Wait Now and Suffer the Consequences

It has been a difficult few years for technology companies as many have struggled since the middle of 2000 – announcing layoffs, developing corporate restructuring plans, disclosing shrinking profit statements and slashing internal budgets.

Faced with smaller budgets and, even worse, a mind-set of fear and doubt from corporate executives, hi-tech marketers are challenged in this climate, but now is not the time to retreat. You must not overlook any important strategy for keeping your company and its products visible in the marketplace.

Companies cannot afford to wait now and suffer the consequences later, while their competitors market away to their customer base. History supports this strategy. According to McGraw-Hill Research, companies that marketed during the 1981-1982 recession saw a 275 percent increase in sales for the following three years. Even further back, according to the Harvard Business Review, during the recession of 1923, the companies that marketed the most earned the biggest sales increases.

We argue that during an economic downturn, marketing and public relations programs are even more critical than in the boom times. It is the best way to build credibility and brand a product, service and business.

Now, more than ever, you need to design and implement an integrated marketing program that will increase your brand awareness and build market share for your company. Marketing and public relations are two line items that are not a luxury in a down market. Both are often just what a company needs whether its business is in the hi-tech, pharmaceutical or manufacturing industries.

Demonstrate return on investment. To show your company’s executives that marketing and public relations are not a “nice to have” but rather a “need to have,” marketing must show how its programs will bring a substantial, measurable return on investment.

This can be accomplished by first setting realistic expectations for a campaign and then mapping goals, strategies and tactics to help build brand awareness and market share for your company.

Focus your message on sales targets. Once decision makers reach a consensus on appropriate and salient corporate messages, they should be focused on reaching the right customer through the right vehicle – direct mail, media placements or advertisements – with the right message. Only by targeting your messages to the appropriate decision makers will a company be able to gain a foothold in its industry.

At the conclusion, the campaign’s results should be measured to see which messages resonated with what audience, which did not, and how a company effort could be restructured in the future to achieve maximum retention throughout the public.

A marketing program can bring even greater ROI by combining these methods with strategies drawn from the company’s sales force. For some, closing a business deal that took no longer than one month last year can now take up to nine or 12 months … or even longer.

As a result, your marketing and sales efforts must be designed to attract the most critical customer – the decision maker. More often than not, this decision maker will be a C-level executive, as more CEOs, chief financial officers and chief technology officers weigh in on agreements that may affect a company’s bottom line.

Market through channels. One often overlooked strategy that aligns your marketing goals to your company’s “easily measurable” sales goals is to adopt a channel approach to how you market and sell your company’s services. Whether the channels consist of an internal sales force, external partners, resellers or retailers, make sure that the sales channel is aware of your marketing goals, because it can serve as a champion for your cause inside and outside the company.

Build upon your investment. No matter the scale of your initiative, it is important to remember that marketing is an investment over time and may not garner quick results. In fact, positive results and an increased market share may only surface after the recession. This should be recognized at the outset of a campaign because marketing is a series of impressions over time. Do not think in terms of the success of a single advertisement, collateral piece or press release, but rather the ongoing and developing push to increase awareness for your product, service or business.

As marketers, you cannot allow yourselves or your customers to be paralyzed by today’s fearful mind-set. The effective use of a marketing program has staying power beyond these rough economic times. Companies cannot afford to wait now and suffer the consequences later.

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