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Don’t cut marketing when things get slow

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It’s fiscally tempting to scale back the marketing budget of your business in lean times, even though doing so may only cause more pain.

When the economy is tanking and business slows, companies often hastily react by “hunkering down” and shelving new marketing efforts to save money, says Keven Malkewitz, professor of marketing at Oregon State University. But that only exasperates business woes.

“If you go dark it takes a lot more energy to get in a consumer’s mind when the economy improves,” says Scott Nowack, president of Portland-based advertising firm Livengood Nowack.

Successful companies view a tough economic climate as an opportunity to outsmart, and overtake, their competitors with more cost-effective and experimental marketing strategies. Chances are your competitor is feeling the pinch, too, says Malkewitz.

Malkewitz, who conducted a seminar in Portland in April on marketing in a down economy, recommends that a business start by reappraising customers and their return of business relative to the amount of resources devoted to market toward them. “It’s a good time to fire customers,” he says.

It also helps to re-evaluate the viability of your product or service. In other words, a little empathy for the customer goes a long way. “In a down economy customers may need different things,” Malkewitz says. “The company that responds best to that usually wins.”

For Nowack, business is brisk and his clients are asking for more exposure, so he’s helping them sharpen their customer target and move to the Internet. One method is locating online communities and creating ads solely aimed toward them. He also is experimenting with “positive message” ads to contrast with negative political ads and news.

But new doesn’t necessarily mean better, according to Malkewitz. As much as businesses like to salivate over a quick fix or a new marketing tool or strategy, it’s really only a pipe dream that wastes precious time.

In the effort to survive, all the best marketing techniques still rely on building customer relationships and a quality product or service, he says.

Sure, temporary promotions such as lowering rates when customers have less money helps generate a bit more business, Malkewitz say, but in the long run, “the lowest price doesn’t always win.”

JASON SHUFFLER


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