Slowdown - Downturn - Recession ­ Austerity Programs… And What The Intelligent Sign Company Owner is Going To Do About It! - The Online Magazine for the Sign Trade.
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Slowdown - Downturn - Recession ­ Austerity Programs… And What The Intelligent Sign Company Owner is Going To Do About It!

Everywhere you look, the signs of a difficult economic period are obvious. Unemployment is up, business growth is down, sales cycles are longer, and many companies are shutting down altogether.

By Mark K. Roberts

How should the sign professional react in this environment? The temptation is to ride out the storm by cutting your marketing efforts off completely, among other budget moves. And this could cause your sales to slide even further, perhaps to the breaking point!

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  • Marketing reductions might make the books balance right now but it could be a recipe for making the long term picture even worse - in effect, making the downturn a self-fulfilling prophecy for your sign business.

    In a downturn, the first thing many companies cut is marketing - advertising, exhibiting at trade shows (don’t get me started on this one!) and cutting down on their promotional activities. This seems easy, but it's dumb, dumb, DUMB!!!!. And it's exactly what your competitors will do…giving you an opportunity to gain new sign business right from under their nose!

    Studies indicate companies that maintain marketing budgets during leaner times actually increase their market share. Since we are in the MARKETING business, our self-marketing efforts cost us pennies.

    Here are some common-sense guidelines for stepping back, assessing your sign business, and applying practical, low-cost tactics for stretching your marketing spending further, in the right directions, with greater return on investment.

    These approaches apply no matter what the business climate, but are especially critical today, to ensure that your marketing spending is as targeted and effective as possible. Taking steps now can help you harvest more business in the short term, but even more importantly, plant the seeds for more business when the economic storm clouds lift.

    Respond To Stress With Action.

    It's natural to feel stress when times are tougher. Here's Mark’s best advice on how to handle stress! When you start to feel the pressure that comes from slower sales, DO SOMETHING. Get your body and mind moving. Talk to yourself. Actually carry on a conversation that your ears can hear. And don’t forget the silent conversations you can always have with God…anytime and anywhere.

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    Call a client that you have not spoken with this year. Back up your computer files, label your scraps in the scrap pile, and discard the odd sized chunks, straighten your desktop, vacuum the floors, paint some shelves, refocus your marketing efforts on the types of sign customers that you REALLY want to serve! No matter what it is you do, always respond to stress with action.

    Don't mope, whine or feel sorry for yourself. Did you know the only living creature on the planet earth that has the capability to feel sorry for himself or herself is the human being? So, resist the temptation, and when it comes, and it will come, just chase it off and do some form of activity to keep you busy. Your clients and prospects want a positive, enthusiastic attitude from you, and if you have a staff, they need you to provide positive, proactive leadership. You are the Captain of your ship, and there are many sets of eyes upon you, in the good times as well as in the bad times!

    Return to Basics 101.

    When business slows, it's tempting to put your head down in the belief that you can succeed from persistence alone. And sometimes that's true. But slowdowns provide time - and a mandate to reconsider your business from the bottom up. It's an ideal opportunity to make sure the sign products, services, and, critically, the message you're presenting is a sound one. Think of it as a cyclical business "checkup" designed to keep your sign company healthy and evolving.

    It costs to list your company in the phone book and you're not sure who you're marketing to. Listing your company in the Buyer's Guide is one great way to market your company to a target-specific market. List your comapny and let the world see you! While you're at it, consider placing your company logo that will allow you to stand out in the crowd.

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    Don't Cut The Supply Line.

    Let me remind you, first, of the basic marketing principles. If business is a 'battle' with 'armed' competitors, think of your sales activities as the 'infantry,' and your marketing efforts as the "supply line" to that front line force. If you cut the supply line, the infantry has to do everything on their own. While that may appear a cheaper, more efficient approach, typically it isn't. Your infantry is usually either you or your highest paid talent, and every hour you (or they) spend away from 'hand-to-hand combat' with your prospects and customers is an expensive hour indeed.

    In uncertain times, marketing is more important than ever. It shows confidence, and it will allow you to leapfrog your competitors who are reactive and driven by fear.

    And remember that marketing isn't rocket science. Marketing is finding people who want to buy your signs and design services, and then selling those signs and services to them. And when you're marketing, use your imagination and hard work instead of cash! Be smart, be cheap - be a guerilla marketer. You don't have to spend a lot of money to keep your message in front of your customers and prospects. Use the resources you own to crank out great and effective marketing tools. Most of all, slow times never last forever, so keep those sprits up and keep crankin’ those signs OUT!

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