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If the following words don't hit home, then this article isn't for you:

“We've never seen a tougher business climate than what we're up against now. Never. I keep thinking that I see a little flicker of light in the darkness. Then, it's almost like, in just my rushing toward it, I stir up the air and snuff it out. But, we're going to get through this.”

The person who told me this is a friend and former client. He's a stalwart marketer and one sharp guy. And he is not the type to use a bad economy as an excuse. He gets up and works hard every day.

Despite his successful, quantifiable efforts, though, his executive team still thinks of marketing as a cost rather than an investment with compelling returns. So, the executives are addressing the cost of marketing in the predictable, knee-jerk ways.

(Even things as relatively inexpensive as investing in the most sophisticated campaign metrics and ensuring that the company's marketing database, i.e., the very foundation for its success—currently in limbo because of a mired CRM roll-out—is updated and maintained, are getting hacked at. That's the way it works. Senior executives hack at what they don't understand.)

Sound familiar? For many, these are stark days.

So I'm tempted to pen a “back-to-basics,” Gospel-quoting, demon-exorcising, old-fashioned, tent revival meeting-style article. But, I think that's been written only about a hundred times over the past year.

At the Heart of the Matter

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Chris Maher is president of Fosforus, an Austin-based, business-to-business marketing, media, and interactive design firm. Reach him at CMaher1997@aol.com