Guest Post

Finding the Nerve to Walk the Walk

by Susan Saurage

This past year, the frisson of entrepreneurial terror has chilled us on a daily basis, driven by pessimistic news reports, reduced budgets, imploding marketing departments, disappearing client CMOs, evaporating opportunities and more. The talking heads entreat us to save our nickels, cut every corner and hunker down until the deep freeze is past and the economy thaws. But what to do in the two-year interim?

Here's a thought to marketing professionals: have the nerve to take your own medicine. Don't we implore our clients to spend more when the economy is down because budget dollars stretch further in an environment where there are fewer competing messages? Absolutely! Perhaps it's time for advertising and marketing talent to walk the walk and spend marketing dollars on self-promotion. At Saurage Research, as we stand in our clients' shoes of experience, we realize it is an incredibly difficult decision to wrangle more bang from the buck by investing heavily when others are holding back on their ad spends. The best how-to-do-it suggestion I can offer is Texas-style: You just have to eyeball the lay of the land (plan wisely and carefully), lower your horns (focus activities and budget tightly on the objective), and, well, charge (execute the plan)!

Our firm made a significant commitment 11 months ago to sharpen its brand profile in select markets. To that end, we have concepted and produced all-new corporate collateral, refocused on specific sub-brands, and invested in relevant event sponsorships, trade shows, and speaking engagements. We began a significant (and large) direct mail campaign only two weeks ago and are currently going through an extensive web presence upgrade. Ouch.

Is it painful? Yeah, it really is. Is it paying off in an increase in client traffic, newly-opened doors, and signed contracts? You betcha. C'mon, did it really take all that much nerve? Omigod, yes, it was gut-wrenching at times. But I'll be darned if someone else's sloppy management of the economy is going to control our organization's success.

In Steve McKee's book, When Growth Stalls: How It Happens, Why You're Stuck & What To Do About It, he cites three markers that identify a company's loss of nerve: fear of risk, resistance to change, and reluctance to invest. Our strategy was to find the nerve to face risk, make changes and invest heavily in our marketing program and CRM. Thanks, Steve, for the incredible vision and advice.

To readers of, consider investing in your future success. That way, we can expect to see you on the other side of the economic slump. Happy trails!

Susan Saurage-Altenloh is president of Saurage Research, Inc. She is known for applying creative hybrid research methodologies that find and deliver the big ideas for clients' strategic planning and brand development purposes.

  1. Thanks for the reminder
    And kick in the pants!
    Make 2010 a great year

    Comment by Tami Weitkunat — 12/29/2009 @ 7:47 PM

  2. Susan: All I can say is WOW…great vision: “I’ll be darned if someone else’s sloppy management of the economy is going to control our organization’s success” priceless! Thanks, I feel that way too… my company is small but mighty! Best to you in 2010!

    Comment by Nancy Pelech — 01/09/2010 @ 8:47 PM

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