Recession Today, Growth Tomorrow

Without Marketing, Your Brand Is Subject to Erosion and the Claims of Your Competitors Can Gain Credibility With Your Clients
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High on my top 10 list of marketing rules is to remember that you're not your clients.

This rule is easily supported. A sales organization's success is frequently a measure of how well it puts itself inside the heads of its clients, seeing their business through their eyes. Sounds simple, right? But when business takes a downturn, we sometimes need to be reminded of the fundamentals. On the other hand, the current recession is bending this rule, as you now share significant new challenges with your advertisers that can be leveraged to both of your advantages.

What are those challenges?

First, in the recession, you're both fighting for a larger share of a shrunken market to a greater extent than in a healthy economy. Second, you're both looking for ways to position yourselves for both the slump and the subsequent recovery. View these as opportunities for you to not just empathize with your advertisers' dilemmas, but to be a more valuable resource to them. These are accomplished by your demonstrating your understanding of the principles of advertising in an economic downturn and leading by example.

What are a company's first thoughts about marketing and advertising in a recession? Often they're cutbacks, as reducing these budget items is perceived as being less painful than some of the alternatives in the short term and having the least long-term effects.

The thinking is that fewer people are buying less right now; fewer prospects, so less marketing. Not only does that hurt your station(s) as an advertising vehicle, it hurts your clients who chose to go that route.

The logic of backing off now and ramping up when business gets better only holds if a company, whether it's your station(s) or one of your advertisers, comes out of the recession with the same position in the market it had when it went in. "What makes you so sure that it will?" is a question you can ask both of your clients and yourself.

After all, without marketing your brand is subject to erosion and the claims of your competitors can gain credibility with your clients. You can further ask, "Where does that leave your company at the end of the recession?" At best, playing catch up. At worst, dealing with a damaged brand and a huge loss of market share.

Here are just a few of the proven strategies you can apply to the solutions you offer your advertisers:

  • • Protect your brand — Make certain that you keep your good name out there in front of your clients and prospects. This has always been part of your pitch, right?
  • • More is more — Feed your message in smaller, more frequent doses using a variety of delivery methods. Your over-the-air and streamed signals, as well as your Web site, are all effective placements.
  • • Create a long-term strategy — Think about how you will want to promote your products and brand for the next six months, year and two years. It will help you create a more coherent brand message and maximize what you spend on creative. And, you might just give your clients a discount for a long-term commitment.
  • • Stick with the hits — Promote your strongest and/or most innovative products. If all of your advertising and promotion reinforces your brand, your best sellers will be the tide that raises all your product boats. You know how you can apply this to your own station promotions.

Among the many great, free business resources that are too-often overlooked by local businesses is the Harvard Business Review Web site. One of my favorite articles is "How to Market in a Recession" by John Quelch, geared mostly towards consumer products companies but with much relevance for B2B, too.

The single most important sentence in the article: "It is well documented that brands that increase advertising during a recession, when competitors are cutting back, can improve market share and return on investment at lower cost than during good economic times."

This means you. How better to make this argument convincingly to your advertisers than to "walk the walk" and maintain, or even grow, your promotional activity? I'm not going to make specific recommendations on programming, sponsorships and community outreach because I'm an expert in neither radio promotions nor your local market(s). But you are.

Becoming conversant in and applying recession-based strategies can aid you in more successful consultative selling and delivering left jabs and right hooks to your competition across all advertising media.

Neil Glassman helps broadcast companies develop and deliver marketing strategies. He blogs on the WhizBang-PowWow at www.whizbangpowwow.com.

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