Build relationships during a downturn

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It's official: the US economy is in a recession, and has been for a while now. The tidal wave of bad news could be just the tip of the economic iceberg — many of the forecasts for 2009 paint an even bleaker picture.

But, forward-thinking marketers and retailers are dealing with the slowdown by enhancing their relationships with their customers. Due to the credit crunch, consumers are actively dissuaded from making large-ticket purchases.

If consumers are going to ride to this economy's rescue, retailers are must maintain their relationship efforts with core customers. And they will have to do it quickly and inexpensively, using direct, cost-effective channels.

The economic unrest has underscored another reality: The efficacy of traditional marketing has waned. The “Choice Generation” has shunned the one-size-fits-all philosophy behind traditional marketing messages and uses every technological advantage available to avoid them. DVRs, targeted social network advertising, and most mobile initiatives are all based on opt-in methodology.

To survive in the recession, use online and other new media and technologies whenever possible, as these generally enjoy a lower incremental cost than their mass-media counterparts. Forget spray-and-pray; build relationships.

Actively seek innovative solutions. While it may seem counterintuitive to explore new strategies in a financial crisis, the slowdown in business activity may actually present an ideal breeding ground for new ideas, the examination of existing solutions and shopping for others.

Give customers what they crave: a discount. There is a significant need for discounts during hard economic times. Try online and mobile couponing. Online coupons are effectively replacing print coupons, as they are almost universally more cost-effective and more responsible in terms of environmental impact.

Lastly, be a pragmatic optimist — that is, prepare for the worst, but market to a resurgence. Retailers cannot market from a defensive crouch. This season, like others, will favor the bold and innovative.

eholmen@smartreply.com

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