Had a very enjoyable time yesterday giving a “How To Advertise In a Recession” seminar at the Bozeman Library. I suppose to some readers the title of this article might seem rhetorical. You are probably thinking, “Do I have a choice?” The short answer to that question, in my opinion is, “Yes… you do have a choice.”

Over the past 60 years there have been nine recessions. The business community, for some unknown reason, has participated in nearly all of them. Their customers, on the other hand, have chosen to participate in only two.

In other words while business owners are pulling back and wringing their hands in economic fear, the purchasing public goes right on buying despite the gloom and doom message. Let’s explore why they do that.

For The Good of The Country

I remember President Jimmy Carter going on TV and telling me to turn my thermostat down to 68 degrees and to drive 55 miles per hour. He said it was for the good of the country; that we had to make sacrifices and conserve energy. So we did as he asked… for about a week. A very strange thing happened… we got cold.

We didn’t like putting on layers of clothing and being cold in our own homes. It seemed somehow un-American for outside influences to dictate our behavior. Driving 55 meant taking forever to get somewhere; especially in Montana so for the most part we drove 75 not 55.

How bad would the economy have to be for hunters to stop hunting in Montana? For fisherman to stop fishing? In the United States of America, our checkbook balance does not necessarily limit our lives. We live in the best house we can afford or in some cases can’t afford.

A recession might limit the amount of steak dinners we enjoy but it will never totally eliminate those dinners. And that is the small sliver of daylight that separates the losers from the economic winners during tough times.

There are still going to be customers even in the worst of times. The entrepreneur that gets them will prosper not only in the bad times but the good times as well.

Customers will always be customers.

“McGraw-Hill Research analyzed 600 companies covering 16 different industries from 1980 through 1985. The results showed that business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during the 1981-1982 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth, both during the recession and for the following three years, than those that eliminated or decreased advertising. By 1985, sales of companies that were aggressive recession advertisers had risen 256% over those that didn't keep up their advertising.” (http://www.mactech.com/advertising/recession_marketing/index.html)

Why Customers Buy

The point of this study is simply that customers are going to buy as needed. Sometimes it’s a logical necessity like new tires. It’s pretty hard, not to mention unsafe, to drive on bald tires. For the safety of my family I am going to find a way to purchase new tires.

Other times it might be a strictly emotional purchase like giving the wife a break from the stove and kids for a nice relaxing evening out. However the only way either of these purchases takes place will be the result of advertising. Is there money saving tire special out there someplace or a two-for-one dinner special? Only if I can find it somewhere — usually through an ad. And if I’m happy with that tire company I will probably go back there good times or bad. When times are tight am I likely to spend my hard earned money on a company I’m not familiar with? Probably not.

Some Final Thoughts

We’ve all heard the expression, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Well, the loudest advertiser gets the customers. Think about all the purchases you’ve made over the last three months. Will you continue making most of those types of purchases? Is there anything you really enjoy doing that you plan to totally eliminate?

Every minute of every day someone needs your products or services. Make it easy for them to find you in good times and in bad.

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