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Marketing in less than a perfect economy


By: Anthony B. Polito, C.L.P.

After the first six months of 2002, it's easy to say that marketing is not as easy as it used to be. We have seen a number of recessions over the years, the last being the recession of 1990-91. It seems when they come once every 10 years, it hits us a little harder, perhaps because we have forgotten how it is in a slow economy. Or for some, this very well could be the first recession that they have experienced. The key is to remember this is just temporary, and for some, it's an "opportunity."

It is imperative that you do not buckle with fear in these tough times, but aggressively fight to hold margins, capture new customers, and take advantage of any opportunity that you may find. Remember, some industries even do better in tougher times than in good times. Besides, I don't know about your boss, but my boss only knows one thing: What have you done for me lately? With that in mind, how do we battle tough times for great sales?

Remain positive; market with a positive attitude. You may cut back, but do not -- I repeat -- do not abandon the marketplace or your game plan. "Our business exploded -- even in these times -- because of our service," says Ben Benedetto of Benedetto's Landscaping in Hudson, N.H. "Our customers know they can call me 24/7, and we will take care of all their needs from snowplowing to maintenance. We have the equipment and the personnel to handle the job."

It is very important in a slow economy to keep your name in front of your customer. I assure you that if you do not, your customers will forget you a lot quicker than you forget them. The key to marketing is to show your customers how your product or service can effectively help them beat the tough times they are going through. Remember, you have to give them what they need in order for them to give you what you want.

Be creative. These are the times that great marketing programs are born. "My job is to sell commercial equipment," says Durant Dobbs, a commercial sales representative for Snapper Pro Lawn in Conyers, Ga. "So where better a place to sell it than out in the field. I load up my trailer and head out to demonstrate our equipment for the landscapers right on their job. It's a sales pitch that's hard to resist."

Step up to the marketing batter's box with something different. Even if it is a variation of something you have done in the past. "When times are slow and our normal marketing ideas are not working, we always look toward the everyday marketing ideas that our competitors are not using," says Andy Deering of S-N-G Equipment, a Plain City, Ohio-based manufacturer of motorized fertilizing equipment. "This way you hit an audience that has not been touched to generate new sales." I suggest a campaign that gives the perspective customer a sense of urgency, a reason to do business. Remember, there is nothing worse than standing at home plate, watching the pitches go by, and getting called out looking.

We often overlook our best, and our lowest cost, source of business: our existing customer base. You have to believe that if you're not taking care of your customers, somebody else will. Satisfied customers can also provide a great foundation for testing new marketing techniques.

Remember, always think big, especially in these tough times. When prospecting, the "yes" that you get from a large prospective customer means so much more than a "yes" from a small customer. Let's face it: When you get a "no" from either customer, it's just the same. In these difficult times, often the large contracts or sales are given to the "new" company for a number of different reasons. If they are out there, they might as well be yours.

Last of all, remember in hard times: promote, promote, promote. Get your story out on the street. Make sure you, your sales team, and for that matter, all of your employees are speaking of the good news regarding your company's products and services. "When times get tough, advertising is one of the easiest expenditures to cut," says Ray Badger of Turbo Technologies, Inc. in Beaver Falls, Pa. "In reality, that is the worst expense to cut. It's our job to educate the landscapers to the many advantages in increasing their business by using hydroseeding. In order to do this, we must stay in front of our customers. There is a lot of business that is available if you go after it."

In these trying times, those that move aggressively forward with a marketing campaign will certainly enjoy the benefits when the economy turns around. When others are playing catch up, you will already be in the lead with a winning team. Remember, the customers are still there, although they may be fewer and harder to find. Go close them!

Anthony B. Polito, C.L.P., heads the Green Team for 1 St Priority Acceptance LLC, where he is president. The Green Team has more than 15 years experience serving the Green Industry’s equipment finance needs. You can contact him or Pam Seeker at 330-475-1898.