The lady who sat in front of me at the New Marketing Summit today opened up Day 2 with the question,

What opportunities are there in the recession?

I’m not sure she ever got an answer, at least a direct one. Here’s my thoughts about things you can do in a recession.

First, marketing of any product or service which helps consumers save money, reduce expenses, or stretch dollars is a big opportunity. Take a look at companies like Walmart, Dollar Store, Family Dollar, fast food like McDonald’s, etc. – these are all poised to become higher growth areas because consumers simply aren’t willing to spend like they used to. Look for ways you can help your customers save money, and you’ll be at the top of their list and mind.

Second, recognize that some things are inevitable in any economic downturn. Domestic violence, violent crime, theft, and other crimes from desperation always go up. Prepare appropriately, and keep an eye on coworkers and friends. This is a great time to build your personal network, to expand who you know and who knows you. Keep an eye on friends new and old for signs that the economy is fraying their nerves and spirits, from depression to victims of violence, and make sure they know you’ve got an open ear and a friendly shoulder.

Third, encourage your employees, coworkers, and colleagues to grow even more human in their roles as communicators to your audiences. Maybe you make Enterprise PR Software or underwrite private student loans, but that shouldn’t stop you at all from offering a money-saving recipe that your grandmother taught you. Even on corporate media outlets, it’s okay to be human, and when you encourage your team to be human and occasionally go off-topic, you reinforce the humanity of your company AND provide additional value to your customers.

At the New Marketing Summit, the theme of my presentation was study something old to learn something new, on ko chi shin in Japanese. This also means talking to your seniors who made it through the Great Depression and asking them what things they remember, what tricks and secrets they came up with, to help them get by and thrive. Everything from recipes to canning and preserving food to getting creative – these folks have seen it all before and then some, and have the knowledge you need and you can share.

Fourth, once lending and capital markets gain some normalcy, expect a spike in lending and loan products. Financial services is a pretty intense industry to work in right now, but once capital markets normalize and credit becomes available again, expect to see a sharp spike in growth from the currently constrained levels. If you work in financial services right now, stay put if you can.

Fifth, share your knowledge freely about anything and everything you’re doing to weather the recession. Share with friends, family, coworkers, and your respective audiences. Find a great free park or activity locally? Share it with the office. Find a neat lifehack that saves you some money? Share it as far as you can. You may end up with something that goes viral, but even if it doesn’t, your audience will appreciate it. Share what you know, tips and tricks, with your audience, with your community, and encourage them to share as well. We are each strong, but stronger together, smarter together.

Finally, there has never been a better time to dip your toes into new media and the tools available. Virtually all, such as Twitter, Flickr, blogging, podcasting, wikis, private label social networks, MySpace, Facebook, and more are free or extremely low cost. If you’re a marketer, try out the tools and see what they can do for you, not only for reaching greater audiences, but for reducing costs as well.

We have a rough road ahead of us. No one grounded in reality contests that. However rough the road is, no one says you have to walk it alone.

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