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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the March 5, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
In Uncertain Times, Shake Off the Funk
We’re in a collective funk. "There is a certain
marketing firm Market Entry. "There is so much uncertainty. Our
security is gone." The result for businesses large and small is
paralysis. Hiring, purchasing, and marketing are on hold. There is
a sense that everyone is holing up.
"It started before 9/11," Kish observes on a day when the
alert level is orange and most of central New Jersey is obscured by
mounds of white. There was the stock market slide, and then the unprecedented
terrorist attacks, and then a rash of outrageous corporate scandals.
Now there is the specter of a divisive war.
Feeding the uncertainty, says Kish, is rapid communication across
a shrinking world. "Ideas move so fast," she says. "There’s
no chance to refine thinking." What happens two continents away
matters, and we know about it in seconds. As an example, she speaks
about a recent front page Wall Street Journal article about a youngster
who chose to measure the reach of an E-mail chain letter. Within days,
the paper reported, the girl’s in-box was clogged with thousands of
messages from every continent. After she and her parents discarded
7,000 missives in just one day, she pulled the plug on her project.
With relentlessly bad news, economic and otherwise, rocketing around
the globe, it is little wonder that so many businesses are in ostrich
mode. Kish urges a more proactive approach when she speaks on "Marketing
for Today’s Uncertain Times" on Thursday, March 6, at 7:30 a.m.
at a meeting of the East Windsor Township Economic Development Committee.
Cost: $5. Call 609-443-4000.
Kish, a graduate of Allegheny College who holds a master’s degree
in education from Antioch University, founded her marketing firm in
1982. A Renaissance woman, she travels widely and is involved in any
number of civic activities. "You only go around once," she
says as she prepares for a Leadership New Jersey seminar devoted to
education and speaks about rounding up support for the printing and
dissemination of a plan for Princeton’s future.
Out and about, and constantly getting involved with new projects,
Kish urges businesses to try a similar approach. Yes, times are uncertain,
but hiding out is counterproductive. Here are some ways in which businesses
can get moving again:
like mad," says Kish. "They should be doing good works in
the community, going to PTA meetings, going to the soccer games."
In uncertain times, it’s all about safety. People feel safe giving
business to those they really know. This is the time to get out and
"Use your assets to give something to the community." Those
who do so, she says, will be remembered "for a good long time."
with their zero percent financing, Kish points out. They are letting
customers try the cars "for nothing." The pitch has been extraordinarily
successful. On a local level, a car dealership that volunteers to
ferry speakers or to drive hospital personnel in to work in bad weather
provides an up-close experience with its automobiles. A graphic artist
who chips in to create posters for a charity event creates good will
while, at the same time, letting others see the quality of his work.
Letting prospective customers sample goods or services may give them
the feeling of security they need to make a purchase.
alike hesitate less over making purchases when some of the danger
is removed. Kish recommends telling customers "`If something happens,
don’t hesitate to come back to us.’"
Consider providing compensation even when the problem has nothing
to do with you. Kish offers the Blizzard of 2003 as an example. "Stores
spent a lot of money advertising Presidents Day sales," she says.
While radio stations and newspapers had nothing to do with the storm
that made shopping impossible, an offer to run the ads for an extra
day could make the stores feel more confident in spending money to
advertise next year.
Don’t give away so much that you go out of business, says Kish, but
"if you know your customers are hurting, let them know `we’re
in this together.’"
can do something no one has done before," says Kish. As an example,
she says Chrysler is offering to deliver its PT Cruisers with flames
adorning their bodies. The company realizes that its customers are
spending money in the auto aftermarket to add the decorations and
sees an opportunity to get in on those sales. She knows this, she
confides, because her husband, "a car nut," is urging her
to get a flaming PT Cruiser. While she has no plans to do so, she
admires Chrysler’s marketing acumen.
ad every week than to take out a full-page ad once a year," says
Kish. "You need continuity and repetition," she says, "the
sense that `I’m always here.’"
Those who keep on staying visible in the community, looking for unique
sales angles, offering value and backing it up, and keeping up with
their marketing campaigns — will be in great shape when the economy
returns to firmer ground.
quite sure "there’s a lot of duct tape around here somewhere,"
is not panicking. Not over the geopolitical landscape and not over
the business climate. She’s too busy.
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