Sunday, September 14, 2008

Recession Marketing: Lead or Get Left Behind

A few years ago during another recession in the US economy, I wrote this article. It became widely popular being syndicated in dozens of publications across the country. Given our current economic situation, I thought I'd resurrect it here.

Sure we’re in an economic downturn. Times are hard and we have to be very careful on how we spend our resources. Every effort must count. However, just because we have to be careful doesn’t mean we have to be frugal. Perhaps one key marketing strategy during a recession is to spend like a leader – not a follower – in three key areas: vision, commitment and execution.

The ability to articulate and communicate a compelling and passionate vision for your organization – or yourself – is a primary form of persuasion that is very powerful. Guy Kowasaki, then CEO of said, “Create a cause, not a company.”

How can you turn your company into a cause that others will want to get behind and help succeed? Does your vision set your organization apart from others or are you just another “me-too” provider? How can you lead through your vision?

Having a compelling vision means you believe in something important. You can see the end result and can offer value to your community of followers as they participate. There is total employee buy-in because your vision is so clear and compelling that it energizes them to give from their hearts as well as their hands. A strong vision creates advocates in both employees and customers.

How you sustain and nurture your vision depends on your commitment to your core purpose. You need to be willing to take risks to see your vision grow and thrive. This means that you’re working smart – employing smart marketing methods – to motivate your customers and employees to action. Your marketing efforts are not riddled with chaotic reaction, but rather sharply focused by your vision and a deep rooted desire to do something truly unique.

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead once said, “You don’t want to be considered the best at what you do. You want to be the only one doing what you’re doing.”

In a recession it is easy to cut costs and pull back on our marketing efforts. However, commitment to marketing is a discipline all savvy and successful companies have developed. It is the exercise of integrity in the moment of choice. To follow Jerry’s example, if everyone else is pulling back, perhaps a recession is an opportunity to move forward.

Jan Edmondson of DDB Worldwide Seattle, one of the area’s top advertising agencies, said that “a vision without execution is a hallucination.” This means that successful recession marketers put feet to their vision by developing close relationships with their customers. They are passionate about getting close and not just knowing, but understanding them.

Execution in recession marketing focuses on loving the customer, communicating clearly and precisely, spending as a leader and using the right tools to accomplish your goals. But even the greatest communication tactics can fail if there is not a strong value proposition. The creation and delivery of value will be the most defining competitive advantage of the 21st century marketplace. Your execution cannot be just activity, but the communication of extreme value that only you provide.

During a recession, many people and organizations will slow down and watch. They will become spectators in the marketplace and some will never become players again. You can ensure your place as a leader in the market by choosing to be a leader and not a follower. Recessions do not have to be retreats—they can be opportunities knocking at your door.

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