Surviving in a Downturn

As a business owner, you know the challenges presented by unpredictable economic conditions. These are tough times for the small and medium-size business owner, but they can also be a springboard to future success.

Don’t rush into cost cutting

It is important to manage the cost base and look at the cash flow forecast, but don’t be tempted to make savings just for the sake of it. Some businesses cut costs too much. If you thought the competition was tough before, then you’ll find it’s even tougher now. Before you make a cut think of what effect it will have on the services you offer and the subsequent perception in the marketplace.

Don’t hide away

The marketplace is fickle. Companies have to stay visible if they are to survive. Maintaining your profile with the customers and prospects that matter to you the most is not expensive.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing has published a white paper on the role of marketing in a recession. The paper shows that those organizations that maintain and focus their marketing in a recession are those who emerge strongest when the recovery comes.

People don’t stop buying in a downturn – they are just more cautious. They need the reassurance that you are still the right choice. The danger of being “out of sight” is that when a buying decision is about to be made, you will also be “out of mind”. Customers and prospects who notice that you have fallen silent may smell failure.

Now is the time to make sure that they are not lured away by the competition. You have to reassure them that you’re “on their side”. Customer needs a change in a downturn, so you have to show that you have adaptability – they need to know that you are still there for them and providing what they currently lack.

Give something

Take care of your customers and best prospects, nurture them. Ask them what they want and give it to them, sometimes – with a big discount or even for free. You may not earn a lot, but they know that you are still there and ready for their business.

We are not suggesting slashing prices to win new business, as this will harm my ability to deliver service to your customers. What we are suggesting is there are opportunities to go that extra mile. Give a little now so that you keep the doors open and the relationships strong.

Active relationship management

So how do you make sure your customers are happy and that they and prospects are aware that you are still around? This is where your CRM system comes in. It helps you to understand your customer base and prospect pipeline. It collects and organizes information about your relationships and keeps an accurate record of every interaction you have had with them and builds a profile of their likes and dislikes.

The information in the CRM system gives you all you need to plan and execute your marketing activity and enables you to keep your profile up. You know what they are interested in so when you have something to say about a topic you can target them accordingly.

Make sure you monitor the responses to your contact campaigns and be sensitive to this feedback. Be careful not to be so keen to communicate that your campaigns become spam. Don’t overdo the communications. Vary them and make them relevant. Remember you are keeping in touch and looking for opportunities to go that extra mile; not selling as such, but making yourself available and ready to respond when they are prepared to speak.

Keep calm and carry on

Keeping a high profile is a necessary investment. Don’t be tempted to see marketing as a cost to be cut because if your customers and prospects stop hearing from you, then they may assume the worst. Coming back strong in the recovery will be too late.

What you should do is keep in contact, making the most of every opportunity to do something for the customers and prospects to show that you are still around and still actively interested in them.

By careful use of the information in your CRM system and sensitivity to your customer base and prospect list, you can survive this downturn and possibly come out of it stronger than when you went in. We look forward to seeing you on the other side, healthy and ready to spring forward into the upturn.