Three Easy and Affordable Ways to Position Your Marketing and Communications for 2009

The turning calendar year inevitably brings with it a tidal wave of retrospectives, guides and lists about how you can do better—or differently—in the coming year. Every source purports to be expert; every "how-to" article authoritative.

Well, friends, that ain’t me. I don’t pretend that what you’re about to read is the authoritative article on how to plan your marketing and communications efforts so they’ll generate measurable and quantifiable results in 2009. You can get that guesswork elsewhere; I won’t waste your precious time with it here.

What you will get are three simple ways to position your marketing and communications efforts to meet—and hopefully overcome—the challenges of 2009. Taking these three steps won’t cost a lot of money, either: Odds are some whiz-kid on your staff knows all about Web site coding and social networking—he or she will embrace the opportunity to implement some of "your" ideas.

Preparing for Worsening Economic Conditions

Let’s start with the assumption that the first six months of the year will continue to be economically depressing. We’re looking at a U-shaped bottom; the economy should start to rebound in the third quarter. Consumers will probably not regain much confidence until late in the fourth quarter—hopefully around the time the holiday spending binge kicks in.

So what do you need to do in the first six-nine months of 2009 to prepare marketing and communications strategies and tactics that match the economy’s projected path?

Marketing and Communications Success Tactics

Here are three simple and cost-conscious steps you can take now—and build on in the coming months—to position your marketing and communications for 2009:

1. PASS your Web-based communications: According to a new survey from Larstan Business Reports, the online communications market is growing at nearly 100 percent a year. Your Web-based communications play an increasingly critical role in marketing, communications and especially in sales.

Your Web site is your public face—it’s the first place potential customers interact with you and your product. Of course you know the KISS method—when it comes to Web sites, I advise my clients to use what I call the PASS method:

  • Perfection is your goal: Make sure your content is perfectly aligned with your messaging. Use short sentences and clear, compelling grammar. Make it easy to navigate. Make key information easily accessible (no more than two clicks drilling down). Eliminate spelling errors. Feature concise calls to action.
  • Analytics, Adhesivity, Accuracy, Attractiveness: Use Google Analytics (it’s free!) to track traffic to each page of your site. Determine what’s popular and what isn’t. Keep the popular and fix (or jettison) the unpopular. Focus not on Web site hits but unique visitors and time on site. Check your competitors’ numbers at sites like,, or Make your site adhesive, accurate and attractive.
  • Simplicity is king: The more complex your site, the harder to convey your unique sales proposition. Look at your site critically: Do you have too many pages for the message(s) you’re trying to convey? If so, downsize. After all, you don’t spend time clicking through your favorite sites—why should you require your customers to?
  • Separate your site from your competition: Yes, I know, you’re doing this already. Your content is better, your navigability simpler, your product superior, blah, blah, blah. Well, how about doing a low- or no-cost thing like putting your company logo in the Web browser’s URL window box? Or featuring your logo on every page, rather than just the home page? Leverage every opportunity to separate and distinguish your company and your product from your competition.

2. Social networking: This one’s easy, cheap and highly effective. Remember, it doesn’t matter how great you say you are; far more meaningful are comments from others about how great you are.

Use Flickr to post photos of your customers interacting with your product, of your staff at work, etc. Use Facebook, MySpace or Bebo to create an interest group around your product or company. Use LinkedIn to generate professional interest in your company or product. Expand your personal and professional network through Plaxo, Brightfuse or others. Generate content exclusively for your "friends" and "groupies." Use social networking sites to generate loyalty and business.

3. Customer contact: In challenging times, surveys show that nothing is more important than empathy and the quality of your communications efforts to build trust and long-term loyalty between your business and your customers. Here are just two of many suggestions to increase your contact with customers:

  • Make your newsletter shorter and send it more often—at least twice a month. Fill it with discounts for loyal customers—make these soft sell offers to reflect your empathy for the tough economic times. In every issue, feature a photo and Q&A with a loyal customer; repurpose that content for your Web site, Facebook site, LinkedIn group, etc. If your customer has a Facebook site, post the feature on his or her wall. Show your customers you care.
  • Advertise carefully: Revisit your advertising plan. You don’t need a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal (Bob Nardelli and Chrysler, note!) to underscore your company’s value. Advertising in niche publications is cheaper and more effective—plus more likely to reach your target audience. Online, invest in a long-term Google Adwords campaign.

Do these three things right and integrate them, and your marketing and communications efforts can generate positive results as we navigate next year’s uncharted and murky water.