I said it on our agency blog and I’ll say it again this morning. We are not participating in this recession. Some industries have no choice. Real estate, banking, mortgage companies and perhaps contractors (I’m sure there are others) are all feeling the effects. Kinda hard to feel really sorry for them though since they rode a big fat over-inflated money wave for years and, like all big waves, gravity eventually pulled them down. But that’s not what I’m here to say today. Today, I want to talk about how this cycle is different from the one in 2000.

Last time, the first thing that got cut was marketing. You could see the pillage in San Diego as some of our best and largest agencies fell — Stoorza and Gable being two of the most well known. That “let’s cut marketing first” strategy didn’t work very well. Savvy companies have realized that they have to stay in front of their audience. Omnicom, one of the world’s largest publicly-traded public relations conglomerates, announced last Tuesday that revenue was up despite the economy. We see this trend everywhere. I am asked weekly how the agency is doing. I can tell that the person asking expects to hear a negative reply. Hey, we’re busy. And so is every other smart marketing agency.

Here are some of the trends we are seeing in marketing:

1. There are conversations going on about your business on Chowhound, Yelp and every other online community; get in on it. Listen first. Then participate. Social media has given the public an outlet to express their opinions and they are doing so with increasing frequency. If you don’t jump in, the online community will define your brand for you. Ouch. The departures of movie critic David Elliott and restaurant critic Maria Hunt from the San Diego Union-Tribune are telling signs not only of a struggling newspaper industry but the public’s declining interest in one person’s point of view. One caveat — you must participate with transparency and veracity. Otherwise you will be marginalized forever. And the Internet has a very long memory.

2.  Your website is not the center of your marketing program. Google is. If you haven’t started looking at how searchable you are online, now is the time to do so. Where do you go first to find something? Probably Google. Maybe Yahoo. So does your potential customer.

3. Internet advertising is appealing during tight economic times because it’s measurable, cost-effective, targeted and quick. Dollars are shifting to online advertising rapidly. A survey released earlier this month by market research firm Advertising Perceptions stated that of 1,811 media buyers surveyed, 72 percent expect their Internet advertising spend will increase in the latter part of 2008. Online advertising can be as simple as using Pay-Per-Click or as complicated as developing a Rich Media campaign.

4. Public relations are a critical part of any real marketing program. You can’t influence perceptions or reputation without it. And more and more people seem to be realizing this. It’s particularly important in the social media world where constant attention, transparency and relationship cultivation are key. That’s what PR is (or should be) all about.

5. Blogs are where the action is. Our client Vet-Stem had more online action and active inquiries from one post on a popular dog blog than from an article in Time. And if you really want to get with it n start Twittering. It’s micro-blogging n 140 words or less each post.

Next post, I’ll dig into measurement a bit. It’s changing and worth discussing. What trends are you seeing? What’s working for you?

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