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figuring out who should buy your business

ABM: Always Be Marketing

It’d be easy to underestimate Marketing at Low Tide by Allison Tivnon. At 118 pages, it’s quite slim and she makes such liberal use of exclamation points, it might make Elaine Benes blush. But make no mistake: the book has genuine impact for anyone who plays a marketing role in a company, from a new hire fresh off their undergrad, to the department’s veteran managers & directors, to business owners themselves. The author makes the compelling case that marketing personnel should not be considered overhead, rather as key components of a stated strategy to capture and keep market share. “Marketing is, by definition, an investment a firm makes in an effort to bring in new work,” she writes in a refreshingly direct style. Tivnon extracts lessons from the Great Recession with an eye toward the next one, driving home the point that only the shortsighted among us would view business-development staff as if they’re some nuisance below-the-line expense like dues & subscriptions, rubbish removal, or utilities.

The book is broken into four sections – probing the impact of a recession; appropriate ways to react to one; ten marketing tasks to tackle annually; and even handling an unceremonious shit-canning – and the advice throughout is practical. Employing a plumbing metaphor, Tivnon likens minimizing troubling causes of business shortfalls to taping leaky pipes one hole at a time, ending up eventually “with a moldy mess on your hands.” The key? Data. Marketers who stay on top of revenue stream performance and track the ebb & flow of their offerings are well-situated to forecast a month, quarter, or year-plus out. As with a drip, you trace the problem back to the source – say, evaluating how a certain service is being messaged to diagnose a shortfall in that area – and then adjust accordingly. We get a glimpse of the author’s old-school nature with her suggested remedy of calling clients to check in and remind them of a particular service. Surely your Zoomer staffers know how to dial the phone… yes?

It’s the handy checklists that may just provide the most value. Starting with a straightforward needs assessment, we’re guided to examine “a range of marketing assets, services, and activities that are common in most marketing departments.” On the ‘Check-Up’ Checklist Assessment, it calls for updating one’s website and it dawned on me I hadn’t scrubbed my own in months; putting the book down, sure enough I found plenty of edits to make and sections to update. (Have you thought to do the same lately? It may prove eye opening.) She also makes a terrific business case for instituting an internship program over sponsorship of some lame event, arguing that for roughly the same investment we’ll accomplish far greater goals. Rather than a day or two of “brand exposure,” vetting and hiring an intern can produce ten weeks of important, quality work that otherwise would linger on a to-do list. A bit corny at times – Tivnon prefers doing SWTO (pronouncing it /swah-tow/) analyses so as to wind up discussing upbeat opportunities instead of downer threats – this one could nonetheless be one of the more important business books you read this year. Bonus: your top line will thank you.