Don’t waste a perfectly good recession

Alright, business hasn’t turned around as quickly as you’d like – or as quickly as anyone would like.  So your customers aren’t throwing their spending money at you any more than you’re shelling out dollars to hire additional staff, add new locations or expand your advertising reach.

Instead, if you’re like most companies, you’re continuing to be as parsimonious with your spending and investing as good business judgment dictates, right?  That means you’re more focused on sales than on marketing, since marketing means spending money whereas sales means making money, right again?

Many businesses have grown their sales force while decimating their marketing departments.  They’ve turned from brand-building  to such “instant gratification” sales-based marketing strategies as direct response and SEO.  At the same time, they’re making price the deciding factor.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

So let me propose two basic flaws in that kind of approach.

First, the further away from image and brand marketing you move, the less the customer is predisposed to buy from you regardless of price, since your brand is no longer the top-of-mind preferred choice.  That means A) you have to wait until the customer is ready to buy and not a second before, and B) you are now set up for trading exclusively on price since your value proposition has taken a distant back seat…and there’s always a competitor who will come along with a cheaper product or service.

The second strategic flaw is that you’re now doing exactly what your competition is doing, hunkering down and playing the DR/sales/price game at precisely the time advertising rates are the most affordable they’ve ever been.  Today, you can negotiate the most advantageous ad programs and one-up your competition with strong visibility while they’re still virtually invisible.

The opposing argument might be that in this sucky economy consumers are more price-focused than brand focused. And yet…

Why is it that sales of Apple’s iPad, an absolutely non-necessary (but really great) product, are booming?  With each new iteration of the iPad, a $600 – $800 purchase, there are lines of anxious shoppers waiting outside the Apple Store.  Simply, Apple presents a fantastic value proposition in its advertising that has nothing to do with price.  The Apple brand and the iPad experience are king. Their strategy is so successful that in 2011, Apple sold more iPads in its last quarter than HP sold desktop computers all year!

The true job of advertising and marketing is to establish a consumer’s desire in advance of asking for the order. Without this first stage, building desire and brand equity, the selling process is exponentially more difficult. Any wonder why the sales cycle for most businesses has doubled or even tripled over the past few years as marketing budgets have been cut?

This is nothing new.  In fact, the business publisher McGraw Hill addressed this very issue in a brilliant ad that ran in the early 1960s.  In essence, the ad demonstrated that without marketing laying the foundation of understanding and desire prior to the sale, the barrier is significant.

So you’ve been given a gift, as it were, in the form of a recession.  From a marketing perspective, your competitors are asleep at the wheel, and you can afford marketing visibility as you never have before.  Here’s your chance to let them suffer the recession while you profit from it.  How will you handle the opportunity?

This entry was posted in Advertising, Branding, Creativity, Direct Response, Marketing, Sales & Marketing, Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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