Innovate your way through the Recession

July 6, 2009 by Andrew Deal - Editor Leave a reply »

We are going to see this recession drag on. Now that you have made
your initial adjustments to it, it is time to prepare for phase II.
The stimulus has fallen flat and it will be the local economies that
carry the burden to slowly build us back to economic health. For local
businesses, it is coming down to a simple choice: Innovate or Die. It
is not enough to just engage in a few initiatives that repackage your
same product. The gauntlet to innovate WELL lies before you, and there
is no excuse for having delegated or dismissed the burden.

The good news is that the recession and even a good portion of the
supplemental uncertainty that accompanies President Obama’s
redefinition of the economy opens the door for innovation that didn’t
even make sense a year ago. I wouldn’t say this if there was no
historical precedent. When we look back at the great depression, we
find that a host of enduring innovations emerged. Of course many also
failed. What I want to do in this article is point out a few
characteristics where we see a sweet intersection of opportunity
between the recession and new trends in direct marketing that
leverages the internet. Draw your own conclusions, and reach out to
those that can help you adopt recession friendly innovations.

First of all, during a recession, you have to position yourself as the
‘value leader’. We see many companies already doing this. A recent
frozen pizza commercial compares their product to delivered pizza as
equivalent in quality for a fraction of the cost. It is not just a
pricing war tactic, it is an appeal to the consumer to rethink the
value equation in their pizza habits in a world where everyone is
re-examining their overall buying habits. Companies that succeed
during this time have to become part of this re-evaluation process
today’s consumer is undertaking.

Secondly, you have to stand out as a relevant voice who understands
current trends, how to ride trends as a champion for your customers,
and how the recession is forcing people to re-evaluate their adoption
of new trends. This recession in particular intersects a new and
emerging media trend that I predicted back in 1997 — namely, the
localization of the use of the web. I believe the recession is already
starting to affect the trend equation here in two key ways:

1. The highly leveraged worldwide virtual internet-driven network
is giving way to people wanting to do business with neighbors, friends
in need of work, and local businesses who can demonstrate clear
expertise on a personal level with their customers. In short our
economies are getting local again, and the same web that dispersed our
business interests anywhere for the last 15 years will be called up to
help us rediscover our physical communities.
2. Commonality of Access. Recessions, as evidenced by the reports
in online relationship sites registration spikes, have an effect on
our value of connectedness. Families generally pull together, and
social circles of higher trust are the ones we shift back into. I
believe this will cause people who can’t convince their high trust
friends and family to get on Facebook to connect in new ways that are
more accessible. Like Googling for “Vancouver Wa remodeling expert”
and “Portland Oregon accounting”.

Thridly, you have to be agile. Even on a company cultural level,
statements like, “We’ll take that under advisement in our next
meeting”, and then not getting back to the person will become less of
a forgivable act. Or saying, “I am about 150 emails behind right now”,
is not an option. The opportunities in innovation are indeed going to
be exploited with or without your participation and investment. New
entrepreneurs ready to meet the needs of the public can go directly to
them quicker than ever before, which was already true 5 years ago, but
is now accelerated even further due by urgent necessity.

Now doing these things is not exclusive to the need to also stick with
your strengths, simplify your operation, cut expenses, etc. It is
instead about ways to maximize your marketing resources to reach
people who are searching locally for the best overall value. Websites
are cheaper than ever, but being found as a truly valuable resource
online is a priceless asset in today’s economy.


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