Archive for Tough Times Marketing

A Strategy for Tough Times

BNET posted an article in its leadership section titled, “What to Do in a Double-Dip Recession? Grow!” This may sound counter intuitive but it isn’t. There is evidence and research everywhere to support the notion that if you invest in gaining market share when your competitors are just trying to hang on, you will be in much better position when things do turn around.

We published these tips about Marketing in Tough Times a few years ago, they still seem very relevant today.

The “Down Sell”

BNET posted an article by Jeremy Quittner suggesting a new strategy. We are very familiar with “up-selling”, the practice of giving a product premium characteristics and a premium price too. There are success stories of luxury brands that began as basics all over the place. Think of what Starbucks has done to the 50-cent cup of coffee.

In this economy, down-selling might be a worthy strategy. Consumers may be spending again, but they’re doing so cautiously and with a newfound resolve to stick to a budget. If they’re giving up the bells and whistles in favor of more basic and affordable products, why not follow suit and take the “premium” out of your premium products?

It’s a much trickier proposition — that’s why. If you go too cheap, you risk, among other dangers, killing your profit margins and diluting your brand.

Ways to try this strategy:

Give Customers Something New
You could simplify an existing product by stripping it down to its essentials, or invent a completely new, cheaper product. Go to your customers for clues about what they’re looking for and what they’re willing to buy. Just make sure you don’t give them exactly what they say they want — your customers probably only know what’s already out there. It’s your job to figure out what’s new.

Pitch the Value
Marketing non-premium products in a down economy requires a different kind of sales pitch. Convey that they are still getting a valuable product, but it’s priced for this economy, and the value may not last. That way, customers get the message that you are looking out for their needs and you are still providing the high quality that they associate with your brand.

Know Your Brand
Down-selling customers won’t work for every company, particularly if your image depends on an air of high-end exclusivity to differentiate it from your competitors. Don’t cannibalize your core (business, products, brands or customer base) to stimulate sales in the short term without thinking long term and strategically.

When you are ready to introduce your new ideas, direct mail is a great way to test messages, approaches and innovations.

Make the Most of What You Have

Direct Magazine published an article titled, “Make the Most of What You’ve Got”. Author, Carol Lustig, shared some realistic practical information with a great attitude. She talked about how her information technology systems were not completely up to date and she was not able to get the exact customer purchase data that she wanted to use for a new campaign.

The result was that working with what was available, a new campaign has been launched and customer relationships are being retained using targeted specific information.

We have talked about the ideals of customer segmentation and market analysis, but the other side of those ideas is that we just need to do something! Maybe that something is just to start with what we have.

Please talk to us, we are here to save you every possible fraction of a cent on postage and that sensibility can help you make the most from what you already have (creative ideas, artwork, customer information, extra mailing pieces, samples…).

How to Save on Printing

Use postcards when appropriate. They’re fast, easy and affordable to produce.

If you plan to mail a series of postcards or self-mailers, print all versions at the same time, then mail them over time. The larger your print run, the lower the cost per printed piece.

Consider printing a year’s worth of four-color “shells” or basic templates (lower cost per piece for printing), then go back and do one-color imprints of specific messages or offers in smaller quantities throughout the year.

Consider one-color printing on colored or textured paper stock or other methods to save on printing.

Try two-color printing with screens to add visual interest.

Recycle an existing brochure or catalog by using a sticker, overwrap or other way to call attention to a specific product, service or offer inside.

Reactivate interest in a catalog that’s already in your customers’ hands by mailing out a postcard with a photo of the catalog cover on it and making a special limited offer.

Reduce printing and inserting costs by making your letter double as the reply device. Print the response information at the bottom of the letter and ask for the entire letter to be returned to you.

Reasons to Mail Now

There are no filters removing printed mail from good old-fashioned mailboxes.

Nobody likes an empty mailbox! Mail volume has decreased, a really good offer to the right person has a great chance of standing out.


Now is a great time to take advantage of direct mail and other underused marketing channels.

Many businesses have shifted advertising to online efforts. Maybe this is the time to see our current economy as an opportunity. What a great occasion to increase brand advertising!

Successful brand advertising is all about building a connection with your customer, this establishes your business or product as something which is known and trusted. Brand marketing helps us trust a company and buy when we see their ads later on. One of the greatest challenges for smaller businesses is to establish a name for themselves, and a downturn actually provides an opportunity to do that because it tends to suppress brand building advertising. What a great chance to be able to jump over your competitors, especially if the market leader has curtailed their advertising spending during the downturn.

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.

Entrepreneurs Find Direct Mailings Still Key to Winning Customers

The Wall Street Journal published an article on January 12th that discussed the experiences of businesses that tried to replace their direct mail marketing with various forms of email marketing. Their trials did not work; they went back to direct mail.

The article discussed some new strategies of sending more personalized messages to a very select list of current and prospective customers. Please see the previous postings titled “Do More Marketing with Less Money” and “Doing More with Less” for some more ideas about how to make the most of mail.

Mail is a great way to reach your customers and prospects with relevant offers and information. Your audience will give you their time and attention to consider what you have to say.

Do More Marketing with Less Money

  • Stagger mailing schedules (200 piece mailings still qualify for presorted postage discounts)
  • Think about new ways to get more from your customer list
    • Would you tell a different story to someone based on where they live or the business is located?
    • Would you offer a deeper discount if they have not purchased from you in the last year?
    • Would updating your customer file with more details help you create more personalized messages?
  • Now is a great time to implement existing customer retention programs like newsletters, anniversary (their wedding or when they last purchased from you) letters or postcards, birthday cards, postcard reminders…
  • Get coop advertising support from your vendors
  • Cooperate with nearby businesses
  • Cooperate with similar but non competing businesses

We have more ideas please call us at 602-272-2100 and let us help you.

Doing More with Less

These days we are all doing more with less:

  • Squeezing the very last bit of toothpaste from the tube
  • Cooking more at home, using leftovers
  • Giving your time as Christmas gift
  • Finding joy in shopping bargains

Direct mail has always been the advertising method that offers measurable results. Mail is scalable, you can send as many cards or letters as you can afford and have the resources to fulfill. In this economic climate, this is still true and more important than ever.

We recently attended a seminar that talked about marketing. They spent a lot of time talking about websites, social networking, search optimization… Yes they are all important, yes they are more important now than ever before. However, they are not the only way you can and should interact with your customers and your potential customers. Do you have a valid email address from everyone who has purchased from you before? Does every one of your customers want your marketing messages in their email inbox? We know that different types of people respond to different types of messages from many sources.

You need to be able to be found in the moment of purchase, that means when someone searches for you on the Internet, you are there. But what about being on the short list of possible vendors? Maintaining relationships with customers who have purchased from you before is less expensive than investing resources to capture and create a bond with a new client.