Recession Marketing

How we respond to a recession dictates our success (or failure) not only during, but more importantly after, the market downturn. Companies that can hold their ground through a downturn often become market leaders afterward.

In hard times businesses often look to eliminate expenses, but what about marketing expenses? If a marketing department is properly functioning there should be a direct correlation between our marketing budget and our accounts receivable. Based on this we would all agree that cutting the marketing budget would be a poor idea in a recession. What recessions often remind us, however, is that the expenses of many marketing departments do not have a direct correlation to our accounts receivable. Often marketing departments focus on producing glossy brochures and professional websites that do not necessarily function to support the bottom line.

Refining and Reshaping Marketing
This said, down turns in the economy are not the time to cut our marketing budgets; rather it is the time to refine and reshape our marketing expenditures to truly focus on bringing work in the door. This refining and reshaping should yield an increase in the return on our marketing investment dollars, increasing the correlation between those expenditures and our accounts receivable.  Here are some common changes that you can evaluate to achieve this goal:

  1. Increase your advertising dollars instead of giving your website a facelift.
  2. Incentivize your sales staff instead of getting more mugs with your logo on them.
  3. Cross-train a key person on your marketing staff to provide business development support instead of redesigning your company logo.
  4. Target some new relationships before RFPs and proposals come out instead of using the shotgun approach to pursue proposals (pursing RFPs and proposals that you have no business pursuing).

The Common Recession Mistake
Some functions/expenses of marketing can, and should, be put aside during a recession so that those funds can be spent on marketing functions that are more effective at bringing work in the door. A common mistake during a market downturn is to eliminate the ‘extra’ marketing expenses, but failing to redirect the money towards marketing that will enable you to compete in the highly competitive recession market.

What to do
A recession is the perfect time to sit down with the head of your marketing department to reshape your marketing approach.  Focusing on the marketing functions and expenses can help support your bottom line.

A Last Note
So, why are firms that market heavily during a recession positioned to succeed post-recession? Because people are our most valuable assets, and providing them a place of security during a recession ensures that your best employees will be around as the market picks up momentum. Also, a recession provides a great opportunity to hire the best and brightest from your competition if you are able to keep your bottom line intact. After the recession you then have a foundation for growth and the ability to become a market leader.

Event Promotion (Increasing Event Attendance)

peoplesilhouetteLindsay Hilton with the SMPS Southeast Louisiana Chapter recently sent me this e-mail about event promotion:

“I am a board member of a small SMPS chapter (Southeast La., established last year) that is struggling to engage members to attend our events… Do you have any advice on how to entice our membership to come out to our events? For example, we try to host bimonthly social mixers at popular locations but the last mixer only turned out about six people. We also hold monthly luncheons with informative guest speakers from all over the country. This month’s guest is Randle Pollack. Even our luncheons produce meager results (about 20 guests attend). Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!”

I can’t say that I am an expert on events, but I shared with Lindsay my experience. I hope that you find it beneficial as well:

Thanks for the e-mail! I have likewise struggled previously to build strong attendance at programs and finally identified a couple of keys that have helped build the SMPS DC chapter lunch programs and the Design and Construction Network. They might not fit what you are doing perfectly, but they should give you some ideas. Here they are:

Provide a massive amount of value

  • Ensure that you have great speakers (I know you are already doing this in that you have Randy Pollock speaking, he is one of the best marketers in the industry).
  • Build programs that provide immediate value. For example, SMPS DC has an annual University program that brings in the Facilities Directors from all the local universities. The moment we invited our clients to speak, the principals from our firms started showing up to meet with the clients. Also, we asked them to talk about what jobs they have lined up this year so that everyone knows what is coming down the pipeline.
  • Make certain that the entire event is designed around great networking. Probably the greatest value that people get from attending programs isn’t the speaker, it is the networking. Thus make certain it is painless to network at your events. Also, consider trying to get people to attend that others would want to network with.

 Leverage WOM and viral marketing

  • Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing has been the single most effective tool for increasing attendance that I have seen. Instead of just sending out blast e-mails about an event (which you should still do) build a group of people that are responsible to invite people during the course of regular conversations. So, if you send an e-mail to a friend that might benefit from attending ask if they are going to be at the program and let them know that you are going to be there.
  • Viral marketing is the art of building hype about an event. Although much more difficult to achieve (I have not yet been able to make it happen for our SMPS lunch programs) it was what made the first Design and Construction Network happy hour a success. Viral marketing excites people and builds a buzz about the event.

