How to Market
your Way out of Tough Times
Fripp and David Garfinkel
There's gloom and uncertainty in the air, and most businesses
are making a terrible mistake right now in their efforts to ride out
the tough times. They're cutting back on marketing and waiting until
the economy improves.
In an economy like this, cutting back on marketing is
flirting with business suicide. What you should do instead is
increase your marketing without increasing the amount of money you
spend. This will not only protect you from sales declines, but will
also strengthen your business against the threat of deep-pocketed
competitors, who may see tough times as a great opportunity to
outmaneuver you and grab some of your customers.
How do you get more marketing bang for fewer marketing bucks?
By using proven lower-cost, higher-yield methods. Here are five sure
cures for marketing woes in tough times:
1. Get back in touch with old customers.
It's all too easy to ignore your old customers, but they are often
your best source for new business. Sometimes sending a personal
note, making a phone call or inviting an old customer to lunch is
all it takes to rekindle a business relationship. If you want to do
this through direct mail or email, you can give old customers a
special "Welcome Back" offer - a freebie, a discount, or a bonus
when they resume doing business with you.
2. Offer prospective customers a free sample.
This is an obvious but often overlooked strategy that certainly can
work for your business. Everyone from grocery stores (who offer
tidbits of food) to high priced consultants (who could offer a free
first hour) can use this strategy effectively. Don't think it will
work in the corporate world? Hmmm... ever hear of a company called
3. Focus your advertising. Many businesses think "keeping your name in front of
the public" is a valid advertising strategy. It's questionable at
best, but it's way too risky and low-yield in tough times. Instead,
make sure your advertising is only in publications that reach your
best prospects, and - this is the most important part - make a
specific offer and call to action to get readers of the ad to call
4. Let your customers help you out.
Business is always a two-way street. Some of your customers who
you've helped in the past will be glad to return the favor. Often,
all you have to do is ask. Two things you can ask for: testimonials
and case studies you can use in your sales presentations and
Another way they can help you: by giving you referrals. And
if you have an influential customer who's appreciative of what
you've done, ask that customer to write and send an endorsed letter
to others recommending your business. Offer to pay for the printing
and postage, and help with the writing if necessary.
5. Give extra attention to high-integrity behavior.
If you think you're the only one who's a little nervous about a lot
of things right now, you're not. Recent tragic events have increased
feelings of distrust across the board. To set yourself apart in the
marketplace, go out of your way to conduct business in an especially
trustworthy manner. Bend over backwards to be fair about refunds and
Do all you can to act in your customers' best interest, even
if it means referring them to a competitor (if you don't think
you're the best choice for what they want). High-integrity actions
can hurt a little in the short-term, but payback is remarkably quick
and well worth any sacrifice you may have had to make. If you get
(or strengthen) a reputation for being trustworthy, that can be the
most precious marketing asset of all in the times ahead.
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Patricia Fripp and
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