Having seen the market slide in the past several months, companies are planning for the worst and hoping for the best. There are strategies for maintaining growth—and profitability—in trying times. The key is using the downturn to rethink and retool marketing and sales strategies.
The following five areas warrant attention during a downturn.
- Product and market focus. In boom times, growing customer demand encourages companies to create new products and services. Yet in downtimes, the cost of carrying marginal products and customers can be expensive. Disciplined companies make the tough decisions to eliminate products or suspend the pursuit of new markets. Even better: Raising prices to signal “end-of-life” products can create meaningful short-term, windfall profits.
- Demand generation versus brand building. Most companies substantially invest in building their company and product brand through traditional media advertising and events. But in a downturn, cutting brand spending is often the best use of scarce corporate resources. Targeted demand-generation programs, such as direct marketing to existing, dormant or former customers, can keep a company's sales pipeline full when overall market demand declines.
- Digital marketing. As buyers increasingly prefer to research products and services via the Web, companies making growing digital marketing investments are realizing customer acquisition economies, reduced customer service costs, and higher levels of repeat purchase and loyalty. Digital marketing also makes data collection and analytics—critical in identifying the best opportunities and making channel adjustments midstream—a no-brainer.
- Low-cost channels. From sales forces and distribution partners to direct mail and the Web, the choice of channels through which to market and sell products is critical. Many executives find that a combination of field sales reps, interactive marketing and inside telesales channels provide affordable, innovative and effective solutions to many of today's marketing and sales challenges.
- Distributor/reseller channels. Companies must rethink not only how to use new, lower-cost direct channels but also how to leverage partners in new ways to reach more customers. For enterprises with significant partner bases, the challenge is rationalizing partner investment and finding ways to drive mind share in partners that provide the greatest coverage.
Companies should always be thinking “growth,” even in a downturn. In reviewing your sales and marketing organizations, you may find opportunities you never knew you had.
Tim Furey is president-CEO of MarketBridge, a sales and marketing professional services company. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.