Sales and marketing during tough times steals market share
by Kim M. Loy
Business owners that have a long
track record of success recognize the importance of maintaining a strong sales and marketing presence in their industry during economic hardships. Doing so provides a vehicle for building even stronger loyalty with existing customers and enables a company to take market share from competitors whose knee-jerk reaction is to immediately let those people go that are most visible. This shows their competitors and customers the strong inward focus the company is maintaining in only protecting the bottom line for the short term while losing valuable business opportunities that could turn the business around for the long term.
In addition, suddenly losing visibility can send the wrong message to the marketplace. Customers will naturally speculate on the health of the company and whether they will survive the crisis. This can send customers to the competition very quickly in their efforts to align themselves with a company they perceive as more stable.
The security industry has certainly faced some tough economic challenges in the last year. Everyone in the security industry is suddenly faced with providing more and more system applications support as facilities prepare for increased security measures. However, many company's resources are being severely taxed by this demand, and the additional revenue is slow to be recognized. Companies that maintained a strong sales and marketing force are now better equipped to meet the needs of this additional focus on security systems.
To actively take market share from less aggressive competitors, companies need to recognize that markets are not static and must be monitored closely at all times. The planning assumptions upon which upcoming events are based must be continually tested; and if they are no longer valid then the planned sales and marketing events may need modification. Once again, this plays a significant role in a company's ability to remain successful through tough times. Maintaining a strong marketing presence (versus viewing marketing as the first logical place to make cuts) allows a company to remain flexible enough to make changes to their marketing and business plans based on market conditions and economic downturns as needed. This flexibility may very well prove to be the sole reason for a company staying afloat during an economic crisis.
In addition, a sales force that is recognized as experts in the industry will promote a company to higher profits even during the worst economic conditions. The security industry saw many companies falter and even fail in their businesses in the last year simply because they didn't realize the importance of the front line relationship. In many cases, this is due to a strong engineering, technology focus in our industry that seems to lean towards the view that if you build a good product, it will sell itself. If in fact companies only produced what customers wanted, then the technology/engineering viewpoint could possibly work. However, it is illogical to assume that without sales and marketing, companies could determine what really are the customer needs. The power of a strong marketing and business development effort, which includes studying market conditions, pricing and customer demands, will ensure that research and development investments are made wisely.
Overall, the entire concept of sales and marketing driving the success of an organization through superior customer service and support was summarized very well by Hillestad & Berkowitz when they wrote: "Marketing is the process of molding the organization to the market, rather than convincing the market that the organization provides what they want."
The bottom line for the customer is to carefully analyze a company prior to making a purchasing decision. One point that the customer should consider is the stability of the service and product supplier's sales and marketing force when faced with an economic downturn. A company that maintains a strong sales and marketing presence demonstrates a commitment to the customers' needs and shows a strong devotion to maintaining the level of support required. A company that has the foresight to keep the sales and marketing efforts moving forward is a company the customer can rely on to be there for them if they should also face tough times.
Kim Loy is vice president of marketing for InfoGraphic Systems Corp. You can reach her at email@example.com.