During a recession, marketing is often the first budget item to be cut, even though marketing is the most important tool a business has during difficult times. I would argue that now is a great time to make lemonade out of “economic lemons.” There are at least two ways to do that. First, consider this a time to reach out to potential strategic partners to develop co-marketing and co-sales opportunities. You might also have opportunities to re-package, or distribute products or services differently to reach new customers or old customers in new places or ways. Creativity can be developed, grown, nurtured and fostered, but only if creativity is first valued.
Does your company value creativity and calculated risk-taking?
Secondly, consider whether your customers’ needs or motives have changed. If so, your message should change to reflect new customer needs, wants, desires, anxieties, etc. Consider a few examples recently shared by Raquel Richardson, owner of Silver Square, in a recent e-newsletter:
- A-1 Steak Sauce’ changed its message to- “A-1 Steak Sauce isn’t just for sirloin anymore.” The target was hamburger lovers, and the strategy worked.
- Dow’s Ziploc food bags saw increased sales when Dow shifted funds from glass cleaners to help introduce a new line of Ziploc freezer bags that protect the freshness of leftovers.
- Quaker Oats developed new recession-driven messages:
- “Grain products are inexpensive sources of protein.”
- “Oats for breakfast cost just pennies a day.”
- Lipton pushed up its soup sales by promoting packaged cups of soup as both convenient and inexpensive.
Several companies have gone so far as to mention the recession in its messages. Wendy’s message is: “Look, I know you have less to spend these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat less.”
The list of companies that have enjoyed increased market share by spending more on marketing during recessions is long and storied. Interestingly, in each case, the competition spent less on marketing and tried to “ride out the storm.” When your competitors are avoiding risks and pulling back, they are potentially losing both today’s and tomorrow’s customers, and future opportunities. That’s your chance to gain market share that will likely mushroom when the economy recovers.