WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO MARKET?
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BOOM OR BUST?
Yesterday, CNN reported the Feds were still concerned the US economy was overheating; this morning NPR news quoted an economic pundit “fearing” an economic downturn, and multiple media outlets were reporting on Cisco’s better-than-expected earnings and bullish 12 month forecast as a positive indicator that the technology sector is healthy and growing. So what are we to make of all this? How do you react to economy changes both real and forecasted?
The news caused me to pause and return to the perennial question about timing one’s marketing activities. When is the best time to market & how should one respond to economic upturns, downturns, plateaus and valleys?
Ideally, you want your business to thrive irrespective of the economic climate and clearly some businesses do much better than others. History bears witness to the successful organizations that thrive when the economic tide wanes and outperform others when the tide raises all boats. I believe three key principles stand between the triumphant and the regretful:
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I am amazed how few organizations can accurately describe their ideal target audience.
We all know that we can’t be all things to all people. Yet out of fear from alienating a particular group or segment, we try to accommodate all, diluting our message to the point of irrelevancy. Instead of being 20% relevant to 80% of your audience, I suggest become100% relevant to your ideal audience, the center of your target, the golden circle.
Although this “bulls-eye” may only represent less than 10% of your universe, your marketing arrows will invariably hit the red zone that possess 70-80% of the “ideal” attributes and can be excellent customers nonetheless. By focusing on the center you will nail BOTH the ideal and those who closely resemble the ideal. Such penetration marketing is like cutting through butter with a laser knife as opposed to dusting the outside with a little hot air.
Practical application tip #1: Paint the picture of your ideal customer. Analyze your past customers to see how they match up to the ideal. What are their attributes? What made them such good customers? What are their needs, issues, challenges, and decision-making criteria? Then target your marketing accordingly to attract more prospects that look like your best past clients.
P.S. Sometimes your ideal clients in a downturn are different from those in an upturn. For example, in the travel industry, the business client is critical for airlines in a downturn; without them they are “toast”. In a boom, the marginal traveler provides additional revenues with incremental better margins.
ZIG WHEN OTHERS ZAG
Following the herd means you are destined to forever be a part of the herd. The alternatives
are twofold: Lead the herd or Leave the herd. This is one of the key principles ensconced in Trout & Ries’ classic marketing tome: 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. If you can’t take a differentiated leadership position, then create and lead a new category (or sub-category). Hence the rise of “fusion cuisine” restaurants in the last 20 years. Asian, American and European culinary traditions have been brought together to create unique combinations heretofore not seen on the planet. Anyone for salad with crisp nori topping, and a miso-cilantro vinaigrette?
New categories and sectors are being created regularly. For example, ten years ago, categories like broadband, online music, online dating, online training, e-commerce, e-learning and e-books had yet to be formulated … and that’s just naming a few. Now we have mobile commerce, many category components to the virtual office and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group vying to be the leader in commercial space tourism.
Another approach is to create a radical point of differentiation through innovation and /or marketing. Despite the fact that most physical-therapy treatments are reimbursable by health insurance, more than 90 percent of massage therapy sessions are paid out of the client’s pocket. One local Registered Massage Therapist, Dan Puig (RMT), not only has a nine-year trained background in the health field in anatomy, physiology, and surgical procedures, but he took the trouble to create the necessary strategic partnerships to receive third-party insurance reimbursement. The result? He has carved out a niche for himself as a registered medical massage therapist who not only is qualified to fulfill a doctor’s prescription for a massage but also will make the necessary insurance claim on a person’s behalf so he or she only pays the deductible.
Practical application tip #2: Define your category or niche leadership.
ALWAYS BE MARKETING
One of the greatest failures in marketing businesses and organizations is the lack of consistency and continuity.he strategic objective of their marketing is to have their clients, prospects, referral sources and other stakeholders thing of them first, often and well. One of the three key factors to achieve this is to constantly invest and build into the relationships through relevant, persuasive and compelling communication.
I constantly stress to my clients that that the strategic objective of their marketing is to have their clients, prospects, referral sources and other stakeholders thing of them first, often and well. One of the three key factors to achieve this is to constantly invest and build into the relationships through relevant, persuasive and compelling communication.
It’s like a marriage relationship. It is my objective that my beloved wife, Melissa, thinks of me first, often and well. If she does not, then I am in deep trouble!
This takes a constant investment in the relationship. After all 20+ years ago, I made a promise. “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s Holy ordinance.” Well our marriage has been best when I have invested in it irrespective of whether times were good or bad. Likewise, our marketing cannot be “episodic.” It needs to have the continuous “drizzle” of good communications to keep the relationship healthy and for our target markets to think of us first, often and well.
Like in a marriage or family relationship, don’t just think of the obvious … I often recommend to husbands to surprise their brides with flowers not just on their wives’ birthdays or anniversaries. Likewise, “surprise” your clients with a handwritten note or an article you came across that is relevant to them. I can almost guarantee you will be one of the few in their business relationships that do that and you will be well remembered.
Practical application tip #3: In the next 48 hours send a client or prospect a trade or magazine article that pertains to them, (and share the result with us!).
So my counsel is …don’t worry about the economic pundits … market in the good times and in the bad. You can take away significant market share from your competitors in a declining economy and you can take more than your fair share in an expanding economy. It all depends on the quality of your market. Your target market might need refinement and your message might alter. But leaders, by definition don’t follow. In marketing that means you must carve out new categories and niches. Final examples … in the early 80’s downturn, I worked with Hyatt Hotels and I marveled at how they grew at the expense of their competitors. Also, I had the good fortune to work with several hi-tech companies in the late 90’s such as Symphion and others. Their marketing was intelligent and as a result they did not crash when the bust came – they retrenched, re-positioned and survived when 99% crashed.
So it all comes back to an intelligent comprehensive marketing strategy that will make your marketing effective in good times or bad.
“.. people like Ralph Larsen at Johnson & Johnson, Richard Ziman at Arden Realty, Angelo Mozilo at Countrywide Financial, and Chad Holliday at DuPont—exhibit a highly sophisticated degree of business cycle literacy. They have built and run organizations that are strategically and tactically business cycle sensitive, and they are quite willing to engage in countercyclical and often contrarian behavior in anticipation of economic turbulence.” ~ Peter Navarro,
The Well-Timed Strategy: Managing the Business Cycle for Competitive Advantage