Practical marketing advice for a flagging economy


Watching how companies react to shifting market forces can tell you a lot about their leadership.

In a downturn, marketing more aggressively makes sense: As some companies inevitably slash marketing budgets and curb their efforts, new opportunities arise — better deals on ad space, fewer competing messages, stronger brand-building potential. Wait a minute … branding?

With online marketing, and for many with direct-marketing roots, increasing brand awareness is an afterthought at best. CEOs want to see revenue and profits from their Web marketing team — good luck tying those numbers into branding initiatives.

But that bottom-line attitude has a downside. I was reminded of this thanks to a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Stefan Tornquist, research director of MarketingSherpa (our sister company).

Asked about what strategies small businesses should be pursuing now, Stefan replied:

“I’m of the opinion that it’s a good time to increase a brand imprint [by buying print or radio ads, or banner ads online, for instance]. A lot of small companies see branding activities as a waste of money….

What we lose sight of is that brand activity makes us trust a company and buy when we see their ad later on. One of the greatest challenges for small companies is to make a name for themselves, and a downturn actually provides an opportunity to do that because it tends to suppress the branding activity.”

The interview covers a lot more than branding, but this idea stood out because it goes against the grain. That’s what companies should be looking for right now: untapped or overlooked ways to connect with potential customers. And, while competitors are playing it safe, these efforts will likely make an even bigger impact than usual.

Nobody is suggesting companies abandon their direct-marketing initiatives. But trust, credibility, and reputation are vital to generating leads, sales, and repeat sales. So it might be time to revisit your branding efforts and see how they’re faring in comparison to your PPC, SEO, email, and direct-mail campaigns.

Some questions to consider:

  • How is your brand perceived by prospects? By customers?
  • Is your value proposition clear and is it being expressed most effectively?
  • What is the market saying about you — good things, bad things or nothing?
  • How often do you talk with your customers?
  • Do you measure customer loyalty? How?

The answers may not have dollar signs and decimals, but you can bet they’ll get your CEO’s attention. And that just might get you the buy-in you need to get aggressive, take a few chances, and test some new and unusual tactics.

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1 Comment

  1. Stephanie says

    These tips seem all the more salient for the economic downtown we’re currently in! Very astute.

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