Local Media Survival Skills in a Down Economy

S&MM online columnist Robert Grede shared some interesting insights in a recent article on how local advertisers can survive in a down economy and what local media sales reps should be communicating to their advertisers and prospects. While many of these items are not surprising, it is surprising how local media reps can get so focused on the troubling aspects of a down economy rather than being truly consultative salespeople who can maximize the opportunity for local small and medium-sized businesses and provide real guidance. Some of the key points Grede shared include: 

You need to keep your customers and prospects informed of changes in your business. The business environment changes quickly, and advertising, besides its power of persuasion, is your information tool. It provides information about those products and services to customers and potential customers. There’s an old adage that says, “Without advertising, you wouldn’t know.” If given the right information, your customers will become more likely to buy—even in a poor economy.

Your competitors are probably trimming their budgets, so you will stand out and gain market share at their expense. If your competition suddenly becomes invisible, whom do you think the marketplace will turn to when it needs to buy? That’s right, the one they keep hearing about. By advertising in a slow economy, you may minimize your decline in sales—or even increase sales—as you pick up your competitors’ customers.

Conversely, if your competitors don’t trim their advertising budget, you could lose market share to them. Makes sense. You trim your ad budget, and you suddenly become invisible in the marketplace. Meanwhile, your competitor has maintained his promotion and advertising spending. Your customers learn more about your competitors’ products. They decide now might be a good time to try them.

Your customers and prospects will remember you when the economy picks up again. You know the economy will rebound. It always does. You need to be positioned as a survivor. If you have maintained your promotion spending, your company will have the image of a leader—the one to depend on in your industry—when the rebound comes. 

During the advertising downturn of 2001-2002, sales organizations focused their efforts on communicating the positive aspects of a down economy. The key was promoting the fact that Yellow Pages advertising provides a solid ROI, a consistent base of ready-to-buy prospects and, combined with other media, a means to survive or establish a leadership position in the market place. 

It is a tough marketplace for local media; all the signs point to this fact. What this article suggests is that we should not make it any worse by feeding off the defeatist attitude in the marketplace particularly when it comes to Yellow Pages. The sales role should be the evangelizer, demonstrating the value of the Yellow Pages product and the value of the leads it creates to help local companies survive, maintain or grow.      

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