Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recession Marketing

The age-old debate: to pull back or not to pull back. The PullBack advocates say why further hurt the bottom line with marketing expenses when no one is buying? The KeepGoing group argues that when sales go down, marketing has to go up, and besides, if you're in the game when the PullBackers are bailing out, you can steal market share.

I agree with Pat Strothers, who argues that this is a false question: the real question when faced with a recession is not how to change your marketing budget, but how to change your marketing focus, and the answer is contained in the title of his fine blog post: For now, focus on those ready to buy. I recommend it.

Changing your marketing focus means, of course, also changing your language focus. Even "ready to buy" customers are going to be feeling some resistance to pulling the trigger with a recession of unknown length and depth staring them in the face. Use your communications to help them get past the last hurdle: waiting until times get better.

1. Get specific about the benefits. Stressing the benefits, especially benefits they'll see right away, will help your buyers get past procrastination. Describe benefits in specific and practical terms - recessions, as Pat says, are not the time to do general brand-building.

2. Help with the pain. If you have ways of helping your buyers with the costs, announce them front and center in your communications. In normal times, free shipping is a nice benefit. In a recession, it might close the deal.

3. Make buying easy. In every communication, have a very clear and very easy-to-find call to action, and make that action as easy as possible. Don't send them to your "Contact" web page to find your phone number, have it right next to the words "Call now." Don't make them fill out long forms to send you an email; just one click, and pre-fill the subject line with your call to action. Let your language show that your door is wide open, and a friendly greeter is out there to meet you.

Perhaps above all, make sure your communications let your customers know that you appreciate the situation that they're in, and that you'll do whatever you can to make sure this buying experience doesn't add to their problems.