Marketing Opportunities During Slow Times

by | Apr 17, 2009

Are you struggling with where to cut budgets during slow times?  If so, read this great article about how some of the great marketers of all times have responded to downturns.

A customer forwarded this article to me as its related to our Mail It For Me Service.  However, I think this article does a great job of pointing out the value of turning UP the marketing dial during tough times.

Thanks to Gregory P. Demetriou, President of American Mail Communications, for this great article!

Direct Mail During the Downturn

Why It’s Important to Stay the Course

When Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart was asked what he was going to do about the recession, he answered: “We don’t plan to participate.”

What he really meant was that he saw the slowdown as an opportunity to intensify his marketing efforts. Like most successful entrepreneurs, he believed that when times are good, you should market your products and services, and when times are bad, youmust market them.

Apparently, he’s not the only one who thinks that way. A classic McGraw Hill Research study of U.S. recessions, which analyzed 600 companies over five-years, concluded that “firms, [which] had maintained or increased advertising during the…recession, could boast an average sales growth of 275 percent over the preceding five years. Those who cut advertising realized a paltry increase of only 19 percent.”

Although not always easy to follow as you watch your company’s bottom line shrink, Walton’s advice and the research study’s conclusions are worth considering. This is no time to reduce your marketing efforts; it’s the perfect time to take stock of what really works.

According to “The Cyclical Analysis of the Direct Mail Market,” a study conducted by the Winterberry Group, direct mail works. The report concludes that the use of direct mail has increased each year over the past 50 years, underscoring the medium’s position as “the most dynamic part of the overall marketing communications mix.”

The study also states that direct mail outperforms other media during periods of weak or moderate economic growth. What’s more, projections show an anticipated growth in the use of direct mail in excess of 7 percent between 2003 and 2005.

Here’s why you should continue your direct mail marketing efforts during uncertain times:

    • Historically, companies maintaining or increasing their direct mail marketing efforts through economic downturns increase sales and market share during and after the slow period.
    • Businesses that regard direct mail marketing costs as investments rather than expenses enjoy higher long-term dividends.
    • Companies that remain aggressive during a downturn seize market share from their more timid competitors.
    • A downturn is the time to solidify relationships with existing customers so they remember you when times get better.
    • Continuing to market when times are bad projects an image of corporate confidence, strength and stability during chaotic times.
    • If a company’s market presence diminishes, so do customers, and it costs much more to regain the lost ground than the amount saved by slashing the marketing budget.
  • When competitors cut back, marketing efforts by companies that ride the downturn appear even more outstanding.

    Although everyone seems focused on price during a down economy, value should be your real concern. Because tough times place restrictions on budgets, you need to explore creative ways to make your direct mail marketing efforts more cost effective.

    Here are some tips on how to achieve savings when you use direct mail to market your company:

      • Spend only productive dollars. Focus on your audience. Sharpen your sights and aim only at prospects with the highest potential. It’s more effective to send smaller mailings to qualified prospects frequently than it is to send one large mailing to unqualified customers.
      • Sharpen your copy. Distill your message into essential copy points that best convey your product/service and offer. Remember to stress benefits, not features.
      • Evaluate design. Take a good look at whether or not you really need to send a package or an envelope with an insert. Investigate the possibility of doing a self-mailer or even a classy looking postcard.
      • Assess printing. Do you really need a 4-color piece? Two-colors, when used creatively, can produce an upscale look. Sometimes, you can even get away with printing an attractive piece that does the job in one color.
      • Save on lettershop services. By simplifying your mail piece, you can reduce production time and labor costs in the mailhouse.
      • Investigate the possibility of postage savings. Consult your mailhouse about how to achieve maximum postal discounts.

    For smart businesses, the economic downturn is not an obstacle. It is an occasion to increase customer loyalty, solidify market position and even attract new customers.

    You can make the tough times work for you by using direct mail-a time-tested marketing approach that could improve your bottom line while your competitors continue to do little but worry about what’s down the pike.

    Source: Gregory P. Demetriou

    Gregory P. Demetriou, President of American Mail Communications in Farmingdale, has been in the direct mail marketing business for more than 20 years, managing direct mail programs for clients and serving as a resource for organizations planning mailing campaigns. He has presented workshops and seminars on the topic, written for business publications and recently developed a “how to” book on direct mail techniques for small- to mid-sized businesses.