Thrive in Turbulence

Deliver Magazine (the marketing magazine published by the US Postal Service) interviewed Philip Kotler, Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and here are some highlights. He was talking about his book, Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in The Age of Turbulence. I remember reading Kotler’s books in college, it is great that his new ideas are still so relevant.

Eight ways to flourish despite widespread uncertainty and upheaval

1. Secure your market share from core customer segments. Your first priority is to get your core customer segments firmly secured. This is no time to get too greedy. Be prepared to ward off attacks from competitors attempting to take away your most loyal and profitable customers.

2. Push aggressively for greater market share. All companies fight for market share and, in chaotic times, many have been weakened. Slashing marketing budgets and sales travel budgets are sure signs that a competitor is buckling under pressure. Add to your core customer segments at the expense of your weakened competitors.

3. Research customers now more than ever. Everyone is under pressure during times of turbulence and chaos, which means all customers are changing their habits — even those in your core segments whom you know so well. Stay close to them. You don’t want to find yourself relying on old marketing messages that no longer resonate.

4. Seek to increase — or at least maintain — your marketing budget. This is the worst time to think about cutting anything in your marketing budget that targets your core customer segments. In fact, you need to add to this budget, or take money away from those forays you were planning to go after totally new customer segments. It’s time to secure the home front.

5. Focus on all that’s safe. When turbulence is scaring everyone in the market, there is a massive flight to safety by most consumers. They need to feel the safety and security of your company and its products and services. Do everything possible to communicate that continuing to do business with you is safe. Spend whatever it takes to do it.

6. Quickly drop programs that aren’t working. If you’re not watching your spending, rest assured that someone else is — including your peers whose budgets couldn’t be protected from the ax. Cut out ineffective programs before someone else calls attention to them.

7. Don’t discount your best brands. When you do this, you instantly tell the market two things: Your prices were too high before, and your brands won’t be worth the price in the future once the discount is gone. Instead, consider creating a new, distinct product or service offering under a new brand with lower prices. This gives value-conscious customers the ability to stay close to you while not alienating those still willing to pay for your higher-priced brands. Once the turbulence subsides, you may consider discontinuing your newly introduced branded value product line — or not.

8. Save the strong; lose the weak. In a turbulent economy, you need to make your strongest brands and products even stronger. There’s no time or money to be wasted on marginal brands or overly fragile products that aren’t supported by strong value propositions and a solid customer base.


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