Commentary

Selling Hope

"These are perilous economic times" is the incessant media mantra. Indeed, as a country, we are experiencing a perfect economic storm; the Wall Street meltdown and subsequent bailout, the $10 billion-a-month Iraq War, the mortgage implosion, budget deficits at every level of government as well as historic levels of layoffs and business closures. Of course all of the above affects our business.

In this very grim environment, a young, first-term, African-American senator from Illinois had the chutzpah to strategically position and conceptually frame his long-shot run to the White House with the audacity of hope. And he won by a landslide -- so maybe there's something to this hope thing. His very big idea has energized a cynical and weary nation with the notion of meaningful change that will enable the rejuvenation of a former undisputed champion, America. Hope is defined by Webster's like this: 1) to desire with expectation of obtainment; 2) to expect with confidence. Get the picture?

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The obvious lesson for marketers and media, along with the folks in the online performance marketing space, is: we are in the hope business.

We enable and even empower our clients with direct access to self-selecting and ready-to-take-action users who are still in the marketplace, who are still consuming (albeit at a lesser rate) while hoping things will bottom out soon, then spike.

Media planners, buyers and online lead generation professionals, like the newly mandated President-elect, have a unique opportunity to innovate and add value in this down market. We can optimize our delivery systems and pricing schedules to incentivize our clients for sticking with us or joining us.

Downturns are always opportunities to look at models, processes and revenue matrices. Maybe there's a new paradigm waiting to be uncovered, that the marketplace will reward.

Just like the new President, we're going to have to show resilience, fortitude and ingenuity to continue to add value to our clients, partners and users. The same way Barack Obama will have to with this 232-year-old American experiment.

Most of us in the performance marketing arena have mastered the arbitrage concept as well as other mission-critical mechanisms that drive lift in conversions like search, affiliate, email drops, creative, channel distribution, retargeting, analytics, behavioral targeting, online audience development, list building, online customer acquisition, granular consumer insights, and so on.

The multimillion-dollar question is: Will we be able to "sell" hope as well as the aforementioned tactics to our market constituency in a similarly effective manner as the President-elect? Will we be able to inspire our clients to think about winning while acknowledging, and responding to, a very grim reality?

Keep hope alive...

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