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 advice on 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's 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.
1.) 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 the 20 years before CEO Darwin Smith came on board, Kimberly-Clark tracked pretty much to the market. During Smith's tenure, its 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 -- beating out a power house like Proctor & Gamble in six out of eight 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.
2.) Don't contract, expand. Collins talks of Gillette as a company that was value priced and under constant acquisition pressure. The CEO, Colman Mockler, walked away from a 44-percent 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 twice that of 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.