Marketers should lead the way
While the media has clearly played a part in exacerbating the depth and speed of the down-turn, it is highly likely that the media will also help accelerate the up-turn. While no-one knows whether the recovery will be V, U, W, L or some other shape, there are signs that many macro indicators have stopped falling. The FTSE100 is above its February 2009 low, and there has been modest GDP and house price growth through the Spring. So while there is still a case for caution, marketers have a key role to play to lead their businesses towards better times. Here are six pointers:
1. Start by ensuring your business fundamentals are sound
It has always been the case that the most successful businesses are those that are the most customer or audience driven. If the tough times have caused a sales reduction, this may be symptomatic of a weakness in your offer which means that the cause needs to be fully understood and addressed. Whatever the economic situation, robust insights must inform your targeting, products and promotions to ensure your offer truly stands out and appeals. Only when you have a factually based and sound strategy in place will you ever be in a position to invest and grow.
2. Maximise cash
Marketers can do much to bring forward and maximise cash flows, for example by rewarding early payment. Do your bit to control costs too. Consider using more efficient communications and seeking out smarter and better value agencies. If a worst case rationalisation is required, view it as an opportunity to ‘right-size’, ensure that the right resources are in the right places and perhaps refresh the culture. This can then provide a more robust foundation for renewed growth.
3. Be more vigilant to threats and opportunities
Marketers should play a leading role to ensure that corporate antennae are installed and working properly. While tough times present threats, they also present opportunities – a weak competitor here, a lower cost investment opportunity there. There will rarely be a greater opportunity for the smart marketing and research department to prove their worth by providing timely intelligence and quality thinking on how to realise those opportunities. Watch for signs of recovery – The Sunday Times has been running a ‘green shoots’ column for several weeks and the tone of the BBC’s Robert Peston is markedly more upbeat! Look for threats and opportunities by visiting stores, talking to consumers, and reading investment blogs and company reports.
4. Don’t stop promoting your products but do be smarter about how you do it
There are many studies that show how share of advertising voice correlates with market share. Those who invest in proactive marketing during tough times are the first to emerge and are the strongest when the good times return. Use creativity to add value to your brand and avoid creating a hostage to fortune.
5. Cultivate a mindset of controlled aggression!
Test major business building initiatives on a low cost, controlled risk basis to ensure that they work. Only when you have the metrics to prove that they work should you invest heavily.
6. Invest while the bargains abound
In the last few months our own business has been inundated with promotional offers from research facilities, and we’ve been able to strike many media and other bargains. Grab these while they are still around!
Darwinist fundamentals apply. Make sure that your business and brand strategies are based on true insight and facts so you can be as fit and competitive as possible. Be more vigilant to threats and opportunities by making sure your corporate antennae are working properly and in so doing be proactive and timely in drawing opportunities and making investment recommendations to your Boards. Grasp lower cost marketing opportunities while they are still around. In so doing you should be able to help power your business towards a rosier future.