Recent news articles indicate we may finally be seeing the bottom of The Great Recession. However, most economists are predicting we’ll still be feeling the recession’s effects well into the first part of 2010.
For marketers, whether we are in the beginning, middle or end of the recession is not as important as the fact that we are having to market in such a challenging environment.
In a typical recession most organizations reduce their marketing expenses. The first place to cut is usually marketing and training. While that can help in the short run the long-term effects can be devastating.
One marketing principle to keep in mind is “zig/zag.” When others zig, you should zag. Right now most companies are zigging by reducing their marketing expenses. Instead of zigging like everyone else you should zag: do more marketing. There is less marketing “clutter” out there so now is a great time for your marketing messages to be heard.
One financial institution is doing just that. Rosalyn Baker, member development and marketing supervisor for Double 11 Credit Union ($36 million in assets; 4,900 members), said, “My budget was actually increased from the original budgeted amount. Our board’s thought on this? You can't get yourself out there if you don't have the funds to advertise.”
As the recession was hitting its full stride, an article from Knowledge@Wharton offered strong data for doing more marketing in a recession.
“The first reaction is to cut, cut, cut, and advertising is one of the first things to go,” says Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader, adding that as companies slash advertising in a downturn, they leave empty space in consumers' minds for aggressive marketers to make strong inroads. Today's economy “provides an unusual opportunity to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd,” says Fader, “but it takes a lot of courage and convincing to get senior management on board with that.”
According to Wharton, a McGraw-Hill Research study looking at 600 companies from 1980 to 1985 found that those businesses which chose to maintain or raise their level of advertising expenditures during the 1981 and 1982 recession had significantly higher sales after the economy recovered. Specifically, companies that advertised aggressively during the recession had sales 256% higher than those that did not continue to advertise.
Because we’re in a recession advertising prices are probably less than they have been in years. You will find exceptional value to any of your marketing efforts (billboards, TV, etc.). You can also do some great negotiating with rates. Every advertising venue is scrambling to find advertisers now. Leverage that to your advantage: negotiate lower ad rates at every opportunity.
We can look at the economy in one of two ways: either as a negative or an opportunity. Credit unions that choose to go for opportunity are credit unions that will grow.
Need to convince your board or CEO that now is the time to spend more (and not less) on marketing. Then share this post with them.
A son recently told his father that he quit his job because “the job just wasn’t fun anymore.” The father immediately replied, “What does fun have to do with work?”
I would argue that fun has a lot to do with work.
Last week I blogged about how meetings can drag on and on and on. One of the tips provided for improving meetings was to “add a fun element to each meeting.” That’s such an important point I wanted to expand on it.
Work should be fun. Not drudgery. Not punching a clock. But fun. Of course, it may not be fun all the time but there should be an atmosphere of fun no matter what your job is. Easy to say, hard to implement.
Watch a YouTube Video
YouTube puts out some amazing stuff. And much of it is amazingly funny (especially spoofs on the work environment). One of my personal favorites is Bon Qui Qui at King Burger. If you are in any type of service industry this is must-see video. Of course, there are thousands of other wonderful options.
The point, however, is to use a video snippet to bring an element of humor to your job. It’s okay to laugh at work. In fact, laughing at work will probably improve your employees’ engagement index (the level of which they are engaged).
Get out of the Office (if possible)
Of course, not everyone can leave the office wh
If you have a job, then you have to deal with meetings. When you think of meetings, do these words come to mind: long, boring and unfocused? I’m spending the majority of this week in meetings and to be honest most of them could and should be shorter. It’s not a length issue; however, it’s a focus issue.
As a senior executive I’ve both sat in and lead more meetings than anyone should attend. Have you ever felt after attending a boring meeting, “Those are hours of my life I can’t get back!”
Here are eight tips to improve your meetings:
- Have an agenda—That’s basic but how many times have you gone to a meeting with no agenda? Having an agenda even applies to one-on-one meetings you have with your employees. Make sure you know what you want to cover or time can get away from you.
- Set time limits on each agenda item—While an agenda is great, the meeting can ramble if you don’t put a time limit on each issue you will cover. That helps set expectations. One trick to use with time limits is set them for a few minutes longer than you think it will take; that gives the impression that the meeting is flying by.
- Add a fun element to each meeting—As we said above, meetings can be BORING! But there is no rule in Meeting 101 that says “meetings have to be boring.” So lighten things up—unless you’re in a hospital you’re probably not dealing with brain surgery. In every one of my team meetings I always have an agenda item that says “Team Time.” During those team times we spend a few minutes doing something fun: playing cards, playing a Jeopardy game about products and services, playing trivia, etc. But do you detect a common word: play.
