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Now marks time to ramp up marketing efforts

Your Business

Posted: June 4, 2008 2:08 a.m.
Updated: August 5, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
It would be nice to believe that every organization is a proponent of continuous marketing (which means marketing in both strong and slowing economies), but not everyone has done so. Many of the organizations that did not market when times were good are now suffering. Others that should know better are becoming nervous as the bad news of the economy is reported and so these firms are cutting back on marketing and other expenditures.

When times are good, and business is plentiful, businesses are often so busy they do not have time to market. They are busy taking care of current client demands and as a result they did not take the time to look into the future. They might be aware of trends in their own industry and often hear or read about the macro economy but fail to make the connection between the two and how it might affect them.

Marketing, particularly in a slow economy, has to move to the top on the list of company priorities. In a good economy is should also be a high priority. Marketing is an investment in the future of the organization. Firms that cut their marketing expenses at the first sign of economic trouble live in the short-term. While it always makes good sense to manage expenses, cutting for the sake of cutting without a rationale other than just reducing expenses is foolish.

The problem with most business leaders is that they want the "quick fix" to turn things around. There is no magic pill to take and no shots the doctor, however talented, can give a company to make marketing work. Marketing takes time. Because it takes time, getting started and staying with it is essential.

Mindsets
The results of efforts and expenditures today may not yield fruit for months, perhaps even years. The sales cycle from the first, positive impression the organization makes until the sale is completed could be a lot longer than desired. Everyone wants results tomorrow but it rarely works that way.

One of the critical differences between the mindsets of "marketing as an investment" versus "marketing as an expense" is that organizations who take the long-term view intend to be around for the next twenty years.

Those taking short-term view see marketing as something that they must do, almost with a sigh of "If I have to..." With a foundation of regret, what will the results be?

Proactive marketing forces companies to see what is happening in their own industry, and take notice of the technological, governmental, environmental, cultural and political environment that could affect them.

In periods of rapid expansion, most companies can throw up new products and services and not worry about the downside. In a slowing economy, the opposite is true.

A slowing economy allows every company the opportunity to take a step back and determine where limited resources will be spent. This is the opposite of random cutting and slashing of advertising, creative and promotional spending.

By taking time to analyze the business and the external environment, a company can seek the answers to these questions: What items produce the most revenue? Which clients are more valuable than the rest? What is the strongest competitive advantage? What products and clients are the most profitable? What geographic markets make sense to expand into and which should be exited? What market segments should continue to be invested into and which should be put on hold or exited?

Don't hunker down
Once these questions are answered, strategies can be developed to exploit the opportunities that have been thoughtfully considered.

All of this helps to provide the company with additional focus and better direction to navigate through difficult times.

Conventional wisdom would state that when the economy slows down, companies should cut back on spending and "hunker down" to ride it out.

Market leaders don't think that way. Starbucks has and will continue to raise prices and at the same time, regain focus to further increase sales and profits during this slowdown. The company is focusing on increasing per store unit sales through elimination of unprofitable items, adding new items to their core offering (beverages) and increasing training of employees. The firm has also reduced previously announced expansion plans.

Even before this, Starbucks has enjoyed a higher per ticket order than all other "quick serve" restaurants and this renewed focus will increase the differential. All this is taking place while the price of coffee and other items purchased by Starbucks are increasing.

Regardless of the size of the business or the size of the budgets, your clients, now more than ever, need to know that your company is alive, well and ready to do business. If they don't hear from you, you can bet that they will be hearing from your competitors who aren't hunkering down but are ramping up.

Kenneth W. Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, bringing business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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