Straw, Sticks, and Bricks: How To Beat The Big Bad Recession


(By Rick Fink) As recession fears grow, the article you are about to read is what we wrote for last week’s SoundADvice. It goes out to over 12,000 business owners and managers each week, on behalf of their media reps. We wrote:

The idea for this column came when I was watching the classic cartoon “The Three Little Pigs” with my 3-year-old granddaughter. Forgive the simplicity of the story, but we felt it was a good analogy and one that provided a strong and positive lesson for business owners and managers faced with the ever-challenging recession-time question, “Should I or shouldn’t I advertise?”

Once upon a time, there was a town filled with people, homes, schools, churches, and many businesses. Among all those businesses, there were three that offered the same products and services.

The first business was built of straw and did very little to no advertising. This business owner felt that if he simply opened a business, people would automatically come. He never foresaw the day that he would need to ask people to visit his business. And, he never took into consideration that a “Big Bad Wolf”, or downturn in the economy, could one day visit their little city.

The second business was built with sticks, and this business owner said, “I am going to build my business and only advertise when needed. I’ll advertise during the holiday season, around our anniversary, and maybe if business gets slow, I will advertise some blowout specials to move inventory”. This business, like the first, never took the idea of a recession seriously.

The third business was built with bricks and mortar, and this business owner said, “I’m going to advertise and market my business as consistently as possible. I want to build a strong business so that when a new competitor comes to town or a downturn in the economy hits us, my business will be strong and will be able to withstand the tough times.”

So, as the story goes, the three businesses were up and running. Everything seemed to be going quite well. Certainly, the two businesses that marketed and advertised their businesses were doing better than the first business, but he too was doing okay and was comfortable for the time being surviving in a business made of straw. Then it happened… the economy started to turn. The once good times, when business was easy and you simply needed to unlock your doors in the morning to thrive, were no longer there. The “Big Bad Wolf” (Recession) was at their front door.

When the recession came to this town, the first place it attacked was the business that was built of straw that chose not to advertise. The recession hit, and this business noticed the downturn rather quickly, for no longer did people come through the doors, and soon the business was forced to close. The “Going Out of Business” sale was the first and last time this business advertised. The sale was a success, but with little effort, when the recession huffed and puffed, it blew this business down!

Next, the Big Bad Recession started visiting the second little business made of sticks that only advertised its special events. This business owner didn’t see the recession as a “special event” and decided the only thing to do was hunker down and try to ride out the storm. But the Big Bad Recession had other plans, it huffed, and it puffed, and blew their customers away as well. Soon the second business was closing. Of course, “Going Out of Business” is a special event, so the second business then advertised, and it too was a successful promotion, one of the store’s biggest, second only to the Grand-Opening sales event.

The third business, built of bricks and mortar, and one that marketed and advertised its business consistently, certainly felt the recession but continued to see their regular customers. In addition, they gained new customers who once shopped in store #1 (built of straw and no advertising) and store #2 (built of sticks and sporadic advertising). Business #3 stood strong and as much as the big bad recession huffed and puffed, it could not blow this business apart and it survived!

The moral of the story… A business that builds strong name recognition, or Top of Mind Awareness, is much better built to withstand a recession when it arrives.

Study after study of recessions dating back to the early 1900s proves that businesses with the best name recognition and that continue to promote, market, and advertise their business during the recession, not only survive but actually thrive and outperform their competitors during and after the recession.

One specific study conducted by McGraw-Hill studied 600 businesses during the early 1980s recession and found that those who continued to advertise during the recession were 256% ahead of their competition who didn’t advertise.

We’ve compiled a list of 15 tips to help small businesses be better prepared to survive a recession. The #1 Tip is “Have a Plan”. It may seem obvious, but the companies that have an advanced plan far outperform those that wait and go into survival mode once it hits. Tip #2 is “Create a Cash Flow Plan”. Running out of cash is always a concern for business owners, even more so during a recession. Get a handle now on your current cash balances and monthly sources of cash. Create a cash flow chart for the next three to six months to help guide you and that will help alert you to any variances.

While researching this topic, we read and analyzed over twenty different articles and looked at a multitude of research to create the 15 tips to help you. Another tip (#8) that nearly every expert mentioned was “Don’t Stop Marketing/Advertising”.

Click here to see the 15 Tips for Surviving a Recession, and, if you would like to visit about your marketing and advertising to find out how you can not only survive but thrive should a recession hit, give your media rep a call. They are prepared and willing to help!

In addition to sending this article to our station members’ clients, we also provide a radio script that the GM, SM, or media reps record and then air on their radio stations. If you would like to see a copy of the radio script that accompanies this article, click here and we will send it to you. We will offer it to any station to use at no charge. (SoundADvice is Market-Exclusive, so if you are in a market where we currently have a client, we cannot offer it.)

This will be a great promo to run on any station now that “recession” is back in the news.

NEVER Stop Learning – Get Better Every Day!

Rick Fink from ENS Media can be reached at 605-310-2062 or at [email protected]. Read Rick’s Radio Ink archives here.


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