Marketing in a recession. What’s the difference?

Everywhere I turn I see companies attempting to leverage the much hyped “downturn” in the economy. All of a sudden, they are touting special “Recession” services and techniques to overcome impending doom. Marketing and advertising agencies are especially guilty offenders. So, in my inimitable tradition of cutting through the smoke and smashing the mirrors, allow me to deliver some straight talk (McCain and Obama aside).

When it comes to marketing, there is no difference between a recession marketing strategy versus a boom time marketing strategy. There are simply two ends of the marketing strategy continuum. On one end, there exists the Well Planned and Executed Strategy. On the other, the Wild Ass Seat of the Pants Unstrategy. That’s it. All companies are on this continuum somewhere.

If you find yourself on the right side of the continuum, you will experience more pain when the economy gets tight. It’s as simple as that.

The fact is that there are always deals going on. There may be fewer deals but even a 20% downturn means that 80% of business is still being transacted. Companies who have investing in “real” marketing strategies and programs (a customer centered message, a clear position, a consistent marketing communications effort, etc.) will naturally be in a better position to win business in this type of circumstance. Those who don’t have a best practices process in place will be victims of Market Darwinism.

So what makes a “real” strategy? Here’s a few points to help you figure out where you are on the continuum:

  1. Objectivity: If your marketing and sales programs are based purely on internal information or the dictum of a single person, it’s most likely not going to be very effective.
  2. Research: Going hand-in-hand with Objectivity is customer, competitive and industry research. Yes, it’s expensive and not as fun as building a new web site, however, if you really want to get the facts as to how customers buy, how competitors sell and how to leverage industry thought leaders to your advantage, no strategy should skip this important step.
  3. Budget: Two opposing objectives are very common in businesses: Saving Money or Growing the Business. These objectives are mutually exclusive. You can’t save your way to success and making money requires careful, investment.
  4. Commitment: Marketing programs take time to work. Pulling the plug every time the stock market hiccups destroys any momentum and equity your efforts may have created.
  5. Execution: Having a well researched, objective, adequately budgeted plan means nothing if you don’t execute. Build a team and get it done. And keep doing it until it pays off.

Good times or bad, it pays to bring your marketing programs up to par with the rest of your carefully planned business. Of course there is more to it than can be covered here. But this is a start. Marketing is a business process. The outcome (increased market share, revenue and profit)  is only as good as the process used to get there.

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