During a webinar sponsored by The Customer Collective, David Bonnette, Group VP of North America Sales at Oracle shared the story on how his division worked through the sales slump caused by the 2001 dot-com crash by creating a series of social networks.
As Silicon Valley's business went south, Bonnette's monthly events offered his customers a chance to network among themselves and share ideas on how to cope with the downturn. Oracle offered a valuable service to customers and assumed a thought leadership position during the events. When the slump ended these customers emerged more successful and more loyal.
Bonnette described his motivation as wanting to "do the right thing" but also to keep a habit of consumption going among his customers, "If we are not going to be able to charge for our product leadership, we want them consuming our thought leadership."
On you next call
If your advertisers cut back and tell you the reason is their customers are not buying products, ask what else they are selling. How can they continue to be perceived as a thought leader in their market if they are silent during a time when many of their customers are in a phase of product, expense, and general business revaluation?
Ask them if their product or company is based on an idea, a mission, or philosophy? If not ask if their customers think of them as only a place to buy stuff from.
Using this approach you won't sell a media schedule for product advertising. But you might sell a web based media product that offers your client a way to interact with their customers in a thought provoking way. White papers, social networking, "ask the expert" programs, and webinars all can continue the ongoing consumption of your clients thought leadership to their customers.