The economy is sour, consumers aren't buying, and the competitive landscape is mutating. From marketers everywhere we hear a collective "where to even begin?"

"Start with a company-wide deep breath, since it's so hard to panic during a deep breath, and it's conducive to thinking and creativity, too," suggests Tim Berry, president of Eugene, OR-based Palo Alto Software.

He and a few other industry pundits—including Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, Bryan Eisenberg, and Jonathan Salem Baskin—recently lent their advice for marketing smarter, and for less, in the down economy.

You'll find their comments and more here in our quick list of the steps that marketers can immediately start taking to hone their programs and cut back on expenses.

Step 1: Get back to basics

When the going gets tough, the tough get down to business and figure out exactly where they are, how they got there, what it was that originally led them to their heyday, and how they might evolve those strategies to function through the current economy.

"These downturns are good for spurring us to step back away from the business and take that fresh look; it's like an artist squinting to see the landscape differently," said Berry.

His recommendations include setting aside time to do a thorough SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and answering vital questions, such as these:

  • What makes your company unique? What advantages do you have to leverage? Which challenges can be transitioned into opportunities? And is the company prepared to take on those challenges?
  • Where do you make the most profit? And where are your resources being spent? To what extent do those connect?
  • Are your products and promotions aligned with current market needs and expectations? What is the overall perception of your company and product in the marketplace? What are your customers saying?
  • What are your competitors' strengths and weaknesses? How do competitor products and promotions compare with—and impact—your products and promotions?
  • Which is your most profitable customer segment? And which customers are you most likely to retain if the economy worsens? Are there alternate market segments that might now be better positioned for your products and services?
  • What are the current and foreseeable trends in your industry? Are there any emerging trends on which you may be able to capitalize? How might your value proposition be altered to reflect new trends and new consumer expectations?
  • How up-to-date is your marketing plan? How valid is the rationale behind your current marketing programs and promotions? Is your marketing accountable for results?

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via