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Why Not To Throw Out Your Promotional Efforts In A Recession

The recession in our country is real. In most cases, it’s the same everywhere else in the world. Most businesses and/or government agencies are cutting costs wherever they can, making their operations run on the bare essentials. For the most part, running “lean and mean” is a great idea; however, reacting too hastily may cause some organizations to make poor decisions.

In a sinking ship, its standard protocol to jettison items that are not essential, with the heaviest items considered first. To stay afloat, most managers run down their expense charts to find the “heavy” items and quickly decide which must go. More often than not, marketing is one of the first to be cut or altogether discarded. History and research tells us that this is a grave mistake.
Every recession that has occurred since WW II has rewarded the companies that have implemented an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign. In fact, the companies that maintained or increased their marketing and advertising out-paced all other competitors that initiated cut-backs in their promotional efforts. [from the research firm, Meldrum & Fewsmith].

Finding Clarity in a Time of Danger

I’m no economist, but common sense tells me that cutting advertising and marketing is one of the worst decisions a company or government agency can make during a recession. It’s like trying to sell your house with no sign in the yard, no ad in the paper, and no real estate agent – don’t bother with packing boxes. To keep the lights on, a business must make changes that won’t sacrifice profit. In the case of a government organization- showing that your efforts are making a difference is key…promotional efforts must be inventive and effective. The decision to increase or change marketing efforts must be rooted in logic- you must be able to prove that what you’re spending money on is working, and will continue to keep working.

Assess Effectiveness

If you haven’t been seriously tracking and analyzing your marketing efforts- now is the time. Investing a small amount in technology that allows you to view your metrics in easy to read graphs, or some kind of “dashboard” view, will be well worth the expense. The easier the information is to read, the easier your decisions are to make on what stays and what goes. There are plenty of free services available, but any capital that can be moved into marketing efforts will be well used. Dollar for dollar, I recommend investing promotional funds in progressive Web 2.0 social technologies (Gov 2.0). There is a platform made that will meet the needs of every kind of entity; and if not, make something your own by changing an open source program to your liking. Those who fail to see the value in a social architecture will get left behind. The internet continues to evolve – to reach farther, and to become faster. There has been a 305.5% percent increase in worldwide internet usage since 2000. [http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm]. If your organization has not made serious efforts in adopting at least a few “two-way” communicators with your audience (the public, other government agencies, businesses, etc.), than you’ve missed the point of GovLoop entirely.

Make Your Move

After you have decided what marketing techniques and campaigns to keep, it’s time to replace the discarded with the dynamic. If you’ve decided that your direct mail campaigns were not doing the job, convert your lists over to email marketing. Axed the expensive toll-free number? Create an online social forum. Whatever campaigns you decided to delete, there are amazingly effective and far less expensive internet alternatives available. Investing in the right ones can be the challenge. If you are not up on the latest social networking trends, turn to internet promotional professionals on this network, (like me!). The main thing to remember is this: average people no longer respond to us “telling” them anything. If this new “social revolution” has helped me learn one thing it is that people want to have an open line of communication. If there is a problem, they want to tell you about it. If you have solutions, the Internet is the route they want you to use to give them the answers. A back-and-forth “conversation” between us and them is becoming the only acceptable way. The people want to become “partners” with us in every stage of our processes: 1) Identifying problems; 2) Determining solutions; and 3) Implementing policies…to ignore this shift would be folly.

Win the Day

Managing your organization in this economic climate is challenging. Keeping a cool head, measuring your efforts, maintaining effective media spends, and implementing new and efficient Internet technologies- will all give you the edge you need to emerge stronger and better. Falling into a mindset of panic and jettisoning the one thing needed to stay relevant or “afloat” will surely take your team under. Increasing smart promotional strategies and marketing methods have been proven to work in a recession. Adopting new and improved ways of communication will allow for real feedback and real conversation between your government or business agency and your target audience. It will not only keep your organization from sinking, but it will push it far ahead of the others that have managed to survive the recession and that did not adopt this new school of thought. You will weather the storm, you will save your ship, and you will be the hero that your team and your audience had been looking for when the recession waves were crashing around them. Arrr!

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Adam, what a timely and appropriate message for government agencies and private industry! Your words of Web 2.0 wisdom should be heeded. We cannot afford to trim essential growth-enhancing marketing mechanisms, but we can research and select better, more efficient methods using Web 2.0 technology. We need to take advantage of the communication and networking tools used by our partners in order to effectively and successfully communicate with them. Thanks for sharing!

Ed Albetski

Yes, I agree with Susan, it’s a “Work smarter, not harder” idea using Web 2.0 tools. While some agencies do market themselves and take in money for produced materials, many just produce stats and such for free (like mine). The only outreach or advertising we do is recruiting-based; but your message of using the lastest tools in the most efficient way still stands. Thanks!

Bo Lora

It’s not so much throwing out your promotional efforts, its about a paradigm shift in promotional efforts.

A few weeks ago I did a simple test. I created a FaceBook ad and ran it for 5 days. After 40K+ impressions and $7 later, I got 8 click-throughs.

Three weeks later, I picked up on a trending word on twitter that was related to the FaceBook add and I sent out a tweet (140 characters for FREE) and it generated 40 clicks on the target website within less than two minutes!

Granted, it has taken some time to gain a strong following of over 2000 people but do the math.

It’s a matter of engaging people in current conversations and requires patience and a great level of truth.

Adam Arthur

@Bo Lora- Great points. Though, some are actually “throwing them out” completely. I agree, a change of how an organization thinks, views and implements their marketing, promotional, staff and customer interaction efforts, etc., MUST take place. Everyone else has made or wants to make the transition. It’s all in how its done and at what price.

I agree, there is no need in dumping a ton of money into expensive overblown enterprise platforms, as long as suitable cheap replacements are found. These replacements must pass the security, 508 and back-end tests that all of us in Government must adhere to.

My main points were to run “lean and mean” in a smart way and to keep pushing forward in implementing new, faster, more effective methods in getting and/or keeping the ear of your target audience.

Emi Whittle

I agree with you on many points… trouble is getting other people to agree! I like Bo Lora’s twitter test… highly interesting!

Allen Sheaprd

Great article and picture.

I got somethign comepletly differnt out of it – don’t be forgotten about and cut out. Companies need to remind folks how they help. Gov Agencies need to remind folks how they help and protect. Tech departments need to remind people “they are force multiplyer” helping people do more with less.

Those who do not advertise will be “out of sight, out of mind, out of stimulus” The house selling is a great example. Thank you.

Adam Arthur

@Allen Sheaprd- Thank you for your great perspective. That really adds to the discussion. And…”You’re Welcome”.

Lisa Coates

Right now transparency in government is an important focal point for our local city and county governments.
You’re right, Web 2.0 social technologies would better accomplish this in today’s electronic world rather than sending out brochures and televising on the local government channel. Social networks allow effective two-way better yet, multiple- way, communication as a group.

Adam Arthur

@Lisa Coates – I just noticed you commented on this blog post…sorry! We are on the same page, indeed.