Monday, December 28, 2009

Sales & Marketing in 2010

CLICHÉ – A cliché is a saying, expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect rendering it a stereotype, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). MY TURN: “It’s hard to believe the New Year is already here!” YOUR TURN… (Insert Response Cliché). Given the dismal economic performance of 2009, we can all think of many come-backs… but the one we most certainly agree would be… “Let’s hope 2010 is better than 2009”. Unfortunately, the word “better” remains subjective.

Leading economists are forecasting 2010 to mark recovery from “The Great Recession”. We are currently witnessing trends of lowering unemployment and increasing GDP. However, amidst positive trends and recent economic data, we will continue to feel the bite of this recession for a while. We must also remember there is no guarantee 2010 will bring relief. 2010 presents a looming giant of economic catastrophe. Today’s stability, however welcome, is worryingly fragile (see “The Great Stabilisation”; The Economist, Print Edition, Dec 17, 2009). As such, we can expect the business sector to continue operating in the world of economic downturn, no matter what economic indicators and leading economists suggest… hope for the best; plan for the worst, right?

It’s the “planning for the worst” that gets me. It is no secret that when the economy tightens, so do the belts of business. Faced with a slowing / receding economy, our clients (exhibitors and attendees) slice budgets in 3 areas that directly affect the tradeshow / B2B marketing industries: Business Marketing, Training, and Travel. We all agree that fiscal management is a necessity. Efficiency is mandatory to weather economic storms. The problem doesn’t lie in tighter fiscal policies; the problems lie in how fiscal restraint is applied. Simply put; management seems to forget the fundamentals of HOW to market and sell in a recession. What’s ironic is while we complain furiously about the erroneous financial decisions of our clients, we do the SAME THING!

When we look at our slumping exhibit and sponsorship sales, or dropping attendance rates, we blame the economy and the market’s response. We continuously state our frustrations with our market for slicing marketing dollars, training budgets and travel allowances. We continue to bark about our customer’s buying trends and spending habits affecting our ability to sell floor space, sponsorships, conference sessions, and event attendance. We do this without consideration to adjustments we have (or have not) made as well.

There was an article published February 19, 2008 in BusinessWeek Magazine (originally published in The Financial Times of London on February 19, 2008), written by John Quelch, a professor at Harvard Business School since 1979. Mr. Quelch is one of ten marketing experts profiled in the 2007 book, “Conversations with Marketing Masters” by Laura Mazur and Louella Miles, and is known world-wide for his research on global marketing, global branding, and marketing communications. He is a non-executive director of WPP Group plc., the world’s second largest marketing services company, and of Pepsi Bottling Group. I don’t think many can question his credentials.

Mr. Quelch’s article, “How to Market in a Recession” touches on EIGHT factors a company should consider when creating marketing plans during a recession. It is a reminder of how companies should focus marketing efforts when facing bad economic conditions ahead, and offers great insight as to why each factor must be considered. Many, if not all, apply to our industry as well.

Do WE increase customer research to ensure value positioning and differentiation? Do WE change our marketing message focus more towards “family values in place of images of extreme sports, adventure and rugged individualism”? Do WE maintain our marketing spending or cut according to falling revenues? Do WE adjust our product portfolios according to the changing needs of our customer? Do WE adjust our pricing tactics? Do WE emphasize core values? Is our marketing message on target with the changing environment, and are we continuing to allocate adequate resources? (Read full article HERE)

Just as we look to our client market to respond to economic conditions appropriately, so must we. All in all, 2010 will present another year of battle within the markets we serve. We will battle for market share within the industries our events serve. We will also battle the forces our client’s are engaged with, working to help them overcome challenges and survive. Sales and Marketing tactics will be the primary catalyst to success or failure in 2010. We expect our customers to adjust; we must do the same.