This is a riff on a question that opened an article a client of mine, VIP Wealth Management in Palm Desert, CA, gave me as background to revising his website content. “What do you do when the rules don’t work anymore?” As a marketing consultant I simply put it in a marketing context.

Any time you start feeling sorry for yourself think about what the last year has been like for financial advisors.  Their rules?  In shambles: U.S. stocks down 43%, global stocks down 42%, commodities down 37% and hedge funds down 19%.  

Think about if all the rules of your business suddenly didn’t work.  Or maybe they already have?

Are your current customers buying like they used to?  Are the same marketing methods working they way they used to?  Is the same marketing message working the way it used to?  What about your pricing?  What about your products or services, do they need changing?

So what do you do to improve your marketing when the rules don’t work anymore?  Three things: ask your customers; test, innovative, poke around; and get started now. 

Ask your customers

If you’ve read me at all you know “ask your customers” comes up about once every five minutes.  Mainly because it is so important.  You can’t really know what to do or how to change until you ask your customers.  Ask them what’s going on in their world right now, what they worry about, are they growing or contracting, what problems they have, what’s important to them and why they buy from companies like yours.  At best, they will tell you what you need to do.  At the least, they will give you clues.  This simple strategy has helped me create new directions for clients in practically every industry imaginable.  It could be the most important (and perhaps the simplest) thing I’ve learned in my marketing career.

 Innovate

Tough times foster creativity and innovation.  It’s unfortunate to think we have to stare disaster in the face before we get creative and change. . .but isn’t that the way it happens?!  I see it all the time.  What’s happens is things have to get bad enough for people to finally let go of the-way-we’ve-always-done-it and start experimenting with something new.

My advice: innovate early.  The longer you wait the harder it will be.  Imagine you’re just entering your business, so you have nothing invested in doing things a certain way.  How would you market to customers?  What would your message be?  Where are the opportunities in terms of market niches?  How would you compete against everybody, including your current self?  The answers might surprise you.

Do it now

What you can’t afford to do: nothing. The longer you wait the fewer dollars you’ll have to invest.  The longer you wait the more stress you’ll be under.  If you’re going to error, error on the side of over-reacting not under-reacting (procrastinating).  A very wise man once told me if it makes sense to do something “down the road” it makes more sense to do it now.  Amen.