We were heading for a recession even before the terrorist attacks. So it always makes sense to know how to market during any economic downturn.
By Jay Conrad Levinson

"In a dog-eat-dog economy, the Doberman is boss," said Edward Abbey, the author and naturalist. In this regard, the Doberman and the guerrilla have a lot in common.

Guerrillas know that they must seek profits from their current customers. They worship at the shrine of customer follow-up. They are world-class experts at getting their customers to expand the size of their purchase. Because the cost of selling to a brand-new customer is six times higher than selling to an existing customer, guerrilla marketers turn their gaze from strangers to friends.

This reduces the cost of marketing while it reinforces the customer relationship. Guerrillas know that follow-up means marketing to some of the most cherished citizens of planet Earth -- their customers.

When your customers are confronted with their daily blizzard of junk mail and unwanted email, your mailing piece won't be scrapped with the others, and your email won't be instantly deleted. After all, these folks know you. They identify with you. They trust you. They know you stay in touch with them for a reason. And so they'll be delighted to purchase -- or at least check out -- that new product or service they didn't know you offered. They'll always be inclined to buy from a company they've patronized before instead of experimenting with a company that has not yet won a share of their mind. When you follow up with intensity, it proves that you really care and that you'll be there when the customer truly needs you.

If you haven't started a customer-stroking program yet, start it tomorrow. And whatever you do, put it in writing and determine two things: (1) who will take the responsibility for each follow-up activity, and (2) when that activity will take place.

In any recession, the telephone is a remarkably effective follow-up weapon for guerrillas. You certainly don't have to use the phone to follow up all of your mailings to customers, but research proves that it always will boost your sales and profits. Sure, telephone follow-up is a tough task. But it works. Anyhow, no one ever said that guerrilla marketing is a piece of cake.

Email ranks up there with the telephone. It's inexpensive. It's fast. It lets you prove you care. It helps strengthen your relationship. And in you r subject line, you can mention the recession if your offering is in any way related to it.

Important recession tactic: Eliminate any perceived risk of buying from you by stressing your money-back guarantee, your liberal warranty and your deep commitment to service. Mention the names of others who have purchased from you. Your reputation is the foundation upon which your credibility is built, and during a recession, you need all you can get. Credibility doesn't cost you anything, so lean on it as much as you can.

Lean upon your website as well. Instead of telling your whole story with other marketing, use that other marketing to direct people to your site. Then, use the site to give a lot of information and advance the sale to consummation.

Guerrillas are able to think of additional products and services that can establish new sources of profits to them. In a recession or out, they are o n the alert for strategic alliances -- fusion marketing efforts with others. This kind of cooperative marketing makes sense at all times, but makes the most sense during a recession when companies must market aggressively while reducing their marketing investment.

Guerrilla companies cease most broadcasting and increase their narrowcasting -- to customers and carefully targeted prospect lists. A recession is tough. Still, when the going gets tough, guerrillas make sizeable bank deposits. Many see beauty in economic ugliness.

In a recession, when everything else seems to be shrinking, think in terms of expanding your offerings. Do absolutely everything you can to motivate customers to expand the size of their purchase. Prove that buying right now is a sagacious move because of the recession.

If you sell high-priced items, use the recession as a selling tool. Explain to people that during a recession, it is crucial not to waste money. Therefore, they should protect their money by spending it wisely and not making a mistake. Mistakes can be financial disasters during a recession. Makes sense, doesn't it?

In marketing to customers and to non-customers, show that you are fully aware of the recession and that you have priced your goods and services accordingly. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the right price for a recession is the lowest price. Price becomes secondary during hard times; people are searching for value. If you offer customers great values -- in the form of more durable products, more encompassing services, or long-term economy, you'll earn higher profits than if you target your marketing solely to skinflints.

Even though your marketing is always truthful, exert even more of an effort during a recession to make it sound truthful. Admit that there is a recession; admit that people must be extra careful when buying things; admit that you've taken special steps because times are tough and you know it.

The plain fact is that guerrillas have an advantage during recessionary times. They are able to work in relatively shorter time frames. Their penchant for information enables them to market more quickly and creatively to market needs.

The guerrilla lives by different rules during a recession than during boom times. The guerrilla attacks when the competition retreats, and the attack is concentrated where the guerrilla offers specific product or service advantages. Retreating companies leave voids in the market, ideal niches for guerrilla companies.

Guerrillas do not commit all their resources to any one front because they try to maintain resources for new options and for potential confrontations with the competition. Flexibility is an asset. Successful companies try to be inconspicuous about their success, reducing the chances of copycatting and attack from their competitors.

They know many companies have scrubbed or reduced their marketing budgets to combat the recession, and that it will cost those firms three dollars for every dollar formerly spent to reach the same level of consumer recognition and share of mind they previously enjoyed. Guerrillas are aware that their prospects are more likely to recall marketing messages delivered consistently during the recession -- even if they are smaller and less frequent. So they maintain the attitude of a guerrilla even when the economy is in its darkest days.

Along with their aggressive attitude is a willingness to give up something in order to preserve something else. Intelligent sacrifice is a necessity. Unless a company is governed by this idea during a recession, marketing may be too expensive to be effective.

During a recession -- and even during the glory days that follow, be sure to market to current customers. Try to enlarge the size of each transaction. Lean upon the immense referral power of each customer. And keep in mind that hard times require superb values.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the author of the "Guerrilla Marketing" series of books, the best-selling marketing series in history, now in 37 languages and required reading in many MBA programs. His website is at

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