Shifting Marketing Gears

by | February 16, 2010

Our guest blog post comes from Harry Thomas, Marketing Director for Hire and founder of Marketing Hat. Harry offers a perspective on how to approach marketing strategy, positioning, branding, and competitive analysis to help you move from survival to growth mode in 2010.

Moving from survival to robust growth will take a new approach to marketing. According to Aberdeen Research, 82% of companies reallocated their marketing budgets to some extent due to the recession. It’s time now to think about shifting gears again to pull out of defensive mode. With changing consumer behavior you can’t just rely on what might have worked in the past. Moving out of this economic environment and shifting gears to spur growth (vs. pure cost cutting) takes some discipline. Here are the four steps I recommend businesses take to introduce the marketing rigor needed to make the shift from survival to growth mode:

1. Understand Buyer behavior. The core to any growth strategy has to start with your buyer’s behaviors & attitudes. What do your buyers care about most? What motivates them to buy? How has their behavior changed in the recession? You may find that what used to be the most important variable in doing business with you has dramatically shifted. For many businesses this means that you are dealing with buyers who are “trading down”. They’ve come to realize they can make do with a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge vs. 5 days at Disneyland. As this happens many businesses are now selling to an entirely new set of customers than before.

2. Set strategic priorities. What do you need to achieve with your new budget? This environment no longer affords the luxury of saying “we’ll grow our retail channel by 15%”. We need to get more specific about how to drive that growth. Are the strategic priorities more about finding new customers or getting more business from existing customers? Too often a business says they are focused on growing their business among their existing customer base and yet the marketing plan is completely focused on new customer acquisition. Setting strategic priorities is a lot about deciding what NOT to do.

3. Measure everything. In the past, the assumption was that some marketing just wasn’t very measurable, today we need to be creative about how to measure the impact and determine the return of every program. The online world has taught us to look at measures when available but hasn’t done much toward encouraging us to be creative about finding out how to measure everything else. When I was the product manager on Bisquick we ran a large advertising campaign to encourage people to make pancakes on the weekend. The idea was that if they used up the Bisquick on their shelf they would buy more to replace it. How did we know whether we were influencing behavior with our ads? Simple, we called people on Monday morning and asked them two quick questions: 1) did you make pancakes this weekend? and 2) did you use Bisquick? We compared the weeks we were advertising to the weeks we weren’t and determined the effect of the campaign.

4. Do more with less. It’s not about cutting corners, but being efficient. With new technologies and systems there are ways to cut marketing costs dramatically while still getting results. Customer satisfaction can be tracked very efficiently with online survey software, lead tracking is easier & more reliable than ever thanks to tools like and of course Google Adwords allows budgets to be managed online just like professionals do it. Tasks that used to take dedicated employees or agencies can now be managed from any desktop. Meawhile, new media such as blogs and social networking allow businesses to spread the word quickly and cheaply. Smart marketers like Subway and Doritos even enlist customers to make their own advertising messages.

Following these four steps will help put you on the path to growth, leaving survival mode behind.

Harry can be found on the web at