I hope that helps! Please note that I am not the expert on this, but it is fun to leverage our marketing backgrounds to solve problems!

Be selfless

elephantsBack in my college days I was living in a small town south of Rochester, NY. Winters in New York have a way of rapidly rusting mufflers, so I found myself dragging a muffler into a repair shop (literally) in the middle of January to get a quote for a new muffler. When the owner learned that I couldn’t truly afford to get the muffler fixed he did the unthinkable: he took out some sheet metal and welded my old muffler back together to get me through the semester. Why? He understood the power of being selfless.

The power in helping

There is an innate power in helping other people just because you want to and not because you want something. John F. Kennedy’s speech that included the words “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” was so powerful because it represented the idea that collectively and individually we are better when our focus is outward rather than inward. 

So What?

We agree, it sounds great, but what do you get out of being selfless? Nothing and Everything. The moment you are selfless you receive nothing but a feeling that makes you remember what it is like to be appreciated (Perhaps that is more than nothing). However, in business when you are regularly selfless you also get everything: a network of clients, friends, and relationships that want to help you and want you to succeed.

Your turn

If you are under the weight of achieving your own success, perhaps it is time that you consider that the easiest way to achieve that success is to be selfless.

The Network goes National

This past week I received multiple calls and e-mails from people across the United States that wanted to take the Washington DC Design and Construction Network concept to their region. Through these conversations it has become clear that the concept is larger than just the Washington DC market, and that it possibly provides the opportunity for a fresh wave of networking in our industry. On the heels of these discussions I am excited to announce that we are changing the Network to enable others in the industry to leverage a nation wide network. As of today the network has a new name; the Design and Construction Network!

The goal in building the network as a national network is to provide others with the opportunity to bridge the gap between online networking and building business. It is our hope that those I have spoken with, as well as others, will leverage the national network to bring people together not just in an online environment, but also at the local level. With that said, here are the three things you need to know about the Design and Construction Network:

  1. Happy Hours for Everyone – The primary purpose of the network is, and always has been, to bridge the gap between online networking and true relationship development. To that end, the goal for the national launch is still to facilitate in-person meetings. To accomplish this, we are looking to team with individuals in local markets that are looking to make in-person networking events a reality. If you are interested in facilitating an event in your neck of the woods, start by joining the network. Then send me a note to let me know of your interest so we can work together to make it happen.
  2. Washington DC -The Washington DC network will remain the flagship of the Network as we work to try new concepts that can be leveraged in other regions as well. The main change will be that the bi-weekly e-mail will be turned into a national newsletter. The Local website will remain at and we will maintain plans to expand it to bolster benefits of being a part of the Network at the local level here in Washington DC.
  3. You – Now it is your turn to be apart of the Network… after reading posts about the Network for weeks it is your turn to jump in! All I ask is that you are serious about building relationships and not just collecting “Links.” If you are in the Design and Construction Industry please click here to become a member. I also want to recognize that over half of Cofebuz’s readers are not in the Design and Construction industry. To that end, I look forward to sharing with you the lessons learned here on Cofebuz in addition to my weekly posts on Marketing and Building Business though Social Networking.

As always, thank you for being apart of Cofebuz!

Tim Klabunde

Taking over with Web 2.0


I am beyond excited that tomorrow we will be announcing the launch of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network website! As many of you know we have been working to bridge the gap between online and in person networking since the establishment of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network in November 2008. The rollout of this website sets the stage for the second step in bridging this gap. Keep reading if you want to find out what makes this website so different and why it is so important to the Network.

Taking Over

Tomorrow I will also be announcing that we have arranged to take over an entire restaurant in Arlington Virginia for our second Happy Hour! That is right; the restaurant will be closed to the general public and open to the members of the Washington DC Design and Construction Network. As you may recall from my post Online Networking meets Real Networking, we beyond exceeded the room capacity for our first Happy Hour. It is great to see how this event has so rapidly grown to the next level, clearly showing the power of combining social (online) networking and in person networking!