- Have a teaching element to your meetings—If you’re the boss you should have knowledge you can share with others. Share an insight you learned from a recent book you read. Or teach your employees a new skill. A part of coaching is teaching. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge.
- Set time expectations—While similar to point number three above, we mean before the meeting starts let people know about how long the meeting is going to take. It amazes me that I’ll go to some meetings I think are going to be short and they drag on for hours. And some meetings I think are going to take a half-day turn into a one hour affair. Give your attendees ahead of time some idea about how much of their time you’re going to take.
- Don’t allow texting—Ouch, this one might hurt. Okay, this is a pet-peeve of mine but I think it also helps improve meetings. Nothing is more annoying than when you’re talking or trying to cover a point and someone is texting. Don’t allow it. Stop the meeting if you have to and let them finish before you continue. It’s rude. Full disclosure: I’ve been guilty of texting during meetings and I have to make sure I don’t do this as well.
- Don’t chase rabbits—Perhaps the biggest reasons meetings can drag on unnecessarily is because people get off topic. In Texas, we call that “chasing rabbits.” The best facilitators are the ones that bring people back to topic quickly. It’s very fair to say, “that’s a great subject and we need to discuss it—but not now and not in this meeting.”
- Make the meeting as interactive and engaging as possible—Some of the worst meetings you’ve ever been involved with are probably the ones where one person is just giving information. Don’t be that one person. Engage your audience. Ask them questions. Get their input. Sure, there are times when you have to do a monologue—but when possible make those short and sweet.
So what do you think? What other tips and ideas can you give to improving your meetings?
There are tons of great books and blog posts these days about social media and how marketing is changing. One of the “must reads” in this category is The Age of Engage by Denise Shiffman. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, says on the book’s front cover, “Every marketer must read this book!” I couldn’t agree more.
Author Denise Shiffman takes a strategic look at how companies should market in today’s new environment. While she touches on all the tools (Twitter, Facebook, blip.tv, etc.) her book’s real strength is how all these engagement tools are fundamentally changing the marketing field.
She takes the “Six Ps of Marketing” (product, price, promotion, place, packaging, people) and proposes replacing them with the “Six Vs of Marketing” (venture, value, voice, verification, vicinity, vehicle). Shiffman devotes an entire chapter to each of those key paradigms. She also has numerous examples and case studies of successful (and sometimes not successful) companies that used these principles to reach their audiences.
She is particularly poignant when talking about the importance of being real with your products and services. In fact, she encourages you to throw out your marketing plan. She notes, “Open, authentic and interactive—these are the qualities of companies that will win in the age of engage.”
There were several times while reading Age of Engage that I underlined key passages and made notes on how it applies. You will want to take your time reading this book because you’ll want to make sure you are applying its tenets to your organization. Some her strongest points include:
“The naked truth is that you no longer have absolute control over your brand and marketing….Engage your audience. Start a conversation. Interact.”
“Managing the online life of your brand is like breathing oxygen; you do it continuously or you won’t survive.”
One of the issues I discuss in Top 10 Marketing Trends Every Credit Union Should Know is that the marketing and technology fields are merging. Shiffman makes a similar point. She calls it the “tech-savvy marketer,” saying “Smart marketers are early adopters.” She notes that marketers should blog, us flickr, RSS feeds and other new techniques to remain on the leading edge.
If you are looking for a new book that challenges the old marketing methods and embraces the new ones then look no further than The Age of Engage.
Two new Credit Union Directors Newsletter issues help educate directors about two issues: membership growth and board blogs. I had the privilege of working with CUNA on these publications and hope they can help your credit union boards as well.
What It Takes to G.R.O.W. Your Credit Union gives tips to set your credit union on the path to grow. We examine growth tips in the form of the GROW acronym: G = generation; R = Relate; O = Opportunity; W = Wow. Click here to download the report. Because boards tend to deal with strategic issues (flying at 30,000) feet instead of tactical ones (flying at 5,000 feet), this article offers an overview that will help boards quickly grasp some key concepts for growing your credit union.
And speaking of boards, Benefits of a Board Blog is an interview I conducted with Ginny Brady, vice president of the nine-member board of UFirst Federal Credit Union in Plattsburgh, N.Y. The interview offers interesting insights from a board member who blogs regularly about her credit union. Click here to download the interview. Think there’s no way your board would ever blog? Check out Ginny’s comments and then see what you think.
The Credit Union Directors Newsletter helps boards quickly grasp key concepts. It examines trends, events and analysis for policy makers. Every credit union should have their board subscribe to this valuable publication. To subscribe, just call 800-348-3646.