In times of turbulent times some people may choose to call it Recession, Meltdown, Crisis, Challenging times or difficult times, but whichever way you call it the implication is likely to be the same. In the period of turbulent times, there is one thing that is certain; that is slow and low economic growth. When world economy is in the midst of a steep recession and every business (small, medium and large) is confronting challenging and turbulent conditions.
The real test of leadership does not occur when everything is smooth sailing they say. As the world scrambles to make sense of and respond to this human and economic threat (Coronavirus), marketing leadership will be tested in unimaginable ways. Marketing leadership will be hard hit, because marketing and sales department contribute directly to a company’s revenue, held accountable for business growth and are charge of bringing in business.
Those who will survive the storm or blow and thrive well afterward are not the strongest or the most intelligent, neither the smartest but the most adaptable to change. If you’re a marketer, the pressure is on because everyone will be looking to you to make things better.
This article attempts to provide an outline largely from my personal experiences as the lead marketing person that could help you weather the already in-progress economic storm. In order not to make this article meaningful, I’ll discuss the issues under the following headings:
- Feed The Strong And Starve The Weak
In turbulent times, liquidity becomes a big issue to businesses and if care is not taken, businesses will begin to spread their resources so thin that they cannot make any impact. Adjust working capital to ensure ongoing delivery of strong brands or products or services and starve the weak brands or products or services. Your strongest brands or products must be given the priority to help those brands become even stronger. This is because there is no enough resource (time and money) to be wasted or thrown on marginal brands that actually don’t give you competitive edge, value and strong customer base. Put most of your resources and efforts into strengthening your position within your strong brands. According to Peter F. Drucker “Every organization has to cleanse itself of the products, services, and ventures that absorb resources but in reality have become “yesterday’s news” They prevent the organization from concentrating on today’s most promising result areas.” Communicate health, safety and value about your strongest brands to reinforce your promise to them. By focusing on strong brands you will achieve success, be much more effective and efficient use of your resources. You must concentrate your efforts on the strong brands physically in time and space; all other brands must be secondary. To parcel out resources in attempt to win all under heaven intact (capture the market) with all your brands or product is a wasteful. Remember, to be strong everywhere is to be strong nowhere.
When you have two products and one is doing well and the other is doing poorly, which one should get more resource? Most often people respond by giving more support to the product that is doing poorly. My experience has indicated that this is the wrong thing to do; instead of reinforcing failure you must reinforce success and starve failure. When you have a breakthrough, exploit it and create market momentum. When a product is failing drop it fast, throwing resources at the problem to fix it is like throwing more soldiers against a well-entrenched enemy that wouldn’t allow you to capture them.
- Marry Your Core Customer Segment And Market Share
In turbulent times, don’t just befriend your customers in your market segment and market share but marry them. Deepening the business love between you and your customers, Kotler and Caslione asserted that “this is not a time to get greedy, so get your core customer segment firmly focused.” Learn to narrow your focus with in-depth stock for your core customer segment. Also learn and prepare to fight off your fighters (competitors) eyeing and seeking your most profitable and loyal customers. Reinforce your distribution channels to take hold of your core segment. You must know the size of the market you wish to battle over, how fast it is growing and the industry force in that market. Get more information about your market segment because whoever has the customer information has the competitive advantage. Not that alone, they can use that information to create closer ties with your customers and make faster decisions.
Concentrate on your well-defined core customers where you have an established core competency and can provide superior customer value and grow. Get rid of non-result areas of the market and concentrate efforts on areas that can produce significant results. Concentrate on products, product lines, services, customers, markets, distributive channels, end-uses, and the like that produce the bulk of the revenues.
- Monitor and respond to market needs and competitive dynamics
This is not the time to be dragging your feet, but the time to monitor, plan and execute quick-hitting, highly mobile strategies, tactics and operational moves. In times like this, the customer behaviour and purchase patterns will change this and could bring about increase in demand or decrease in demand. You need to monitor customers’ needs and identify new needs that are emerging before your competitors do.
When you are able to identify a strategic window (limited amount of time which a firm’s resources coincide with a particular market opportunity) and as this window is open for relatively short period, you must be able to move rapidly and decisively – track your competitor’s situation to inform your strategic moves. In times like this is not going to be business as usually, the very nature will change, and its space continues to accelerate; to be slow is to become extinct.