The link between a Happy Hour and a website: Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is about creating value and information while web 1.0 was (and is) all about setting up a site that reads like a brochure. What makes the Washington DC Design and Construction Network website so different isn’t the HTML, it is in the information we are providing through the site! Take a look and you will find links to all of the local procurement websites, feeds from the Washington Business Journal updated every 5 minutes, places to network with other members of the group, and an official Network MBE Directory.


To Build Relationships! Success in life comes from relationships, both personally and professionally. As all of you in the Cofebuz network already know, the best way to build relationships by selflessly helping others. So why not expand on this idea? What would happen if each of us didn’t just help a handful of people but instead tried to help thousands?!  Whatever the outcome, it will be a fun case-study. I look forward to sharing the results of our little experiment with you here at Cofebuz!

Business Strategy: New Business Lines

Field_SkyDeveloping and introducing a New Business Line is nothing less than a daunting task. The good news is that many have gone before us, providing us with decades of exhaustive trial and error research that can help to identify successful approaches to establishing new business lines in existing companies.

I have found three common variables associated with business lines that have launched successfully: 

Three keys that lead to success in Developing and Introducing a New Business Line: 

  • The least expensive/most efficient way to bring a new service or product to market is almost always to target your existing clientele.
  • New service offerings that are similar to or an offshoot of your existing services increase their success rate and provide a shorter duration to profitability.
  • The best predictor of success is implementing demand-driven business lines that solve existing problems.

Thank You SMPS Virginia!

smps-virginia-logoIt was truly an honor to present the keynote address at Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Virginia annual conference this year. I was humbled by the response and the great people of the SMPS Virginia Chapter.

Thank you SMPS Virginia!
Tim Klabunde

“The way you presented gave me a whole new slant and also some great ideas to become more effective …  It was invaluable.  … Again, bravo – you got us all thinking!”
Linda Smith
Director of Business Development
LandMark Design Group

“Again, thank you for your excellent presentation at the SMPS Virginia Conference.  I thoroughly enjoyed your discussion, and took away many tips to share with my colleagues.”
Anne Hart
Marketing Manager
Hankins and Anderson

“The seminar was extremely worthwhile for me…  Thanks again for taking the time to speak to us about a topic that is so fundamental in our industry and life in general.”
Kathryn Hudock
Marketing Coordinator
Whitlock Dalrymple Poston & Associates, P.C.

“I just wanted to drop a quick note to thank you for your presentation at the SMPS VA conference.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think the information will come in handy in our firm here in Blacksburg.  You made some very important points and I think that your tips are extremely useful. Thank you again.  I appreciate the tools that you make available to the marketing community.”
Keli Ratcliffe, CPSM
Public Relations Manager
Anderson & Associates, Inc.

Online Networking meets Real Networking

dcdcn-happy-hour-feb-2009-002As you may recall on December 1st 2008 I posted an article about how most people struggle to use Online Networking as an effective tool in the development of their personal networks. You may have also have noticed that many people spend time on LinkedIn just collecting “links” instead of developing relationships. At the time I posted the previous article, I had just established the Washington DC Design and Construction Network on LinkedIn with the goal of bridging online networks and in person relationships. I am excited to announce that the experiment has become a huge success!

An “Online” Happy Hour

On Wednesday last week the Washington DC Design and Construction Network held its first ever Happy Hour exclusively for the members of our LinkedIn group. The results were astounding: In the first 24 hours after announcing the happy hour I received 40+ RSVPs. By last Wednesday we had 130+ people attend the happy hour and many were turned away as our venue could only hold 100 people. As I write this on Sunday afternoon we have over 480 people in the Network.

An idea whose time has come

We all know the power that online networking sites hold, but few have been able to figure out how to harness it as a tool for networking (that is to build mutually beneficial relationships). This week when you are on LinkedIn, or any other of a number of online networking sites, ask yourself if you are just collecting “links,” or if you are doing something to build relationships. If you think you might be collecting links, take the first step to building your network: look at your LinkedIn contacts and help three people just because you can. When you focus on helping others instead of yourself you are focusing on building mutually beneficial relationships.

If you live in the DC area and you are interested in joining the Washington DC Design and Construction Network just follow this link to LinkedIn and click “Join Now.” All we ask is that you are in the Design and Construction industry in Washington DC and that you are serious about doing more than just “linking” to other people.