The media says we’re in a recession, and possibly heading toward a depression. The stock market is dropping daily, and you can’t turn on the news without hearing more doom and gloom.

What does a recession really mean? They are usually caused by a combination of Risk + Over Optimism + Over Investing + A Catalyst. The catalyst is often war, rising oil prices, or banks failing. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

How does a recession effect our companies? Businesses often start slashing expenses. This includes training, people and marketing. When businesses take this approach, they are being reactive, not proactive. By cutting back on marketing, businesses immediately begin losing market share. Consumers think twice about making purchases, and everyone wonders how cautious they should be.

The number one question you should ask about your business is, “Should we keep marketing, even though people may not be buying?” The answer to that is a resounding, “Yes!” When there is an economic downturn, you have opportunities galore to improve market share.

It’s proven that steady ad spending during recessions leads to increased sales. Watch your competitors. They are likely cutting their spending, which means there is less noise for you to compete against. Your customers may have cut back, but they didn’t go away. They are paying attention right now, and will be ready to spend again when the economy turns around. When they are ready, who do you think they will turn to? The businesses who marketed to them, or those who faded into the background?

Now that you know you need to be marketing, what should you do? We recommend that you develop a comprehensive marketing plan that works when the economy slumps. You should:

Focus on improving your internal processes
Develop creative ways to market your products
Actually implement the plan
Monitor and update throughout the entire process
Remember to support your marketing efforts with your sales force
Once you’ve completed this plan, use it today, and keep it on hand for when times are tough again. The economy is cyclical. Whether we like it or not, it will happen again. Most importantly, think about your budget, be creative and be strategic. It will pay off in spades.
What does it mean to be strategic? You should:

Keep an eye on your competitors
Concentrate on your brand
Reward your current customers
Focus on communication
internally and externally
Enhance your processes
Check up on your competitors. See what they are doing, as well as what they aren’t. If they are weak in an area where you are strong, take this time to capitalize on that.
With your brand, emphasize the things that made you valuable in the first place [honesty, integrity, price, quality]. Market products that work; cut out products that don’t. Don’t cut back on quality. And, believe it or not, don’t cut prices. That will diminish your brand and make it difficult for you to bring your products or services back to pre-recession pricing.

Remember that customers are your biggest asset, reward their loyalty, keep in touch with them and let them know they are appreciated.

Keep in mind that media outlets are scrambling to fill their spots. Take advantage of lower cost media channels, invest in in-store marketing and make sure your creative work is better than ever. Your customers and prospects will take notice.

What kinds of things can you do to market your business? The options are limitless. Make sure you focus on:

Integrating sales and marketing at all levels
Using lead management to identify your prospects
Remembering to communicate with your current client base
Planning methods of communication for later in the buying cycle
Building rapport and trust
Develop CRM solutions to manage your client data so you can easily manage how you market to your prospects and clients. Create new content of value to deliver to these people (whitepapers, top ten lists, check lists, buyer’s guides). This content will help you build rapport, but trust will help you win business. Trust through marketing comes from customer references, review, expert opinions, awards and other validation. However, nothing beats building honest relationships with people you would like to do business with. People buy from people they know, like and trust. Get to know your prospects, so they get to know you. Marketing is about getting to know the people you want to do business with, not about you.
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