Marketing in the Midst of Instability

October 29, 2008

We all know times have been tough, of late. Fear not—I'm not going to launch into a lengthy analysis of potential causes of the economic meltdown. After all, I'm in marketing, so I'm a little more concerned about potential effects. In any economic downturn, a plethora of experts in micro-/macro-financial issues and experts in worldwide market analysis will share with you their years of strategic wisdom—though little of it may apply to you and even less of it will make sense.

Ultimately, there's no one-size-fits-all solution for marketing in tempestuous financial times. Instead of discussing how and where you should park your marketing dollars, however, we want to cover a few things that any organization can do—without, in most cases, parting with a single penny.

Take care of existing customers

This seems like common sense, but it's always surprising to see just how many companies fare so poorly at customer service, even when times are good. If you're not treating your clients well when the economy is booming, there's little reason to think they'll stick with you when they're forced to tighten budgets. At the same time, if worry over shrinking markets causes you to ignore your existing customers during a downturn, you'll soon find yourself with no markets whatsoever. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Exploit no-cost online tools

If your organization has a blog, use it. Don't have one? Sign up for one at one of the free blogging services that populate the online universe. Put out fresh, relevant content that your markets need or want to hear.

Look into using different social media tools like Twitter and Facebook (if you need some guidance on getting started, we've got you covered). Granted, the overall marketing value of these services is still being debated. At the very least, participating in social media proves to your markets that you're still alive and kickin'.

Get out and press the flesh

Even if little of your customer base comes from your immediate community, there's no good defense to ignoring your neighbors. Besides, when economies contract, businesses and consumers often look for savings a little closer to home. In addition, knowing the local lay of things may help you shore up costs.

Participate in events or meetings sponsored by your local chamber of commerce. Better yet, host an event of your own. Make sure your organization has a presence in the community.

By no means is this list exhaustive, and every organization must deal with unique challenges. Moreover, many organizations are already doing what we've suggested. Which begs the question: If they managed to pursue more online opportunities, cut costs, and retain customers since the downturn, why aren't you?