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December 2008

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Marketing in Turbulent Times: Don't Give Up the Ship

by Debra Jason, The Write Direction

When times get tough, as they are today, many companies begin cutting back. Sometimes they let employees go and stop there. Other times, they eliminate their marketing. “A bad move,” said communications pro Stacy Cornay. “The public has to be reminded about who you are and what you're selling . . . Instead of cutting back on marketing, be more aggressive.”

Public relations professional John Shors wrote, “When companies cease touting themselves via the media, opportunities are created for their competitors to step into the spotlight . . .”

Staying in front of your customers and prospects is vital - even in a recession.

I started my business in 1989, when times were also tough. The reason I went out on my own was because people were getting laid off at all the agencies I approached. I was caught in the Colorado recession and repeatedly heard, "Sorry, we're not hiring. We're laying people off right now, but if you start a business as a freelancer, we'll retain your services.”

So I took this as a “sign from above” - it was my opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and start my own business. The Write Direction was born on January 1, 1989.

Despite lean economic times, I was able to break ground . . . make an impact . . . find clients . . . establish a successful business. It happened because of a concerted effort to market myself and keep marketing.

Don't give up the ship. You can do the same without breaking the bank. Pick up the phone, write a trade article, fax the press about an accomplishment, send out an e-mail, etc.

During uncertain times, when people are not spending, marketers should consider investing further in their marketing instead of waiting for a change in market conditions. This tactic is supported by the following findings revealed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) - reported in a commissioned study “Advertising in a Recession” by Bernard Ryan Jr.

1. The Buchen Advertising study tracked sales after the 1949, 54, 58 and 61 recessions. It found that sales & profits dropped off at companies that cut back on advertising. And, the findings also revealed that sales lagged after the recession for those companies that cut back during the recession.

2. The 1970 and 1979 studies by ABP/Meldrum & Fewsmith substantiated the Buchen study. It reported that higher sales and net income were achieved by those companies that maintained their advertising than those that cut it altogether.

3. Following the 1981-82 recession, McGraw-Hill Research's Laboratory of Advertising Performance reported that “business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during the 1981-82 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth both during the recession and for the following 3 years than those which eliminated or decreased advertising.

“It might even be tempting to “ride it out” - to do nothing until things turn around. This passive approach yields passive results. Nothing will happen while you're waiting and when things do turn around, the business will go to the people who've been doing something all along. The people who will get the lion's share of the business - both now and in the future - are the ones who work to build relationships,” said Michael Beck,

Yes, it's frightening to dip into your budget to keep on spending when the economy is slow, but to stay ahead of your competition, it should be a priority for your company. And, it can be done, without spending $2 million dollars for a Super Bowl commercial

Don't let people forget who you are . . . where you are . . . how you can be reached. Do what you can to maintain a presence. Stay in touch with your customers, be it via phone, “snail,” or e-mail. Ask them what they want and need during this time. And remember, if potential customers are out there looking for your product or service and your name is visible, when your competition's is not, your marketing efforts will invite them to call you.

©Copyright 2002, 2008. Debra A. Jason dba The Write Direction. All rights reserved. No portion of this paper may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or using any information storage/retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission from the author.

Past president of the Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Association (RMDMA), Debra Jason is a seasoned copywriter with more than 20 years of experience in the field of direct marketing. A recipient of RMDMA's “Creative Person of the Year” award, she started her business, The Write Direction, in Boulder, CO in 1989. Now based out of Kauai, HI, she continues to specialize in writing Web and direct marketing communications. She may be reached by phone at (888) 449-0815, E-mail:, or, visit her on the World Wide Web at

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