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Alpha Notes

Marketing Hints for Clients of Alpha Associates

Coping with New Realities

Many economists are confounded by the current recession. While Washington tells us we are now in recovery, we do not feel it on the street. To date it has been a "jobless recovery" with levels of uncertainty that affect the decisions made by business owners. So, what is the real story and what should we be doing?

While prognosticators seem very optimistic, the clients we deal with are still confronted with delayed projects, cancelled programs, purchase orders “on hold” and “we can’t give you a date right now” responses. These are the new realities. The unsettling dimension is the wide variance between informed expert opinions and conditions that we see on the street.

So, what to do? Like many of you we have been reviewing the usual sources of information, such as the business press, leading economic indicators, our own professional network, as well as the halls of academia to secure good solid business advice that we can pass along to you. It appears to us that no single source or single approach is providing a complete answer to this very complex problem. However, there seems to be a consensus of opinion as to what basic techniques are working to put a business back on track, making measurable progress in rebuilding profitable revenue.

The following is a checklist with commentary that you may find useful in reviewing your own situation:

  1. Get back to basics – From a marketing perspective, this means to reassess your current target markets, which products and services you are selling them and the branding message you are broadcasting to these markets. The key to this process is identifying those markets that can buy now. The other side of the equation is being sure that your services and products are conveniently available to the principal players in these markets. Perhaps this means that you will need to do further qualification of prospects, in-person research or work through your network. This may also be the time to contract for qualitative research to assess the potential in these markets. Targeting prospects with short-term potential could yield immediate results. A good tactical game plan based on solid current information will be a first step to building a recovery program.
  2. Relook Customer Relationships – Many of your customers are experiencing the same type of recession-based problems that you are facing. How has this changed their needs? How should you be evolving your products and services to meet those needs? Do your customers see you as a solution provider or just someone who sells them products and services?

    The only appropriate way to determine the answers to these important questions is to do so in person. This is not the time for an email survey or a sampling of customers. Connecting with your existing customers will tell you how solid that customer base really is. Also, these new requirements may provide opportunities for you to increase revenues with existing customers. This is not the time to take customers for granted.
  3. Close the Inside Sale – Every successful program must include solutions that customers are willing to buy. Your sales and customer service people will supply a vital part of that effort. Are they sold on the current solutions you are providing to customers and prospects? If not, the program could be less than successful. Be sure that your sales and service personnel have some authorship in the program you will be presenting. Structure meetings to ensure that they are fully informed of not only what you are providing but why you are providing it. We have seen so many examples of senior management assuming that the people carrying the message “understood and supported it.” Every successful sale must be closed outside and inside.
  4. Give Technology a Chance – Many senior executives today feel that computer technology has not affected their business. On the marketing front, we have found very few businesses that have not been substantially affected by this technology. The dynamics of an interactive website, sharing information through a network, utilizing audio and video conferencing systems, and installing efficient contact management software are only a few of the technology tools commonly used today. We recommend you thoroughly investigate these and related tools which could improve communication between you and the marketplace and create new efficiencies internally for your company.
  5. Try New Markets – Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. Any good marketing program has at least one experimental market targeted for its products and services on a selected basis. An effort in this direction may also give your marketing team fresh perspective on your current markets.

Many of our clients are successfully using these techniques because they work.

If you have other approaches that are working well for you, provide us with some feedback via email and we will be happy to pass that information down the line.