Marketing Tips In A Down Economy Revisited

A month or so back I was honored by the opportunity to speak at Gangplank during their “Brown Bag” lunch series, the crowd sourced topic selected (don't ask) being “marketing tips in a down economy.”  Audience participation and internal debate since has spawned a number of secondary conversations, and as follow-up, I’ve been asked to supply an updated list of tips. For those not in attendance, here’s a recap of the presentation's material (slide deck):

In today’s economy, marketing professionals are tasked with creating more impact for less budget.  As if that isn’t enough pressure, the reality of the corporate wide consequences of underperformance can be overwhelming – career advancement concerns are on the backburner.  For many, results production is now a game of survival.  Intimidating?  Definitely, but if you’re a gamer, you understand that such times present opportunity to sharpen your organizations’ efforts for the short term, with the added benefit of breaking bad habits and instilling ROI focused thinking for the future.

For most, these aren’t the times for big, shiny new expensive campaigns and websites – such budgets may not exist.  Instead, the question remains, how can you get the most out of the assets you already have?

The talk focused on the following key opportunities to do just that:

1.    Properly Allocating Online and Offline Budgets - Forward thinking organizations are pushing the old rule of thumb (10%/90%) to new levels in the name of measurability and return, with +30% of budgets going online.  How are your budgets allocated?  As more of the publics' leisure time goes online, it only makes sense that ad dollars mirror this behavoir.

2.    Prioritizing Budgets for ROI - While tactics like email and search typically produce the highest return on investment, proper execution is often prioritized behind media buys and new creative campaigns.  Now is not the time to swing for the fences and invest the majority of your budget on an unknown, instead, string the singles together through a number of guaranteed tactics for the win.

3.    Reducing Reliance on Paid Media -  If the overwhelming share of budget (+80%) goes to paid media, think about investing some of that into areas that will provide return beyond the life of the spend (website conversion enhancements, landing pages, customer relationship building).  When media is purchased, make sure it’s as targeted as possible to the audience and their stated needs.

4.    Increasing Audience Understanding - Knowing what target audiences want, the words they use to describe the information they desire, and how they want to consume this information is absolutely critical to success – prioritize relevance and targeting over share of voice and volume.

5.    Integrating Communication Efforts – Consumers don’t differentiate information by source, they relate to the brand and the message.  It’s therefore crucial to ensure creative and content work together across execution to raise the value of the whole.  Centrally planning communications, and cascading messaging through various tactics is a smart start.

6.    Testing – Online, there isn’t a tactic that can’t be tested for success prior to mass release.  For this reason, testing needs to be part of standard operations.  But it shouldn't stop there.  Make sure to apply online test findings to offline efforts to increase effectiveness.

7.    Lifecycle Marketing – It’s more critical than ever to deliver targeted messaging with the goal of creating one-to-one communication in the name of brand loyalty.  Make sure your outbound communication is segmented and relevant to maximize return and build valuable relationships with your message recipients for long-term success.

Based on follow-up conversations and input, the following are additional tips supplied by both attendees and my wonderful colleges at Off Madison Ave:

  • Demanding Accountability - Make sure to spread results accountability to employees, partners and vendors alike.  If everyone is working towards the same goal, and expectations are clear`, the likelihood of success increases infinitely.
  • Contracting Performance - On that note, don’t be afraid to build trial periods with new vendors and partners, and performance incentives into your contracts.  Anyone worth their salt won’t be offended, and will welcome the opportunity to demo their abilities.
  • Creating Efficiencies –My favorite, take a hard look at what you’re spending your time on and prioritize it verses the cost of outsourcing coupled with the return you can expect from various efforts.  If you don’t have the expertise or time to write web copy, and the task is keeping you from building that customer loyalty program for instance, give the web work to the pros.
  • 20XX, Return of the Budgets – While no one knows exactly how long the economic slump will last, one thing is for certain - opportunity exists to maximize results by planning for the budget uptick now.  Some ideas, as with current activities, prioritize future expenditures based on return, and try to negotiate pricing early by committing to the work prior to the spend.  A desperate sales rep may give you a deal if you help him make his quarter.  Additionally, if you are able to instill ROI focused processes and thinking into your organization now, you’ll build a culture where results are expected, and investments are maximized at all times, good and bad.

Posted by Mike Corak - Originally posted 5-28-09 on

[caption id="attachment_115" align="alignleft" width="56" caption="Mike Corak"]Mike Corak[/caption]

Mike Corak leads the strategic planning practice and account management efforts at Off Madison Ave, and is co-founder of  An active member of the digital marketing community and frequent blogger and speaker, Mike's passion is interactive marketing. Mike's developed and implemented winning digital and integrated strategies for hundreds of companies over his 12 year career including the likes of Coca Cola, ConAgra Foods, ConocoPhillips, FedEx, Fujitsu, Nike, Office Depot, and Walt Disney. Contact Mike at, or interact with Mike here: twitter, LinkedIn.

Posted on July 24, 2009 and filed under Integrated Marketing.