Sunday, April 12, 2009

Recession Petering Out? (Part 2)

Readers express cautious optimism laden with caveats.

Last week’s post: “Recession Running Out of Steam?” seemed to hit a nerve with many of you. While no one actually called us crazy, feedback fell generally fell between “not getting worse” and “cautious optimism with lots of caveats.” Mike, who runs a small regional law firm in the Southeast, was pretty representative of our readers:

“Hank, I like your optimism. In certain sectors and regions, the recession/depression will bottom by the end of this year. In others, like credit card debt, commercial real estate and commercial debt and vacation home and high end housing ($500K+) (no realistic financing), I think we are a long way from bottom.

Much depends on how the world reacts to whatever happens with GM, some recovery in international activity (China, Panama Canal, etc.) and some private money coming back into the credit markets. The banks will not get anybody out of this mess and they never have been a part of any solution.”

Whether or not you really do feel more optimistic right now, it’s important continue projecting an upbeat attitude within your organization and when dealing with clients, customers and investors. Here’s why. Winners like to associate with winners. People naturally gravitate to companies and leaders who seem to have things going in the right direction and they’re more likely to stay in contact with you and make referrals if they think there’s going to be a positive “rub off” effect by associating with you.

Here’s are some more upbeat factoids you can use in your sales scripts and Powerpoint presentations:
• The percentage of Americans who think this country is headed in the right direction just hit 39% up from 15% when Obama took office (Source: NYT/CBS News poll).

• 20% of Americans now think the economy is getting better -- up from 7% who thought so in mid January (Source: NYT/CBS News poll).

• The equity markets finished five consecutive weeks of gains. The 25% surge in the S&P 500, for instance, was its best performance over that span since 1938.

• The Index of Volatility (VIX) on the Chicago Options Exchange reached to its lowest close since late September, just ahead of Wall Street's meltdown. That means financial markets are stabilizing and hopefully moving back to fundamentals over fear.

• We’re starting to see signs of life in the credit markets: The 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.61% -- believed to be the lowest level on record.

• Thomson Reuters said businesses with better credit ratings issued $200 billion of debt in the first quarter of 2009, up from $188 last year.

• The London Interbank Offer Rate (LIBOR), which tracks short-term/overnight borrowing costs between banks, fell to 1.16%, down from 1.27% last month and from 4.8% a year ago. The next to nothing rates banks are charging are among the lowest levels ever recorded.

• The U.S. Federal Reserve said consumer borrowing on credit cards dropped last month at an annualized rate of $7.8 billion (9.7%), the sharpest drop since the Fed began keeping records in 1968.

How does this help me?

On one hand, high levels of consumer saving, means folks are still pretty fiscally constipated. They're reluctant to open their wallets to increase spending as employers cut millions of jobs and and reduce pay and benefits for those still hanging on to their jobs. But this reluctance to spend also means consumers are saving more than they have in decades. That’s not great if you’re in retail and consumer staples, but it’s actually a good sign if you market financial services, electronics, autos, high-end appliances, professional services and other goods and services with a long term sales cycle or purchase consideration phase. In other words, advertising’s going to matter more than it has in a long time as both an awareness builder and decision influencer.

Both consumers and businesses are doing more homework than ever before they commit to a purchase decision. You better be out there – and you better be out there with a compelling story to tell.

How top agencies are helping clients tell stories

“We live in a time of extraordinary change—change that will be amplified and accelerated by the recession, ushering in perhaps a new age of business transformation,” said John Favalo, managing partner-group B2B at Eric Mower & Associates, the #2 midsize agency in 2008 according to BtoB magazine’s Top Agency rankings

“Business models, marketing and communications will transform, and successful agencies will be instrumental in helping clients through the dramatic changes.” Eric Mower also had its best year on record last year, increasing its total agency revenue by 30% and winning major new clients such as GE Energy.

Favalo said one of the most important things an agency can do to succeed during these challenging times is deliver relevant, personal solutions to clients, based on their unique needs. “We make business-to-business person-to-person,” he said. For example, the agency developed an online application called “Solutions Advisor” for Motorola's Enterprise Mobility unit. The tool serves up custom solutions for clients and prospects based on their information needs.

Agencies of all sizes say they are expanding their social media and video practices to keep up with client demand.

“Our work in social media is increasingly essential to the needs of our clients,” said Tom Stein, president-CEO of Stein Rogan+Partners, winner of BoB’s small the small agency category. “We see some very interesting vectors between search marketing, social media and more traditional media such as print, broadcast and online.”

For example, Stein Rogan created a social community of school district administrators for client SchoolWires, a provider of communications technology. Called “Share,” it enables users to share templates, forms, reviews and other user-generated content.

So whether or not you’re convinced the recession has hit bottom, it’s time to start behaving as though the recovery has started. Now is the time to crank up your marketing, R&D and staffing so you’re locked and loaded when two years of pent up spending and decision-making finally lets loose. It’s going to be a time of dramatic change with unprecedented opportunities for those who have been making – not struggling to follow -- the new rules of the marketplace.

No comments: