Thursday, December 04, 2008

Marketing in a Downturn

The first thing that comes to mind when you think about marketing during an economic downturn is why bother. Nobody buys anyways, so why do we need any marketing?

On a second thought, is this really the case?

We now know that the US has been in a recession since the end of 2007. Does it mean that nobody bought anything? Not really. From the small sample of software companies I am aware of, most have done pretty well. Even now that the recession word is out, companies are still closing a good amount of 2008 business. And this holds even in market segments that are making headlines littered with words such as “crisis”, “losses”, “slumping”, and their synonyms.

So while I agree that we all have to be cautious with our spending as we plan for 2009, we also have to be careful not to bring about our own demise by shutting down our marketing presence.

So what should a software marketer do?

First order of business is to use this opportunity to become more efficient and effective in your marketing operations. Marketing is one area where you don’t necessarily get what you pay for. You can pay a lot of money for things that don’t get you much, and you can do many things that cost very little yet have a huge impact.

For years, advertising and tradeshows have been my two poster children for ineffective marketing. Guess what? They still are, because companies are still spending too much money on them.

Take tradeshows for example. The cost of exhibiting in a tradeshow keeps going up, especially when you consider the travel costs involved. All this while the returns keep going down, as buyers are cutting back on their own travel expenses.

At the same time, there are many more inexpensive ways to reach buyers at our disposal today than ever before.

There are many things you can do to make sure you get the most out of your marketing budget, but if I had to pick my top three “getting ready for 2009” initiatives, they would be the following:
  1. Fine-tune your website

  2. Your website is the key to marketing effectiveness. You want to make sure that your message is not only crystal clear but also tuned to the concerns of your buyers given the current economic climate (although you don’t want to overreact to it).

    Speaking of your website, you can spend a lot of money on fancy search engine optimization (SEO), but you can do some pretty amazing things with a low cost SEO effort that will drive more relevant traffic to your website.

  3. Communicate often

  4. Use your e-mail list to continue communicating with your market. Make sure you deliver value in your messages. This is something that is always true, but even more important when many are not necessarily in the mood for buying right now. Use (and reuse) educational material to keep the conversation alive and maintain top-of-mind awareness so buyers turn to you when budgets free up (and they will!)

  5. Use “old” and “new” media to spread the word

  6. PR is no longer about reaching the press. It is also no longer reserved just for “big news.” You can use your PR to bypass the traditional media and reach your buyers directly, and you can do it with very high frequency at extremely low cost (see a good example). In addition, you can use “old” media like blogs and “new” ones like twitter to reach your buyers through multiple opt-in vehicles and communicate your messages even more frequently.

But so far we only discussed defense. Now let’s move to offense.

How about taking advantage of this downturn to gain ground on your competition? If you can maintain or even increase your market presence, you may be able to move ahead of competitors that are cutting back and are not as effective as you are with their marketing spend. This may be a good time for competitive upgrades and other offers directed at the competition’s soft belly. And remember: they can do the same to you if you cut back too much or if you don’t make the most out of your marketing budget.

Post a comment and let me know how you are handling your 2009 marketing budget. And check out our no-risk offer to help you fine-tune your 2009 marketing budget.

1 comment:

Natalie Nathanson said...

There's another good article on "The Definitive Guide to Business-to-Business Marketing in a Recession" on (

An interesting point I took away from it was about shifting the view of marketing (as a function) away from a cost center, i.e. using terms like "marketing investment" rather than "marketing spending" or "cost per lead".

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