Examine your industry viability to find out if there will be the need for strategic alliance or collaboration opportunities to help meet the needs of your customer. All of this is to help you monitor customers’ needs and move fast, by moving fast to fulfill those needs will allow you to exploit your opportunities before your slowest-moving competitor can respond.
Speed and leverage on intelligence procession. Reduce on your decision making cycle and customer responsiveness cycle time. Making timely decisions is essential to moving quickly. If your decision making cycle and customer responsiveness cycle time with speed in meeting the new needs (pain points) of the customers, the battle may be over before your competitors can respond.
Think all the companies you know with faster decision-making ability that found potential markets, built products, and then claimed those markets- all while their competitors are still debating whether a market exist in the first place. Remember a lion doesn’t go after the fastest antelope in the herd; instead it runs down the slowest.
- Secure Financing For Your Marketing Budget
In turbulent times, managing cash and liquidity becomes very crucial since the cash will be stressed up. The first thing that people do when times get tough is cut their marketing budgets and save money. Liquidity by itself, in times like this is essential to know the amount you will need to stay in business and survive the blow since liquidity then becomes a survival need or kit.
Concerns for sales and marketing position is that, since you’re all competing for the same customers with your competitors fighting hard and aggressively to penetrate, capture and obtain relative dominance, it will be deadly to think of slashing or cutting from marketing budget, else your competitors will use that as your weak point to disband you. It’s time to build performance rather than cutting marketing budget. Look at how you can add more money to your marketing programs that will further add value to the end users. At this time of the moment, customers are increasing choosing suppliers on the basis of long-term value, not long-term history. Invest more in the market activities will help you to deliver a higher standard living for your target market.
If you hope to be successful, you must prepare not to gut down on your marketing budget since it will be worse to do. Without adequate funding the best marketing idea in the world won’t go very far without the money to get it off the ground. According to Al Ries and Jack Trout Marketing is a game fought in the mind of the prospect. You need money to get into a mind. And you need money to stay in the mind once you get there. In marketing, the rich often get richer because they have the resources to drive their ideas into the mind.
- Assess And Abandon Programs That Are Not Working For You
Abandonment of some the unproductive programs is the sure-fire way to reduce costs and increase profitability. You must be able to move scarce resources from unproductive and non-results to areas of opportunities for achievement.
Abandon the programs that do not work, the programs that never worked; the programs that have outlived their usefulness and their capacity to contribute.
- Lunch A “Comeback Marketing Campaign”
Global competition has become fiercer than before, and leaders understand that now business on the road to survive or ruin. One of the ways to survive the blow at the critical moment is to develop and lunch a product or marketing campaign to explore the breakthrough. A catchy marketing campaign or advertising program with a well performing product will allow achieving a good deal of success. When you come out with a marketing campaign in advance of your competitors, it will provide you the ability to sustain and exploit market momentum once the tough times are over. Come out with a marketing campaign and craft product and service story and create new selling points.
Present your campaign with empathy and transparency as people are feeling vulnerable right now. Make communication modifications to suit their current situations because as consumers change to adopt new behaviors and habits, they’re sticking to brands that appeal to their current emotions and they believe to get them through and beyond the crisis. Connect with customers on an emotional basis and build a foundation for navigating this time of uncertainty.
The aim of your marketing campaign is not to state the facts about a product but to sell a solution or a dream. Address your campaign to the customers’ aspirations. Remember Revlon founder Charles Revson’s remark: “In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope”.
Businesses should truly understand their customers’ needs better than their competitors. Frequent tracking of consumer behavioral trends will help you gain better insights in real time. Marketers must measure consumer sentiment and consumption trends on a regular basis to better adapt their campaign.
In order to gain market penetration, capture and obtain market leadership, businesses must strengthen and build performance with their strong brands while abandoning none performing brands and marketing programs.
Once a marketing campaign is lunched, funds should be made available from the marketing budget to explore the breakthrough, avoid cutting off capital flow to marketing budget.
By: Mali Albert Shiebila
Mali Albert Shiebila is a marketing specialist specializes in helping businesses to make more from their marketing activities for more grow and profit.
He holds a BSc in Marketing and is a qualified member of the Institute Chartered of Accountant (Ghana) and a full member of the Institute Chartered of Accountant Ghana (ICAG) with practical marketing experience. He currently works as the Lead Marketing Manager at Market Well Ghana Ltd (MWG).