Companies that do well in this market economy are selective in their cost cutting. They focus their resources on areas that create maximum value. If your company ran lean during the good times, you are now in position to take advantage of your competition. If the opposite is true, then besides cutting excess costs you may need to reposition your firm to increase revenue.
Many factors can enhance your company's position in the marketplace, whether you offer a product, service, or both. They include your company's:
1. Brand. Conveying who you are, a brand goes beyond a Website, catchy theme, logo, or campaign. It is the vision, principles, mission ,and essence of the company, and if done correctly, it is proudly conveyed by its employees and communicated to the world. Each company has its unique personality that is visually and verbally articulated to differentiate it from its competition. Consider the brands of Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola. They each represent quality products and sound public companies. When each of their products are side by side with an unknown local bottler, which would you choose? That is the advantage of the brand.
Some brands have become so powerful, they have entered the dictionary. We now say "Google it" when searching on the Internet. When copying, we often say "Xerox it."
2. Niche. Consistent with a brand is the development of a niche. An ongoing challenge plaguing most senior managers is how to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. How do you differentiate your company? A niche will do it by:
a. Developing and promoting a unique product, feature, or service.
b. Gaining enough market share to influence buying behavior.
c. Both of the above.
Maintaining a niche is another issue, and a difficult one. Wal-Mart does it with market share, volume, and price; Microsoft with market share and technology for its suite of Windows. A key is to do the research, think long term, and constantly work toward that niche goal, which is a problem for corporate America. It is said we in the U.S. think in terms of a quarter or two ahead, perhaps a year, while the Japanese think in terms of a decade and the Chinese in terms of a century.
3. Profitability and Budget. We all know the golden rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules." The same is true regarding corporate spending and positioning. If you cannot maintain profitability or have never set aside an appropriate budget to market your products or services, what can you do? Here are several cost-conscious ideas:
• Identify and attend free events promoting your products and services.
• Maximize the use of your Website with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and start attracting more visitors.
• Utilize social media to promote the company's products and services.
• Empower and incentivize employees to participate in marketing via social media, conferences and association meetings, networking events, etc.
• Besides well-placed ads, consider articles and speaking engagements.
• Consider joint ventures or partnering with other companies that can share the marketing costs.
• Use better go/no-go decision-making criteria to focus on the best opportunities.
4. Technology. Investing in technology helps strengthen and reposition the company in many ways. It can enhance your product or service, especially if you are in a technologically driven industry, such as IT, robotics, communications, engineering, etc. Forward thinking does not necessarily have to be cutting-edge technology, but it could if the strategy is well-thought-out. You may want to consider enhancing or customizing vs. developing new. A second use of technology involves marketing, and the effective use of Websites. Today, most companies have Websites, but many serve little purpose except "to be with it." Companies should take advantage of their Websites and employ the use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to attract and convert more customers, even if it was developed as a lead generator or public relations vehicle. SEO consultants are out there to assist, and it could pay dividends and maximize your use of technology. Evolving quickly is social media, and while companies are struggling to control these phenomena, its use grows every day. Aren't you Tweeting? It's everywhere, and companies are taking advantage of it to reach more people.
5. Implementation and Follow-Through. A great plan poorly executed is not as good as a poor plan well executed. Therefore, equal thought must be given to the implementation phase of a project. This would include: • A well-thought-out approach to the execution.
• Properly assigned personnel
• Responsibilities and the authority to carry out the mission
• Incentives, if applicable
• Time line
• Performance measurement
An important consideration is the follow-though, and following up on the various executable elements, which may involve senior management or an additional implementation step such as a survey, rating, or a debriefing if the sale is lost.
In an uncertain market, the tendency is to conserve and reduce excess costs. A big mistake companies make is to also reduce sales production. The danger of a reduced revenue stream results in additional unwarranted cuts, thus creating a vicious downward spiral. Hopefully, the above suggestions will provide several cost-effective ways for you to reposition your company to maintain or increase revenue.
Joseph Hoffman is the founder and president of www.jsbarclaymarketing.com. He has more than 30 years of experience in marketing, management, and training, and served as the senior marketing officer for several major NYSE companies. He also served on the Mayor of New York's Procurement Committee, and has a Master's Degree from New York University.