Paul Dunay at Buzz Marketing writes a post here pointing to a research paper by Andrew Razeghi from the Kellogg School of Management on Innovating Through Recession.

Andrew makes 7 great points in this paper but I love the first one where he states:

Listen to the market. It’s quieter when it’s less crowded. Unmet needs abound.

And here is the quote I love the most in that section:

During difficult economic times, market needs are more exposed than they are during an economic boom when the market is saturated with everyone’s “great idea” – many of which are chasing needs that have already been satisfied. When markets turn south, it’s easier to discern what the market needs precisely because the market is thinking more about what it needs and why it needs it. We are simply more thoughtful, more aware, and more focused during economic downturns.

I think it is hard for companies to stay focused on customers when they have their own economic problems to deal with.  During tough economic times, a focus on innovation is more important than ever.  Innovation thrives on constraints.  What is a recession other than a time of great constraint?

Customers are trying to do more with less.  Enterprises are looking for ways to decrease their cost of sales, shorten their sales cycles, reduce costs associated with business travel, decrease their need for physical real estate, improve their time to market, reach more customers while spending less – the list goes on and on.  What a perfect time for great product managers and marketers to take a step back and listen to their customers.