Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness 2009

For those of us who follow basketball, this is THE time of year, especially if our team is in the NCAA tournament (a special shout out to the Mississippi State Bulldogs). We will be glued to whatever media we can to get our fix of scores and analysis.

Every year at this time, the HR consulting firm of Challenger Gray puts out their estimate of the amount of lost productivity due to employees watching the basketball games during work. Last year the estimate was $1.2B for 2007 (a number widely ridiculed by Slate and others...see my post last year).

A funny thing happened this year, though. CG decided not to put out their estimate, citing the economy: “In light of the fact that employers and employees have more important things to worry about, we feel that any attempt to estimate the impact of March Madness
on productivity would be counterproductive and inappropriate," John Challenger said in a statement.

So, what about it? Are you still going to watch the games online while at work? How much time will you spend? I'll probably spend an hour or two per business day (more if MSU gets past round 2). Let me hear from you. And don't worry...I won't tell your boss!!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What Classic Rock Can Teach Us about Marketing in a Down Economy (Part Two)

This week we continue looking at what those sages from years ago (specifically the ‘60’s and ‘70’s) can teach us about getting through and thriving in this dismal economy.

#6 Tiny Dancer (Elton John) – Think small. Find and deliver small, high value projects for clients. In the baseball world, this would translate to “singles and stolen bases.” Our clients are very now focused, so find pain points that you can solve today. This cuts down the sales cycle, gives your client immediate value, and positions you either for another small project or a bigger engagement as we pull out of this recession.

#7 Light My Fire (The Doors) – Go on the offensive and make something happen for your clients. Customers are looking for creative ways to solve their problems or get what they need. Look for problems they might have overlooked and suggest a remedy. By staying connected with your customers (remember idea #2 from last week – Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand?) you’re better able to uncover meaningful solutions to their problems.

#8 Different Drum (Linda Ronstadt) – Try a marketing channel you haven’t tried before. These are once in a lifetime (hopefully) days. Many of the economic theories and assumptions have been shaken to the core. So it is with marketing. Maybe now is the time to begin that newsletter you have been putting off. What about a sponsorship? Trade show? Perhaps volunteering to speak at different professional organizations will jumpstart your marketing efforts. Business as usual went out the door sometime last year. Now is the time to do the unusual.

#9 Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys) – Emphasize benefits over features…those things that “tingle” your customers. We know intuitively that customers buy benefits, not features, but these days highlighting benefits is even more critical. I know a company that took pride in discussing the fact that it had seven acres of raised floor space in their data centers. Cool factoid, but so what? How does that help the customer? Take a day to review your messaging, your collateral, and your website. Are you promoting “speeds and feeds” or are you talking about what’s in it for your customer?

#10 Thank God and Greyhound You’re Gone (Roy Clark) – Ok, so this is a country song, but it’s good advice. Some customers just have to go. You know the ones: you can count on them to return the product, tie up your customer service reps, pay late, and so on. Now is a great time to look at each customer and their profitability. If they’re costing you money (and time), fire them. And you can do so diplomatically, by raising prices, changing terms, unbundling your services, pricing for things that were free, etc. As hard as it is to lose a customer these days, losing an unprofitable customer is a win.

Make no mistake, we are in extremely challenging times. As I write this, the Dow is hovering around 6,800, the national jobless rate is now 8.1%, and 12% of home mortgages are under water. But solid, aggressive companies will survive. I’m optimistic about our future, so I leave you with advice from the (formerly) hardest working man in show business.

#11 Got Ants in My Pants and I Need to Dance (James Brown) – If we take care of our customers and bring value (in their eyes, not ours) to everything we do, our companies will be poised to lap the competition when the economy turns around.