10 Tips for Recession-era Success

So how can a multichannel retailer survive the recession? Ken Lane, president of consultancy group Hathaway and Lane, offered up 10 marketing tips for tight times in his May 4 ACCM session in New Orleans. Here they are.

1. Retention, retention, retention
Merchants need to focus on their existing customer, and build programs on retaining them, Lane said. Don’t be afraid to use offers and discounts that could support this strategy.

2. Set some rules for recency
During more turbulent times, you need to focus on more recent buyers, as well as recent inquiries and referrals. You can review recency results from the last downturn, though Lane pointed out the current economic climate is so much different than anything we’ve seen in years. And still look at seasonality if your sales traditionally fare better in the summer or you sell to institutions.

3. Expand your customer referrals program
For one, it’s a low-cost acquisition tool, Lane said. What’s more, consumers trust their peers when they need to make a decision.

4. Be relevant
If you’re a travel merchant and your customer is looking to book a trip to Italy, don’t try to sell him a vacation in South America. And if the customer has already booked, supply him information about the locale. Be sure to personalize customer e-mails to include what they have purchased or inquired about from you.

5. Research your customer
Continuing with the example of a travel merchant, Lane suggested contacting customers and find out if they have plans to travel this year. If so, ask where they’d like to go, and when they planned to book. Then you’ll know how to be even further relevant.

6. Review your marketing spend by channel
To keep costs down, look for ways to make strategic marketing shifts to the Internet, and encourage your customers to shift their preferred method of contact from paper to electronic. But if you consider a shift, Lane said, you need to make a commitment to it.

7. Reap rewards by sharing the burden
Focus on what you do well, and outsource the rest. That means taking advantage of services such as co-op databases and e-mail appending, as well as back-end functions.

8. Rewrite your offer or promotional copy
Acknowledge how the customer feels to give your company more credibility. You can also give your copy a better sense of urgency, and use tighter response deadlines. And if copywriting isn’t your thing, consider hiring a freelancer to provide a different voice.

9. Redefine your break-even
Forecast your response rates in a responsible way – one that is not out of line in this economy. But you can set the bar a little higher if you’re taking advantage of referrals. You should also review your lift opportunities of e-mails that may boost response rates and average order.

10. Remember to measure and manage.
The simple rules of marketing cannot be forgotten in tough times. You can’t manage your campaign if you aren’t measuring. And of course, keep on testing.

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