The Bottom Line: When the Market Gets Tough, the Tough Get Marketing

April 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor
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The U.S. government’s current economic stagnation certainly isn’t the first time the country has fallen on hard times. After all, it hasn’t even been 90 years since the stock market crash … of 1929, that is. But learning lessons from the past is not something humans do well, even though the first college course everyone must take is the history of a topic—from architecture to economics to journalism to zoology.

And so it should come as no surprise that inertia within the federal government has companies coming to a halt at a time when they should be moving full speed ahead. Businesses—particularly those involved in the defense industry—are repeating the errors so many companies made during the leanest years of the Great Depression. They are holding off on making hiring decisions, cutting back on personnel training and eliminating or greatly reducing marketing budgets when they should be taking advantage of the time and opportunities a slow down affords.

On the hiring front, many professionals with a multitude of talents and years of experience are sending out their résumés either because they fear losing their current positions or because they’ve already fallen prey to cutbacks. From a training perspective, what better time to invest in employees to ensure they are up to date on the latest government programs and technologies—a course of action that will help both them and the company prosper? The budget may be at a standstill, but technologies certainly aren’t, and problems—especially global security and cybersecurity—are on the rise. Information technology professionals don’t just need to stay current, they must stay current if the country and businesses are going to survive.

And speaking of survival, consider the companies that made it through the Great Depression. Recognize the names Disney, Raytheon, General Mills, Sports Authority and Harley-Davidson? All of these companies opened their doors prior to 1929, and through the lean years when companies were closing left and right, they continued investing in business development. Rather than cutting back, many of these companies increased their marketing and created new products to ensure their corporate identities would survive—and even thrive—when the economy was on an even keel again.

The bottom line is that tough economic times today offer opportunities. They call for fiscal prudence but not to the detriment of a company’s future success. Corporate leaders must be courageous and smart enough to know that the decisions they make now can ensure that their companies will continue to be strong in the years to come. Hiring promising team members and opening the wallet for current employee training will strengthen not weaken a company. Investing in business development and marketing strategies shows customers confidence in a company’s products and services and doesn’t leave potential customers wondering if a firm has succumbed to the economy. The choice is simple: reflect economic stagnation or demonstrate corporate confidence.

Share some of the actions your company is taking or should be taking to move forward even in a time of economic uncertainty.

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This may not be a time to lock-in costs by hiring direct staff, but it's not the only way to lay important foundational work. Drawing upon adjunct (marketing) staff, Peter F. Drucker's vision of Intellectual Capital On Demand, is a valid staffing/work alternative in times of uncertainty. This is why it's a hot topic today in organizational management circles.

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