Defying The Economic Verdict

How to gain sales & market share in a down economy

In his book “Anatomy of an Illness”, Norman Cousins wrote about his early age diagnosis of a terminal condition (he was 11).

One of the greatest lines reads “accept the diagnosis but defy the verdict.”   Despite his diagnosis, Norman lived to the age of 75.

Right now, Washington, social media pundits and every TV news anchor is weighing in on the economy due to the Covid-19 shutdowns.  No one will argue that the current condition is poor.  But since history always repeats itself, know that there will be companies who come out thriving.

The best thing you can do is what Norman did…accept the diagnosis but defy the verdict.

A look back at other challenging times shows it is possible to grow your business during economic turmoil.  In a down economy, businesses fall into one of two groups:

Group #1 is made up by those who will reduce or eliminate their marketing budget and wait for better days.  This is where most advertisers reside.  They believe this is a prudent move. A soft market means lower sales and lower net income. Cutbacks in discretionary expenses such as advertising can be easily made without having any impact.

Group #2 is made up by those businesses that will do whatever it takes to keep their budgets intact.

History always repeats itself.  Those who make up Group #2 always come out on top once things turn around.   And despite what all the experts say, things ALWAYS turn around.

Countless studies have been conducted measuring sales volume of companies during a recession.  The result is always the same:  Those who maintain their advertising continue to grow during the downturn.  Once things improve, these companies also grew at a faster rate when compared to those who stopped advertising.

Ad and marketing professionals have always told advertisers that a soft market provides a unique window of opportunity to gain market share and leap-frog their competition.

Consider the Hot-Air Balloon analogy:  Consumers view you and your competition as a forest.  Your ad campaign is the balloon.  It takes tremendous energy to fill the balloon and rise high above the trees (your competitors). Once you rise above the trees, consumers get to see you, hear you and know what you have to offer.  Shut off the flame that feeds the balloon (your ad budget), and quickly fall back to the ground.

In good times, consumers will see many balloons.  In a soft market, you might be the only one.

Because of decreased spending in the marketplace, now is the time when your marketing pistol can sound like a cannon.  Your dollars will go a lot further giving you an even greater advantage over those who cut their budget.

This brings us to how and where to spend those dollars.  To defy the verdict and generate more selling opportunities, you’ll need to do several things with your campaign:

#1) Create Ads That Persuade & Motivate.  Your ads need to reach deep into the emotional chasm of consumers.  Customers are people.  They are living, relational beings with needs and desires.   Your ads need to speak to the customer and communicate what they care about.

#2) Keep Your Ads Positive.  Why waste time bashing the other guy when you could be convincing potential customers that you are the better choice?  Ads that focus on the negative traits of competitors rarely generate the desired response.

#3) Focus your ad budget.  This is perhaps the most important thing you can do today.

Most advertisers follow the spray & pray guide to buying media.  Spray a few ads here and a few over there and pray people respond.  This strategy makes sense as in theory, no one gets left out.  The result?  You reach too many people with little to no repetition.

By spending your dollars in fewer places, you’ll reach people with a higher level of frequency.  This strategy will make yours the name that comes to mind when they need what you sell.

By focusing your budget with positive and motivating ads, you can “defy the current economic verdict” and come out on top.

Ronald A. Heider is the President and owner of HMA – Heider Marketing & Advertising based in Virginia Beach, VA.  He can be reached at