Post-Recession Era Poses Different Kinds of Challenges for Marketers
For those companies, advertising agencies and other marketing intermediaries that survived the recession, the post-recession, which begins immediately in January, 2011, poses a different set of challenges.
In many ways, the recession functioned as a cocoon for some firms. They could put demand on their employees and generally got away with overtaxing human and other resources. Employees did what was necessary to keep their jobs. So while this recession created personal hardships, many firms, in the name of “productivity,” were able achieve excellent and profitable operating results.
Marketing organizations had better wake up and smell the coffee. While there is not a plethora of new jobs, there are some, and many, overworked underappreciated people will be seeking these jobs. They have their careers on hold in the name of security. Now is the time to pounce on these new opportunities.
The same kind of environment will most likely be found within other facets of the marketing environment. Clients and customers, no doubt, will critically evaluate consultants and suppliers as will other intermediaries such as market research firms and technology suppliers.
The firm that believes that the end of the recession means “back to normal” is in for a rude awakening. John Quelch, Harvard University’s reigning marketing guru, offers a number of suggestion to the recession survivors. One of them is “Don’t assume a return to normal.” He elaborates: “The longer and deeper the recession, the more likely consumers will adjust their attitudes and behaviors permanently. Their coping mechanisms may become ingrained and define a new normal. In addition, the competitive landscape will have changed. A competitive shakeout along with new product launches may mean consumers are looking at your products and services through new lenses. Listen closely to your customers and revise your market segmentation assumption.”
This writer is a veteran of the entrepreneurial workplace, the agency world and the classroom, and I offer my own set of suggestions to firms that have survived the recession and hope to enter a new growth era.
Strengthen Customer/Client Relationships. We live in the relationship era of marketing. Transactional marketing is dead. It costs too much time and money to build a business on the churn of new relationships. A firm’s greatest asset is its customers and clients. These assets should be nurtured. Invest in them. Create new ways to add value.
Strengthen Relationships with Employees. Forget trying to increase productivity. Take a look at the people who have stuck with you through the bad times. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Reward them with new money, benefits and status. Let them know how important they are to you. For years, Southwest Airlines, one of the few consistently profitable air carriers, has maintained their No. 1 target market is their employees.
Bring on New and Better Technology. Not only should firms invest in customer relationship and their employees, they should make sure they have the most effective and efficient technology. Such an investment often goes straight to the bottom line and offers major competitive advantages.
Shore Up Relationships with Suppliers and Other Business Partners. Make sure suppliers and business partners are making money by doing business with you. Don’t squeeze them without substantial rewards. Pay them as quickly as you can and make sure they are enjoying the fruits of a business relationship with your company.