In today's economic climate, industrial manufacturers need to promote more than ever to compensate for the worsening market conditions. Those that expand marketing and sales during these difficult times will emerge with increased market share captured over those that did not. But most companies instead reduce their marketing, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. This reduction leaves their market share wide open to be usurped by their competitors.
Market share is a fluid commodity; it is never static. It is also influenced by the acceptance or confidence that consumers display toward a company or brand, which is modified by a brand's product features, product quality, size of installed base, and name recognition, as well as a company's service capability, experience, and stability. The market share of both the brand and the company are further modified, and quite significantly, by the strength of their market positioning.
Advertising and PR mainly affect the positioning of these factors in the mind of the consumer. They have a major impact on shifting market share, which is far easier to accomplish during economic slowdowns when competitors are reducing their marketing efforts.
It is amazing that industrial and high-tech companies that have fought so hard to build market share in an “up” market will now abandon their efforts based upon a knee-jerk reaction to a slackened economy. The few companies that expand their marketing in hard times will then come in and snatch that market share away. These competitors emerge with sizably more market share after a downturn than before.
Many of these competitors are young, upstart companies nipping at the heels of the market leaders. These leaders often complain of eroding market share in their product sectors due precisely to the chipping away by these much smaller companies. In a slow market, when a larger manufacturer has cut back on its advertising or PR, it presents an ideal opportunity for these smaller companies to accelerate their market share usurpation process.
What a small manufacturer lacks in market share can be remedied with an enhanced positioning capability. This will open the door to more effective advertising and widespread publicity, as well as create enough change in audience viewpoint to convert market share over to its camp.
There is no faster way to shift the attitudes of an industrial market segment than with a strong positioning broadly promoted through trade publications, and particularly with feature stories. Over a period of months, this shift will create significant market share for any company or product, no matter what its size and no matter how sluggish the market.
Jim McMahon is president of Zebra Communications, an industrial and high-tech PR firm.