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Marketing when Recession strikes: Are we still there? Does it even matter?

A while back, I offered up six strategies designed to help companies acquire, retain and grow profitable customers in times of recession.
Well, two years have come and gone since the recession began, and many observers aren’t entirely sure it’s ended.

Things clearly have gotten better for most, and the pervasive atmosphere of fear and dread certainly seems to have gone away.

But whether it’s a recession, a recovery, or just “tough times,” it’s important to be aware of the actions you took in the past, and of the actions you should be taking right now.

Looking back, we saw that companies responded to hard times by cutting marketing and communications budgets, and leaning harder on staff expectations.

CFOs got stickier in their demands for reporting and accountability – looking hard to document measurable results.

And Ad/Marketing types shifted spending from branding and other forms of push marketing to measurable and relationship-based strategies:

  • Search marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Lead nurturing
  • Loyalty marketing
  • Online communities.

Well, how’s that working out?

To some extent, making stronger demands on your people for performance and documentation is never a bad idea. And if you’ve been looking into online and social-media opportunities to drive loyalty to your brand over the last two or three years … well, you’re not alone. It’s a trend, and one that’s had some strong results for many.

But cutting advertising and similar marketing expenses in the short term doesn’t really boost profits (or cut losses) by much – in the grand scheme of things, they’re small potatoes. But in the LONG term, these promotional expenses typically have an inordinate yield; that is, $1 in advertising can bring in $10 in sales, or $50 or $100.

That can have an impact.

So, even if you made a choice 18 months ago to pare back on the ad and marketing budget, it’s not too late to minimize the damage. Companies that increase ad/marketing budgets during a recession-recovery phase can still yield long-term dividends in terms of profitability and market share:

  • Look over the scars left by cost-cutting two years ago: Take a fresh look at your loyalty, new customer, retention, win-back, new-mover and trigger programs. Make sure they’re capable of achieving your business objectives, and adjust the parameters to fit new realities.
  • Prioritize based on costs, ease of execution, and expected bottom-line impact. And, bottom line, your objective still is to turn the unqualified customer into a prospect; prospects into customer, repeat customers and, eventually, into loyal advocates for your cause.
  • Listen to customers, respond to their needs and reward the best of them with incentives and bonuses.

Those are the basics that never change … no matter the state of the economy.