Thrive in Good Times and Bad

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by Edward M. Yang


That’s the name of the game in the economy right now. Businesses and consumers still feel uncertain about what the near future holds in store for us.

But regardless of whether we boom or bust, there are things you can do for your marketing and public relations on a consistent basis that will help you prosper in both good and bad times.

This will prevent the need of having to make drastic cuts to marketing when times are tough, just when your sales efforts need that marketing the most.

1. Take Care of Your Customers

Research shows that it costs XXX as much to acquire a customer than it does to take care of existing ones. Yet all too often we start to neglect our current customers in search of ever loftier sales goals. We’re all guilty of it. And when current customers start to feel that they are unimportant or lower on the list of priorities, like a jilted lover, they will start to seek out alternatives.

Regardless of if your customer brings in $1,000 a month or $10,000 a month, treat them all like gold because they put their trust in you and gave their business to you.

Besides being the right thing to do, you’ll start to see two major benefits from this focus:

a) Reduction in churn. Churn is simply a fancy way of saying “losing customers @#!$!”. All companies have some form of churn, larger in some and smaller in others. Just by reducing the number of customers that cancel their service, you could make a big impact on your bottom line.

b) Increase of positive word of mouth. When Firecracker started in earnest, we were in the beginning stages of a severe recession. What we relied heavily on was positive word of mouth to build our business. In fact, many of our largest customers were through a referral process.

2. Build a Diverse Stream of Leads

Google AdWords has been a huge benefit to many companies. But that time may be coming to an end. The dangers of relying on one source of leads is pretty self-explanatory, but imagine if all your leads come from advertising with Google. What would you do if Google banned you for some reason? It’s happened to many. What do you do if the cost per lead from Google becomes too expensive? Even now, the Cost per Click on Google is reaching the level for some keywords where only huge corporations can turn a positive ROI on their AdWords campaigns.

Don’t be held hostage to only one stream of leads. Doing so could cripple your business if that stream suddenly goes away.

Instead, look to build a diverse source that could include:

-online advertising on search engines
-online advertising on third party networks
-online advertising directly on related sites
-affiliate opportunities
-build an opt-in email list that you can educate and market to
-online classifieds (newspapers, Craigslist, etc.)
-Search Engine Optimization
-social media
-public relations (press releases, media mentions)
-direct email marketing
-direct mail marketing (snail mail, yes it’s still around)
-partnership with strategic companies that complement your business

Besides providing protection through diversification, the sheer increase in streams of leads can directly lead to an increase in your business.

3. Be Persistent and Consistent

Winners persist, all things being equal. This doesn’t mean throwing good money after bad. What it does mean is that if your numbers justify it, be persistent in getting your message across.

Research shows that it typically takes 7 exposures to a message before a prospect is ready to purchase.

Think about your own buying pattern. For myself, watching an interesting (!) infomercial on TV will not usually lead to me buying the first time I watch. But come the fourth or fifth time, if I am interested in what they have to offer, my chances of buying start going up.

Of course Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor are most successful companies that way overnight.

Most marketing initiatives take persistence and consistency to succeed.

One example is the SEO we did for our own company’s website, After a couple of years of hard work, we now rank #1 on Google for “technology PR” out of 28 million results and #4 for “technology public relations” out of 65 million results.

Early on we used consistent advertising on free Craigslist to build our business, rotating through different ads in different cities but sticking to a planned rotation.

Marketing needs to be a part of your ongoing business, not a 3 month project.

The rewards you reap will make the effort worth it.

4. Know When to Change Course

One phrase I hear on TV or in the movies really bugs me: “don’t quit no matter what, you can do anything you put your mind to”.

Think about it. Sure, it sounds very positive, but is that really the best advice?

If I decided that I wanted to become an NBA player now at age 38, could I really do it?

If I wanted to resurrect the Betamax videotape to overtake DVDs once again, even if I put my mind to it and didn’t quit, would I succeed?

Obviously these are extreme examples, but the point is that too often failure occurs from companies and people not adjusting their strategy and tactics even in the face of overwhelming data otherwise.

This is the main reason why market leaders end up being toppled, especially in the fast-paced tech industry.

The book “Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen addresses this very issue where you are a victim of your success and are therefore unable to change course and maintain success.

A recent example is the Blackberry. Once the overwhelming market leader, Blackberry is wilting under the attack of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s bevy of Android phones. The main reason is the inability to see the market data trends and adjust accordingly. Instead, the easy thing to do is to believe what you’ve always done will always work.

Unfortunately that’s not the case. Just ask Palm. Or Blockbuster. Or Chapters/Borders.Or My Space.Or Friendster.Or Benneton. Or brick-and-mortar travel agents. Or…

Because even during down times, opportunities abound. Out of the Great Depression emerge many new industries and companies. And even during this down economy, many companies and industries are thriving.

5. Keep What Works, Kill What Doesn’t

The key to success in marketing is simply to keep what works and kill what doesn’t.

The implicit assumption here is that you’ll be able to measure and determine what is and isn’t working.

To that end, if your business relies on the web, make sure you have something like Google Analytics installed so you can easily see the success of various online marketing initiatives. If you’re a brick and mortar business, keep track of stats that are trackable (additional sales based on coupons or local newspaper ad).

Our motto is to try everything, keep what works and kill what doesn’t.

It’s a great way to keep your marketing and PR budget affordable while making sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

I hope this particular blog post gives you some ideas of what you can do in your particular company today.

Don’t be a victim to circumstances…be proactive and take charge of your business.

If you do, you can also prosper in good times and bad.

If you need public relations, search engine marketing or social media marketing assistance, reach out to us at

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