• January 20, 2009
  • Tips

If you’ve been paying attention, you probably know that our current economic problems are related to confidence in the health of the economy and cash flow. When things are going well, the two usually go hand-in-hand to create a virtuous cycle of economic growth. Right now, they are working hand-in-hand to create a vicious spiral. While the current picture isn’t a good one, I’m confident we’ll recover and be stronger for it. As a strong believer in the concept of “circles of influence”, it makes sense to consider how we can contribute to a quicker recovery while strengthening our brands at the same time. I’m going to cover both confidence and cash flow from the perspective of branding and marketing.

So – you ask yourself – what can I as a marketing professional do to help our good nation out of this economic malaise? Well, you can provide your customers and prospects new opportunities to interact with your brand: directly, by setting up at events, calling customers to check in and sending out offers, or indirectly, through print, web and broadcast media. Except for a few sectors walloped by the recent financial crisis, customers are still there doing what they’ve always done, albeit with tighter belts. They are sitting on the sidelines a bit more, going through their own personal pains and perhaps re-evaluating their priorities.

How to combat this? A significant part of what marketing is about, whether you an in-house marketing specialist or a sales manager, is to advise your team on how products and services are best packaged for easy consumption. That is not to say start deep discounting. Not at all. But there are likely areas in your business in which you can portion off services to allow for smaller transactions. Smaller items likely don’t cost as much as your normal good-economy offerings and in the current environment, have good potential to keep traffic moving through your business. In the short term, this helps you keep a relationship with your customers and of course, keeps the cash flowing. Conversely, you might bundle several small items together into a larger package that helps resolve some tangential challenges a customer has and paints you in a broader, more competitive position. This is the micro-economic version of a kick-start that you can put to work for you.

In regards to confidence, if you’re still in business, it’s probably safe to say people need what you have to offer, it just may be further down their priority list. With all the bad news out there, people are hungry for signs of life and vitality. Whether you run ads in print, radio or TV, publish a newsletter, update your website or sponsor events, showing up on the consumer’s radar contributes to the overall sense of vitality of your business. You become another example of a survivor of what is being called the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I hold out hope that your action will, in some small way, improve your corner of the world. People are counting on you to pull through. Customers want you to pull through. Staff want you to pull through. Suppliers want you to pull through. Your message communicates that and in the end, will do us all good.

And that’s where your opportunity comes in. The awareness and perceptions you build now become more powerful in a time of heightened stress. Your strength at this time will leave a lasting impression that your organization is well run and has a healthy lifeline in a time when so many others are crumbling. The implication is that your products and services are superior as well. (Typically customers place the responsibility for a business’ success, right or wrong, on the product/service it offers more so than on the management of the business.) That makes your brand that much more attractive. If your competition is cutting back on promoting themselves, you have a double advantage since you get to own more of the airspace. Not to mention, with reduced marketing budgets popping up all over, you may even be able to work out a better rate on some of your normal expenses for marketing.

By all means, conserve resources, trim the sails and mind your Ps and Qs – it’s a prudent thing to do in any business cycle. But be sure not to cut the line that connects you with your audience. Customers want you to survive because they appreciate your contribution to their life and because they want you to be around when they need you again.