The Upside of Marketing in a Down Economy

We are all getting tired of talking about the poor economy. We want to quickly get back to the good times where jobs, prospects and customers were plentiful. But reality being the inconvenient thing that it is, we are forced to deal with an ongoing anemic economy that affects how we sell and how customers buy. The good news is that there are some benefits to be gained if we look at the tough economic times as a period for learning, growing and perfecting our craft.

Necessity Begets Efficiency

One of the downsides to a good economy is that it can lead to laziness. When there are lots of buyers, companies develop poor habits with their marketing strategy. By contrast, in tough times, marketing economics are critical and we don’t have the luxury of being lazy. We tighten our processes and become more efficient and cost-effective. We learn to squeeze every bit of value from our people and financial resources. Customers are treated better because they are more necessary to our survival. Our customer support, up-sell and cross-sell skills are honed. And perhaps most important, nothing is taken for granted and we really learn to appreciate our jobs, our company and our customers.

Patience is another virtue that is important for you to cultivate during tough times. We want to throw our hands up and walk away but we toughen up, buckle down and stay the course. I just commented on a very good blog post on this subject, from Paul Castain at Castain’s article is well worth a read.

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Early in my career, I was part of a marketing department at a very hot software company. The CEO used to brag about how he “had the best marketing team on the planet.” We actually believed his exaggerated praise (can you say ‘hubris’).  We were spending money like it was going out of style. No one bothered to ask about our return on marketing investment, or marketing economics, because we were growing at 50 percent per year and highly profitable. However, due to some actions on the part of IBM, the market for our software became much more competitive and price-sensitive.

Sales were down and moods turned sour. Our “best marketing team on the planet” was having trouble generating enough leads to feed the hungry sales force and because we had adopted bad habits during the good times, we were not good at converting inquiries to sales opportunities and our prospect database was in disarray. The process of overcoming these weaknesses was painful, but it was necessary; and while we were still not the best on the planet, our marketing strategy improved and we became a much better marketing team as a result of surviving a tough time.

This early lesson in humility was one I never forgot as I later ran marketing departments and served clients as a marketing consultant. Friedrich Nietzsche made the observation, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”  Although the marketing profession has taken its casualties, there are going to be many strong marketers coming out of the economic difficulties – marketers that understand at a gut-level that there is a fine line between success and failure, prosperity and difficulty.

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Christopher Ryan

Christopher Ryan has 25 years of marketing, technology, revenue growth experience. As both a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.
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  • John Leavy August 4, 2010   Reply →

    Good post Chris…crisis always seems to grow character.

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  • Paul Castain August 5, 2010   Reply →

    Thank you so much for the mention.
    Continued success to you!
    Paul Castain

  • Tina August 10, 2010   Reply →

    Great article Chris. I think we do (did) get “lazy” during the good times but now that we need to closely watch our pennies, it makes us stronger and wiser…and ultimately it helps our clients.

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