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Recession-Proof Your Marketing

Smart Companies Grow Through Focus

Remember, it’s Easier to Stand Out in a Less Crowded Field
In today’s uncertain business climate, many firms may be tempted to slash their marketing budgets to help ease the pain of a slowing economy. But that would be a mistake.

“Since marketing dollars don’t tend to be committed far in advance, they can look fairly easy to cut when times get tight,” concedes Kim Guarino, president of EVOLVE. “But this is often exactly when your marketing efforts can have the greatest impact in terms of driving more sales.

"In fact, companies that maintain a strategic focus on marketing often find they’re able to leap ahead of weaker competitors during a downturn, precisely because they’ve continued to invest. In a less crowded field, it's easier to stand out.”

Consider a “Focus to Win” Strategy
EVOLVE often recommends that clients take a focused approach to business growth, and this is particularly true in a downturn. “In our experience,” observes Guarino, “a lot of small and mid-sized firms try to cast too wide a net – promoting their products or services to anyone who might conceivably choose to buy. But it can be a waste of time and money to go after a wider base of prospects than you need. Our clients often find they get the best results when they spend 80% of their marketing efforts going after just their very best prospects.”

Clients are also encouraged to pursue business in no more than three industry verticals at a time. While large, deep-pocketed multi-nationals may well be able to pursue 10 to 15 industries at a time, smaller companies that try to build a presence in too many markets at once risk generating only limited, scattershot results.

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Finding Gold Among Your Prospects

In order to identify your top-tier “VIP” or “Gold” prospects, take a close look at your prospect database. Which of these companies would you be most thrilled to receive a referral into? Which of them would you most prefer to do business with – perhaps because they’d be the most profitable, the most enjoyable to work with, or the easiest to serve? From this analysis, create a set of attributes that best describes the prospects you’d most like to pursue and win as clients.

Now, plan on spending the vast majority of your marketing dollars and effort this year going after these Gold prospects. Of course, if “Silver” or “Bronze” level prospects walk in the door, you can absolutely still choose to work with them. But the lions’ share of your outbound marketing and business development efforts should be devoted to winning top-tier customers.

Companies that tailor their marketing approach to a more targeted audience often find they’re able to make better use of, and generate greater results from, their marketing resources. For example, a few years ago, EVOLVE worked with a company providing nonprofit production services. This firm had a steady base of repeat customers, was doing well overall but their top competitor was still four times their size.

Instead of challenging its Goliath-like competitor in a head-to-head battle, we focused on increasing awareness with just 150 of their very best, most desirable prospects. Since they were targeting a smaller audience, they could afford to send a series of direct mail pieces that were more expensive, memorable, and impactful. At the same time, they only needed to close two of these "VIP prospects" to achieve their annual sales goals.

How to Get Started
Thinking of pursuing a more focused marketing approach for your firm, but wondering how to get started? EVOLVE suggests mapping out your pipeline targets, using a simple set of steps outlined in Figure 1 below.

What if you’re not sure about some of these numbers? Not to worry, counsels Kim Guarino. “We recommend to our clients that they sit down for an hour and come up with their best guesstimate of what they think these numbers should be. That gets them started. Then, three months down the road, they can always revisit their estimates and adjust the numbers if need be.”

Chart and Stay Your Course
During this tight economy, companies need to make the smartest possible use of their marketing investments.

That means developing a plan, and committing the necessary resources (both in terms of time and dollars) to implement the plan. Then, you have to stick with it – remembering that it can take 2-24 months for full payoff on specific initiatives. We recommend you track results by tactic, so you can determine what’s working best, and then fine-tune accordingly – emphasizing the activities delivering the greatest return on investment.

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Stuck or Want Help Refining Your Plan?
EVOLVE works with growth companies to develop and refine their marketing plans. Whether you just want a fresh, third-party perspective on your current plan, want to flush out individual plans for your business development team or soup-to-nuts planning, it's easy to get started. Contact us today for a complimentary marketing consultation.

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“We know it’s essential to maintain, or even increase, our marketing during a downturn. The sales are still out there… marketing helps brings them in the door. We see it as an opportunity to leap ahead of the competition.”



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