Tried and True – 5 Suggestions For 2012

The stumble in the economy could not come at a worse time.  Most companies are going into their planning for 2012, taking the first six months of 2011 as a baseline, estimating the balance of the year and using that information as the basis for 2012.  The information is not pretty and the forecasts are ugly.

This situation will produce the same old aphorisms and phrase; “Do more with less,” “Work smarter, not harder, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and so on.  The problem is that these trite phrases are the ones that have been repeated over and over since 2008.

There are 5 truisms that you, as the CMO, can use in planning for 2012.  If applied they will help, but not ensure that you will make the year.

  1. Make sure that your product/service is differentiated.  If you have a “me-too” product you will only be able to compete on price, and no one wins a race to the bottom.  Lead with a differentiated product that offers more.
  2. Provide quality.  Buyers, whether consumers or business, are looking to spend as little as possible over the long term.  They get this from quality products and service.  Poor quality reflects on their decision-making, and in the base of a business buyer, may be a career-limiting move.  Prove to the buyer that your product/service is superior in quality.
  3. Service the buyer.  The day of “kiss and sell” is over.  Treat each customer as though they are unique, because they are.  The implementation of CRM tools makes it easy to personalize each buyer, both before and after the sale.
  4. Match expenses to revenue.  For the next 18-24 months, the economy is going to be flat to down.  Unless you have a unique product in a growing segment, e.g., iPhone, plan on minimal growth and plan you expenses accordingly.  For example, if you are competing in an oligopolistic segment growing 2-3% a year, pouring money into building your brand may not be the best use of scarce resource.
  5. Invest in Marketing.  This is not the time to cut back on Marketing.  Both Product Marketing and Product Management need to be fully funded.  The objective of most firms should be to maintain their market share, and if possible, grow it at the expense of competition.  This can only be done by fully funding marketing.  Moreover, everything is cyclical and this downturn will eventually correct itself.  When it does, those companies that have invested in Marketing will be the ones in the best position to take advantage of the upward curve.

For a related discussion on this topic, see the recent McKinsey article, We’re all marketers now…

The next 18 months or so are going to be ugly.  There is no leadership emerging, either from Washington or from Wall Street.  The economy, worldwide, is drifting downward.  Companies that focus on their mission, and follow the 5 steps above will succeed.  Those that engage in attempts to win share and/or drive revenue by providing cheaper products, and choose to compete on a price basis, will lose.

Where are you in your 2012 planning?


RHM  8/4/2011



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