Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Economy Hinting at Double Dip, But Hiring Strong in Tech, Financial Arena

Big companies more likely than small business to weather latest storm. Also, why great writing still matters for B2B. How this impacts you.

It may be too soon to predict a return to the days of “irrational exuberance,” but you have to scratch your head when social media companies with questionable financials are leading the IPO market back to life and the equity markets end a six-week slide yesterday because retail sales only went down by 0.2 percent.

Most of us are a lot smarter than we were in the late 1990s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be lured into the financial equivalent of Weinerian temptation. We know it’s wrong, but we can’t help ourselves. Or you can put a positive spin on this less-than-rational exuberance. How? Maybe we just want this protracted downturn to end so badly that we’ll do just about anything to jumpstart it. Can you say Obamanomics?

Food and gas prices remain high, unemployment is inching back over 9 percent and Americans’ equity in their homes has shrunk to nearly 38 percent, nearing the lowest percentage since World War II, according to a Federal Reserve report this week. For some perspective, it was about 61 percent in 2001. What’s more, home prices have fallen by a third since their 2006 peak, reaching their lowest level since 2003, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of U.S. home prices through May 31. What’s more, the Federation of Independent Business, a trade group representing small business in America, just released its worse monthly hiring survey in eight months. If you sell to small business, those budgets are likely to remain tighter than a portly New Jersey Governor’s belt buckle for some time to come.

Despite this generally depressing news, hiring in the technology and financial services industries, where many of you are engaged has been robust. The U.S marketing director for a well-known online career site told me last week that both job postings and hiring of seasoned execs in financial services is coming back strong and is “white hot” for those in the technology sector. Also, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed again in April which means that’s now two consecutive months in which American companies sold more goods overseas than were imported. Also, last week’s Business Roundtable CEO survey showed that larger companies are more likely to expand their workforces than shrink them in the next six months. Why? They’re more likely to be sitting on piles of cash, they have better access to credit and more exporting capabilities.

Our Take: If you sell to consumers, then there’s still rough sledding ahead, because lack of job security and inability to use homes as ATM machines will keep your customers tight-gripped on their wallets and purses. But, in the B2B sector, companies are looking at the long-term picture, as evidenced by strong 6-figure hiring in the tech and financial sector and bolstering infrastructure and capital expenditures. For instance, a new Commerce Department report said U.S. companies sold more computers, heavy machinery and telecommunications equipment in April, especially to foreign markets. That pushed exports to a record high for the second straight month and narrowed the trade deficit for the first time since December.

Great writing still matters for business marketers

Today’s Wall Street Journal had a great piece by Droga5 chairman, Davi Droga, about the importance of great copy writing in today’s short-attention span, twitter era. “The truth is that good copywriting paved the way for the tweet long before Twitter was actually invented—but who needs all those characters?” he asks.

Social media impact on business

Researchers are finding that social media is great for generating exposure for your business, increasing traffic to your website and improving your search engine rankings, but not so effective for generating leads, increasing sales or reducing marketing expenses. A new study of 3,342 marketers conducted by Social Media Examiner found that while 88 percent of respondents said social media generated exposure for their business, 72 percent said it increased traffic and 62 percent agreed it helped their search engine rankings. On the flip side, only 43 percent of marketers said social media increased their sales, just 49 percent said it cut marketing costs and 51 percent said it generated quality leads.

Why clarity is the new cool

Finally, we recommend this pithy new post by Forbes Chief Product Officer, Lewis D’Vorkin about the importance of clarity in this hyper-cluttered information age.

“Start with clarity, then come up with cool, he says. “If you don’t, you end up with new but incoherent.” We couldn’t agree more.

As regular readers of this blog know, throughout this economic downturn we haven’t wavered from our position: Be smart, stay the course, keep your marketing and product pipeline full at all times, and you’ll always be ready to pounce on new opportunities. That’s a lot more fun (and financially rewarding) than being a hot idea- or hot IPO) chaser.


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