Marketing Tips: Making a Leap in a Down Economy

April 22, 2009
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I’ve been listening to marketers struggle with how to continue to drive business through marketing efforts in our current economy. One online-wine club marketer had asked advise of how to drive business as luxury sales were diminishing. A friend of mine had been ready to pull the trigger and open a high-end stationary and ceramics shops but fretted that even in a high-end town center it was risky. Business at a local coffee shop with a strong following is starting to bootstrap.

When times get tough or require thinking out of the box, I always turn to Jim Collins’ book Good to Great*. Considering we are in what is said to be the worst economy since the depression, I picked it up again to to look for inspiration. While it is probably more of a guide for the C-Suite, as marketers I think we can learn a trick or two.

The Key Take-Aways for Me Are:
Reinvent
Don’t Contract, Expand
Keep it Simple

Reinvent
It is easy to get stuck in a rut. The mantra in bad times is, “Keep your head down.” Collins uses the example of Kimberly-Clark and the Darwin Smith factor. In 20 years prior to CEO Darwin Smith, Kimberly-Clark tracked pretty much to the market. During Smith’s tenure it’s value sky ro


I’ve been listening to marketers struggle with how to continue to drive business through marketing efforts in our current economy. One online-wine club marketer had asked advise of how to drive business as luxury sales were diminishing. A friend of mine had been ready to pull the trigger and open a high-end stationary and ceramics shops but fretted that even in a high-end town center it was risky. Business at a local coffee shop with a strong following is starting to bootstrap.

When times get tough or require thinking out of the box, I always turn to Jim Collins’ book Good to Great*. Considering we are in what is said to be the worst economy since the depression, I picked it up again to to look for inspiration. While it is probably more of a guide for the C-Suite, as marketers I think we can learn a trick or two.

The Key Take-Aways for Me Are:
Reinvent
Don’t Contract, Expand
Keep it Simple

Reinvent
It is easy to get stuck in a rut. The mantra in bad times is, “Keep your head down.” Collins uses the example of Kimberly-Clark and the Darwin Smith factor. In 20 years prior to CEO Darwin Smith, Kimberly-Clark tracked pretty much to the market. During Smith’s tenure it’s value sky rocketed.

Smith closed the paper mills and started selling paper products of some of the biggest brands we know today, Huggies and Kleenex. and beating out a power house like Proctor & Gamble in 6 of 8 product categories.

In marketing we have a wide array of communication avenues to reach our customers. However, sometimes we stay in a world of direct marketing tried and true tactics or leverage new technologies with old thought. Or, worse yet, we slash prices. As you consider ways to reach new targets or improve response/impressions, look at the potential of a marketing tool, partnership, or combinations of campaigns that could be different enough to stand out and make a difference. Consider optimizing or quickly enhancing offers and solutions that are more appealing.

Don’t Contract, Expand
Collin’s talks of Gillette as a company that was value priced and under constant acquisition pressure. The CEO, Colman Mockler, walked away from a 44% premium offered in a takeover bid. Instead, he decided to invest in new product lines (Sensor and Mach3). Within 10 years Collins predicted that a dollar invested at the time of the take over would be worth a little over $30 (about 2 times an investment in the general market). Yet, by launching these new products Gillette’s value went to almost $96.

It may be unrealistic to think that you can get more money for marketing at this time. But, you can consider pulling back or exiting in one or more areas and investing heavily in something you have a high degree of confidence in. If your competition is weak, chances are you have better odds to acquire new customers or win new business if they aren’t as present in the marketplace. You could also think of events to redirect money towards that allow a 1-1 customer experience from a marketing and sales perspective. It may be that if you plan and coordinate well with sales and their invites Marketing can make a real difference in helping win business.

Keep it Simple
The Good to Great analysis show’s Walgreen’s far outpaced Intel, GE, Coca-Cola, and Merck from 1975 – 2000. Cork Walgreen said this to Collins, “Look, it just wasn’t that complicated! Once we understood the concept, we just moved straight ahead.” He created the best, convenient drugstores, with high profit per customer visit. Elegant, isn’t it?

Now don’t go out and simplify your campaigns to a single vehicle to keep it simple and say that I told you so. What we can learn from this is the elements of simple value and simple objectives aligned to a specific measure. In a down economy, you need to be fast and nimble. Know what your value is, what you want to achieve, and how you will measure successes. Predictive analytics and complex segmentations have their place, but you and your teams need to understand exactly what needs to be done and how to know if it worked. Discipline and assessment.

Going from a Good to Great Marketing Organization
These three elements for marketing success really touch upon a notion of entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, Collins puts companies in the Great Organization category if they are highly entrepreneurial and foster a culture of discipline.

Don’t be afraid to jump start your marketing efforts with inventiveness and investment as long as it is easy to rally behind and your teams can execute. Keep a keen eye on success factors and you can continue to innovate and invest, moving through iterations toward driving your business forward.

*The link is available for you to purchase the book. I have no affiliation with Jim Collins or Amazon and do not make any profit off of the sale of this book.

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