cost per thousand is low. But it’s just not moving a lot of volume yet.”

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates can help you develop cost-effective, multi-channel marketing campaigns—from strategy through execution—that deliver measurable results. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer.

You can connect with Larry Bauer on LinkedIn. Or follow him on Twitter.

By Larry Bauer

Creating the Right Internal & External Recession Impressions.

July 30, 2009

pointerDawg-250The impressions you make can have a lasting effect on your career as well as the success of your marketing campaigns. Make a poor internal impression and you may never have the resources to succeed at the external part. Here’s a list of things you can do to make the best internal and external impressions.

Internal

  • Speak with true knowledge about your customers and markets.
  • Demonstrate your ability to capitalize on customer data.
  • Know your competitors intimately—strengths, vulnerabilities, etc.
  • Cut programs that don’t work—show no favoritism beyond positive results.
  • Reallocate money to the best performing channels.
  • Be able to cost justify more expensive channels that perform.
  • Make a solid case for automation and other investments that improve efficiencies.
  • Set and communicate short-, mid- and long-term goals—there will be a tomorrow.
  • Make your plans flexible—think best and worst case scenarios.
  • Collaborate with the team (accounting & operations people, too)—you’re all in this together.
  • Show a willingness to learn and adapt.
  • Communicate your program successes.

External

  • Show your customers that you identify with their situation.
  • Be less promotional and more personal.
  • Communicate how your products and services provide added value that will help them.
  • Make customers feel comfortable, safe and secure about their buying decisions.
  • Avoid price-cutting—it’s a losing strategy.
  • Combine data mining with personalization techniques to customize offers—be an example of what you sell.
  • Pay attention to customer communication preferences—now is not the time to give anyone a reason to tune you out.
  • Integrate channels that make sense for your customers and your message—a print newsletter with a related webinar, for example.
  • Execute messages appropriately for each channel—integrated marketing isn’t one-size-fits all.
  • Make sure your print materials are environmentally responsible—people still care and you are the standard bearer.
  • Invite customers to engage with you in more ways.
  • Get more mileage from your campaigns by incorporating pass-along, referrals and other techniques that get your customers working for you.

ChalksignInk. Digits. Chalk? Thumbs up to the owners of Limestone Coffee & Tea (Batavia, IL) for their chalk promotion during the community’s recent Windmill Fest. Located in a high-traffic area, the retailer posted a chalk-written sidewalk promotion for a free coffee or tea with any drink purchase if you bring a friend. And an entry-way promotion offered 10% off any frozen drink during the festival. The promotion is fun, nostalgic and very cost-effective.

By Larry Bauer

Using Creativity and Street Smarts to Survive a Recession.

July 30, 2009

broadwayDawg-250Everyone’s hurting right now and while you’re thinking you need to cut back on sales training, marketing and R&D, your biggest, baddest competitors have likely already done just that. Which means you have a unique opportunity to enter a new market or expand your existing share while the big boys aren’t looking. This is exactly what companies like Clif Bar, Method Products, Inc. and The Wine Group are doing.

Be Frugal In Your Design Decisions.

A great example of frugal design innovation is the development of Recession Wines by The Wine Group last year. They took advantage of recessionary wine purchasing trends (you know, the one where consumers drink more and cheaper wine at home than out and about with their friends) and created a low-price competitor to Two-Buck Chuck by saving money via packaging design. Using cheaper synthetic corks and a lighter bottle saved enough money per unit to allow offering a price under $5. This is a great example of using design frugality to achieve the lower price without skimping on the quality of the actual product.

And thanks to the up front legwork achieved by Two-Buck Chuck, consumers know that cheap wine doesn’t have to taste like floor cleaner. So new brands like Recession Wines don’t have to spend money changing consumer attitudes, they can instead focus on developing a great product and getting it to market.

Be Creative And Limber.

Limber up and be ready to try new things or take on the category gorillas like Method Products, Inc. did during the dotcom bust.

In 2001, after the massive dotcom failures, investors were afraid and ready for anything that wasn’t founded on questionable technologies. Using a friendlier logo, a more humanist approach overall, better design and easier, faster to read text allowed Method to take on the likes of P&G and SC Johnson. Method’s more casual and honest approach also tied directly into the green product trends consumers were starting to buy. These creative approaches, combined with truly green products, allowed Method to a get there faster and connect more quickly and firmly with consumers. Most importantly, it allowed them to compete more affordably during a recession when the 800-pound gorillas were asleep.

Seek Opportunities To Steal.

Most of your competitors will be scaling back their marketing programs to cut costs. They’ll even be laying off the people that watch out for companies like yours. This is your chance to steal more of the spotlight, and it will cost less to do so during a recession. Ad rates can be more favorably negotiated. Ditto with vendor costs. And don’t forget, any customers you snag during this difficult time will still be your friends when the market recovers.

This is exactly what happened when Clif Bars entered the market in 1992 and challenged Powerbar, the industry front-runner. Powerbar owned the market; there was no serious competitor. But with a recession in play, the field leveled and Clif Bar stole the ball.

Taking more care to research the market and spending more time in R&D allowed Clif Bar to create a much better tasting product and enter through bike shops rather than grocery outlets. Couple this with vendors so desperate for a sale they’d risk doing business with a start-up, and Clif Bar was in business.

Don’t Wait For An Invitation.

Experts think the recession is starting to wane, which means you don’t have much time left. So stop wasting paper and pixels on fluff, and focus on more human-to-human, conversational tones. Adjust both your visual and verbal messages to your customers. Their needs have shifted and so too should your messages. Ensure you’re meeting consumers’ design needs whether it’s larger type for boomers or less costly production materials for the newly unemployed.

Think beyond traditional media by considering social media tools to more directly connect to your target market. During a recession, many consumers are at home, in front of their computers, communicating through social networking tools. You should be there, too.

And certainly don’t skimp on communicating superior quality during a recession. Especially with high-ticket items that consumers will be married to for years to come. This is a time when they’re going to be especially critical of cheaper durable goods that could be a waste of their hard-earned dollars.

And above all, innovate as if your life depended on it, because in a recession, your company’s life does. Now go out there and get scrappy, dang it!

By Julia Moran Martz

Upcoming Newsletter Topics.

July 30, 2009

Just a few of the topics we’re working on for future newsletters:

  • Training and educating your customers.
  • Using research to improve your bottom line.
  • Choosing the right personalization strategy.

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