Monday, December 15, 2008

marketing yourself in economic meltdowns

How do you survive in the midst of meltdown? When the once admired big banks, businesses, and billionaires are standing in the Federal soup kitchen with their begging bowls?

One of my clients told me yesterday: "There will still be people shopping and spending money. They're just going to be far fewer. And they're going to be more selective."

As customers lose their jobs, homes, and invested life savings, your market shrinks. The pie is smaller, and more people, especially unemployed people who desperately decide they can probably do what you do, are fighting for a piece. At first, there will scammers and con artists trying to exploit people and businesses, offering miracle cures for sales slumps and sleeplessness.

Eventually, the high quality businesses will shine out in the devastation and debris.

It's no longer enough to be good at what you do. You must now also be good at self-promotion strategy and excution. Or find someone who can market you better than your surviving competition.

Ask your customers what's best about you, and how you ought to present it to new potential customers. Your customers, real life users, are your best source of intelligence about your own company, services, and products.

Your "brand" is the perceptive reality that seals itself in their minds and their they use your product to solve a problem, satisfy a need, or enhance a lifestyle.

Start with better and more abundant research into what problems or complaints exist in your current customer base. Then find out what needs are still being unmet in your market. These indicators should largely (along with visionary expectations of unknown but inevitable new needs) determine every aspect of what you do.

Here are some tips on marketing yourself in economic meltdowns:

(1) RE-DEFINE: Pinpoint, in writing, exactly what you do, how you do it, and who needs it. Then describe how you are most successful in obtaining new customers and what is the most attractive aspect of your product, how users (not you) differentiate your product from competing alternatives (other suppliers and DIY do it yourselfers).

(2) RE-ORGANIZE: Harshly, hatefully examine everything from the viewpoint of your worst enemy. Get rid of what you continue for sentimental reasons but are not productive for reaching your goals. Streamline. Eliminate loser products, activities, and personnel. Reduce leadership positions and dependence. Beef up line-worker intelligence, sales support, staff training, and customer service. Get a fresh system in place, for nobody can do Business As Usual anymore, for the Market As Usual has vanished.

(3) REFINE: Update your skills. Learn more. Offer more solutions to customer problems, and integrate them into a coherent, easily explained package. Stop being clueless about things that impede your progress. Learn HTML, sales, marketing, design, packaging, whatever you're in the dark about and overly reliant on others to handle. At least become better at evaluating outside experts and internal management.

(4) RE-LAUNCH: Polish up everything like never before, then throw a big party to announce and excite. Once you've got all your ducks in a row, go big. A large scale advertising campaign can be conducted online, to product-needing niches, on no or low budget, thanks to social networking and new media.

CONCLUSION: Take a hard look at what you do as a consultant or company. Remove what's not working. Ramp up what is working. Be better at quality and customer service than your competitors. Let user input be more decisive in high level decisions and product evolution.

Focus on core values and primary customer benefits. Let customers determine your marketing and operations, not leaders who are out of touch with market realities and real individual customers.

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