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Marketing Matters: Marketing in Recessionary Times

By: Donna C. Barson
Posted: May 1, 2008, from the May 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Examine who you’re marketing to. Are you still going after primarily younger consumers? That group might be squeezed the most in these recessionary times. What about marketing to baby boomers? One estimate is that baby boomers have $3 trillion dollars to spend. That’s approximately 50% of the buying power in America. Why are marketers concentrating mostly on younger consumers?
According to a recent study, marketers don’t understand baby boomers, and, consequently, often make errors when trying to market to them. Boomers themselves feel ignored and characterized as one large group by marketers.

Marketers do tend to lump all baby boomers into one group, but if there’s one thing that the boomers have taught us, it’s that they like to be treated individually. You must do the same in your marketing to them. Learn what is driving the different segments of the boomers, and market accordingly. It’s not only age.

Market to boomers even if others aren’t doing it. Rule one of marketing in a tough economy: Don’t follow the masses, lead them.
Having said that, it’s also important to know when not to try such a strategy. If you’ve spent the last decade building an identity as being appealing to the younger crowd, it wouldn’t make much sense to suddenly abandon that image and try to market to boomers.

That brings us to the second point: Know your market. Conduct a comprehensive marketing and sales audit. Who is buying your product and why? Use an outside firm if possible to conduct this audit. This way, you ensure an unbiased view of your marketing and sales situation.

And remember this: Past recessions have traditionally been times when strong companies increased their market share at the expense of the weak. If you want to stay in the game, you must compete—not batten down the hatches and hope to ride out the storm. Thus comes rule number three: You must make your product stand out in a recessionary marketplace. One way of doing this is through price. However, a smarter way of making your product stand out is by offering value. Examine your product from all angles. Can it be repackaged to offer better value? Is there a service you can provide that will make people choose you over a competitor? If everybody is cutting back on promotions, this might be the perfect opportunity to offer a promotion of your own.