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How to Weather the Storm
 

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Pretty much everyone is now using the word "recession" as part of their daily vocabulary. If the winds of change haven't reached the sails of your business yet, they will. Guaranteed.

Here are three survival tips to keep in mind:

Don't focus on growth -- focus on staying even. Over the next two years, it will take all of your wit, cunning, and common sense to maintain your current revenue, let alone grow. If your year-end financial reports show that you stayed even with the year before, you will have done a tremendous job of remaining steady at the wheel. And if you experience single-digit growth, grab a handkerchief and crank up the Greek dancing tunes, 'cuz it's time to celebrate. The key is efficiency -- making the highest and most effective use of your marketing and operating dollars to streamline your message and customer experience.

When it comes to customers, there's a pecking order. Even in good times, smart marketers know that the care and feeding of existing customers takes precedence over capturing new ones. These are the folks who already believe in what you do, so give them consistent, genuine TLC and never stop asking them what you can do better. In return, they will remain loyal to your brand. Depending on your business category, they may not be able to afford what you sell today, but by not forgetting them during the tough times, they'll think of you first when they're once again flush and ready to spend. Building brand confidence and love can't help but generate good word-of-mouth about you -- some of the smartest (and cheapest) marketing you'll ever do.

Don't stop taking chances. Now, more than ever, it's critical to continue branding your business in the hearts and minds of customers. Yes, you're feeling the pinch. But don't go all Wolverine on us and slash your marketing budget to shreds. Keep on keepin' on, and mix it up a little. Have you built your business on low, low prices? Start talking about the "relationships" you have with your customers. Have you created good brand mojo through meaningful connections with customers? Extend it by telling them you feel their financial pain'¶ then lower your prices just a tiny bit. (If you're successful at being as efficient as you possibly can be, it gives you the breathing room you need in order to do this.)

Things may very well be rocky for awhile. Concentrating on even just one of these tips will give you a clearer focus and a steadier hand; delivering all three at a high level will definitely keep you afloat through the roughest of waters.

Last updated: Dec 9, 2008




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