The Fallacy of Lowering the Bar
In most aspects of life, people conform to a standard pattern vis-à-vis expectations laid out before them. The vast majority of people will meet those expectations (or a little under or over), a smaller percentage will fall short, and another similarly small percentage will exceed them. In the below graph, the section on the right represents the roughly 20% of your employees who regularly exceed expectations and deliver 80% of your results (the Pareto principle).
What many people don't realize, though, is that as those expectations are raised or lowered, the percentages of people meeting, exceeding, and underachieving remain relatively constant. (Your super-achievers will still find a way to exceed expectations.) Of course, there comes a point where expectations are so high that it becomes impossible for people to meet them, and there is a point where expectations are so low that everyone meets them. However, within a reasonable range, people will consistently rise or fall to the occasions as presented to them. Therefore, whether at a societal or business level, in the aggregate overall performance will increase when expectations are maintained at a high level.
So how does this apply to marketing in a slumping economy? Simply put, revisit all of your marketing goals, being very wary about lowering them. Insist that people rise to the occasion to meet the challenges in front of them. Aggressively pursue those sales opportunities that have been sitting unaddressed. Rather than cutting back, increase your advertising effectiveness and public relations impact. Work smarter AND harder.
Domus, Inc., a full-service marketing communications agency in Philadelphia, is doing this both internally and externally. With its clients, Domus is helping them extend their reach with reduced budgets and reluctant markets. Internally, Domus is aggressively pursuing new business, and as a result is right now in the middle of an expansion. This compares to many advertising agencies, who are currently struggling to prove their worth, both because of this recession and because of the overall changing marketing environment. Domus is expanding right now because it is maintaining high expectations for itself and also because it has maintained its promise to its clients that "whatever their expectations, raise them."