Businesses used to be able to plan their marketing campaigns based on a fairly consistent economy and consumers' willingness to spend. For decades, companies could conduct initial marketing planning and research, followed by money, time, and resources, and good results were often predictable.

No more.

The latest recession has profoundly altered consumer behavior. As home values plummet, stock portfolios shrink, and company profits erode, prospects are less likely to make purchases, and thrift is back in vogue. Some suggest the recession endured so long and spread the pain so broadly that it has seeped into the culture, downgrading expectations and eroding the impulse to buy, reads a New York Times article Reluctance to Spend May Be Legacy of Recession."

"The Great Depression imbued American life with an enduring spirit of thrift. The current recession has perhaps proven wrenching enough to alter consumer tastes, putting value in vogue," the article posits.

Before the downturn, many businesses and consumers had come to assume that "affluence" was the norm and so they spent freely. As consumers and businesses fear for the future, they are hardwired to say no. This new consumer psychology is driving prospects to impulsively slash spending and be more skeptical of your marketing claims.

Focus on making a difference, not getting a sale

Thriving in these uncertain times requires a new mindset. Your prospects still have the same challenges, and your company can still deliver value. But the recent shift in consumer psychology requires new approaches for generating awareness and building a case for your products and services.

The Beryl Companies, a provider of outsourced customer service to the healthcare industry, implements a strategy based on educational marketing rather than self-promotion.

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Steven Van Yoder ( is the author of Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort and specializes in helping mission-driven companies become recognized leaders in their industries. Steven founded Global Initiative to Advance Entrepreneurship (GIVE), an organization focusing on social entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation. Reach him via or 415-294-4133.