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This is not advice. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. The information contained in these articles is for guidance only and should not be relied upon without obtaining professional advice having regard to your direct circumstances.


Recession survival kit for businesses

We need to be clear about one thing: real success is sustainable. It lasts and it happens in any economic climate in spite of any external influence and is not exclusive to soaring economies or to businesses that are lucky.

As I write this article, money is dancing from one person to another, from one business to another and the key is to figure out how to get a share of it dancing to you. Business owners throughout Australia face a significant opportunity to thrive in the current tough times.

In tough times, business owners tend to focus on the external environment and as a result they lose focus on the internal working of their business. But more importantly, they lose focus on their customers. They panic.

This is where mindset comes in. To be successful, the fittest business owner must be mentally tough and emotionally strong. With the current global financial crisis, the media (predictably) are focusing on the negative. Negative stories sell newspapers, but they do nothing for people’s confidence.

Negativity creates a sense of resistance and while resistance to unpleasant conditions is an expected human condition, it also stymies business owners’ capacity to act and to focus. The reality is that in tough times there are just as many opportunities as there are in good times, maybe even more.

I have spent considerable time researching the techniques used by business to survive and even prosper in a recession. Here are some of them.

1. Put your efforts into your existing clients

Sounds obvious but losing customers through neglect or sloppiness is especially painful in tough times. The cost of replacing them is higher and the difficulty in replacing them is greater.

Just doing what you do competently or delivering your product as agreed is not enough to earn your customers subsequent business. In tough times, your competitors will resort to price cutting. If you are no countering this with a quality relationship, you will lose.

Regardless of the economy, your list of clients and prospects is your most valuable assets. Even more important is your relationship with them and what you are known for. The truth is that most businesses fail because of an inability to keep customers coming back, rather than an inability to attract customers.

2. Grab your customer’s attention and be innovative

Most people in business have unreasonable expectations of the results they will achieve by using plain vanilla advertising and marketing. The one thing your clients and prospects won’t put up with is being bored.

The most important thing you’ve got to do in advertising is to get seen and be read. A good example is a pizza shop owner who, instead of sticking her advertising in the letterboxes with all the other clutter, ties her advertising on front garden fences.

3. Take advantage of your customers’ fears

In tough times many companies cut back on direct-mail in favour of email or so called easier and cheaper forms of marketing. Others cut back because of the postal increase, so there is less competition, less clutter in the mailbox. So the tigers eat even better in the jungle and starve last.

Become a tiger in your jungle. Your competitor’s response to changing economic conditions may create more opportunity for you. You may decide to target different customers or alter your message but you should go after them.

4. Your advertising must get people’s attention

If you cannot make a compelling case in your advertising for customers to choose you, rather than other options, then you should not be spending a cent on advertising.

The truth is that there is no such thing as a bad medium (media), only poorly targeted and strategised marketing. Just as there is no such thing as a bad hammer, just one that is poorly wielded.

Here is a five step test you should put all your marketing and advertising through:

• Get attention.
• Arouse interest and emotion.
• Tell an interesting story in a believable way.
• Offer an incentive to take action now.
• Ask for action and make it easy for people to do what it is you want them to.

5. Make appropriate adjustments to services, payment options and product

David Ogilvy, one of the greatest-ever advertising gurus, said: “All advertising should be news. Find ways to present what you do, the services you provide, the products you sell, expressed as news.”

Find ways to use what is in the news and on their minds about the economy to your advantage. This does not necessarily mean slashing prices. It may be message related. It may mean arranging better or more finance options. Better still, focus only on the products and services you sell that produce the bulk of your turnover, and then do it better.

6. Only focus on offer-based advertising

I cannot understand the point of advertising without an offer to respond. If you are really happy spending a lot of money on ads with no accountability, give me a call and I will gratefully accept the money.

The reason the offer is so important is it breaks down that major barrier to business which is a lack of trust and scepticism. In tough times you cannot afford to be boring, instead make an even more outrageous offer, add greater value, use testimonials, bold guarantees and give your clients a compelling call to action.

7. Agility is the key to success

Few people like change and that is a natural response. No one welcomes disruption. But there is more danger in ignoring and resisting change, particularly where your customers and prospects are concerned. Being agile is the key and being responsive to their needs and desires.

Success depends on an attitude of discovery rather than resistance, reactions that are opportunistic rather than protectionist. Many businesses experience revolution but few experience evolution.

In an economic crisis, being agile when it comes to your marketing and sales provides industry and business with the opportunity to change the rules when it suits them and create new truths about how business is done.

If you can’t find a valid model for success in your industry, do the opposite of everybody in your category because you can rely on the masses being wrong.

Mal Emery
My Business, December 2008/January 2009


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