In a Recession, Ad Agencies Should Put Everyone on New Business

Facing lack of new business growth? Loss of clients? This is what a recession feels like, so now's the time to rally your troops
by Todd Knutson

Ad agencies and other marketing services firms are perfectly positioned to get creative and inspire their marketing talent on behalf of the firm. reminds us that,

In a recession, everyone should be in marketing. Motivated employees contribute to creative thinking that can help retain current customers and identify new ones.

She suggests 5 tactics to employ now:

1. Increase customer contact and communication. Senior executives...should become personal ambassadors to major customers, thanking them for their business and making it clear that they want to help them succeed. But don't stop there. People throughout the ranks can reach out to customers - perhaps a personal note or a phone call to provide news or ask questions. Customers will know you care, you will be better informed, staff will feel more involved, and unexpected opportunities might arise.

2. Start looking for new markets now. Creative thinking can find opportunities to offset losses from current customers. Starting research now on less-familiar industries...to prepare managers to move quickly when conditions improve. This might involve sales calls...postings on Web sites targeting new areas or industry segments, sending more people to speak at industry conferences and cultivate relationships - good investments even if they seem like the first candidates for cutting. During slow times, employees who might otherwise be idle could be deployed to gather information by discussions with end users. If travel costs are too high, the telephone can be augmented by Internet research.

3. Invest in employee morale. When employees fear for their jobs, worries about family finances drain energy and increase the temptation to stay home on the slightest excuse. When morale is down, productivity and attention to customers suffer, right at the time that you most need...efficient teamwork and cheerful voices handling customer questions. Too many companies treat employees as costs to be cut, when they really should show employees how important they are. Managers can greet employees personally and thank them for their contributions. Small tokens of appreciation and enjoyment, such as a weekend outing with families or a food festival with employee contributions as a break during working hours, go a long way to keep people motivated to perform well.

4. Emphasize and reward small wins. Innovation is an on-going task, but turbulent times increase the need to get everyone involved in undertaking small improvements that can be easily and quickly implemented - to find a cost-saving efficiency or improve the work environment.

 A program that actively seeks...ideas and rewards them -- publicity, appreciation, or even a small portion of the cost-saving or revenue gains -- can strengthen the company immediately. Motivation increases, and customers see a company that is always ahead of the curve in terms of new thinking.

5. Stick with your values. There is always a temptation to cut corners when times are tough. Managers should avoid desperate moves that could damage them or the company later - no accounting tricks...and no compromises with ethics, such as "gifts" to a purchasing agent. Reminders about company values can reinforce solidarity and increase the confidence that customers have in the company.

Each of these can be employed to help you market your agency, drive organic growth, research new business opportunities, or proactively pursue new clients, all the while recognizing that the morale of your agency's team is critical to new business success.

What other ideas would you add to the list?

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