At the base of the brain stem, in the primitive part of the human brain which controls breathing, sweating, blinking of the eyes, and other forms of involuntary action, is the amygdala.
This tiny region of nerve cells is the part of the brain responsible for the four “Fs” of human behavior: Fight, Flight, Feed, and Reproduce.
To many of us the uncertainty of the economy feels dangerous. When the human animal feels threatened, the amygdala kicks into overdrive, provoking survival behaviors. Under these conditions people look for security. They reconnect to their core values.
But, this is key: during turbulent times, people don’t stop spending. They shop harder for value.
How are your customers responding to fear of the unknown?
Are you selling to other businesses? During a recession your business customers will still purchase equipment, services, or even advertising – especially when those have been proven to generate revenue. They will be much less concerned about brand building, and much more focused on making the cash register ring.
Do your business customers appear reluctant to buy new equipment? Then change your value proposition. Let your customers know that your mission is to protect their investment by making sure their equipment runs as efficiently as possible for as long as possible.
Are you selling to consumers? Tell your hard-core economic value story first. This is what will get them to consider your offering. Then bring in your core values, as well as the other value-added elements.
In hard times people are especially focused on doing the best they can for their families. Provide high value, AND make them feel good about doing business with you, and you’ll find your customers showing loyalty to you that they won’t show your competitors.
With less money in circulation, focus on revenue.
Contemplate smaller jobs that wouldn’t normally excite you. In a slowdown your staff is likely to have less to do. Keep them busy with whatever business there is. Lose the “OK, we’ll even do this, now” attitude. You’ll be competing for those jobs, and the competition is likely to be stiff.
The rules of how business is done are changing. Focus your attention on maximizing revenue and on leveraging your intellectual capital. How much do you need to be in control? Think about outsourcing work that doesn’t create revenue. Consider, too, that it’s almost intern season, and help can be cheap.
Contact your customers and ask for referrals. Tell people you need more work. If they believe in your competence, they’ll come through for you. Don’t worry about looking as if you’re begging for work. You ARE.
Service those customers.
With fewer customers you’ll be tempted to reduce the number of customer service personnel. Many of your competitors will. Don’t do it. Of course now is the time to cut expenses, but not in ways that touch the customer.
As Richard D. Hanks of Mindshare Technologies has said, “Be the business where a customer can actually get served quickly. Have the call center with the shortest “on hold” wait times. Let your business be the one that doesn’t skimp on portion sizes, quality ingredients, packaging materials, or add-ons. Be the business that surveys customers on service satisfaction and continuously improves based on customer feedback. Let your business be known for urgency, responsiveness, and quality.”
The most important thing you can do.
Listen to what your customers are telling you. Watch how they’re behaving. Consider what it feels like to be your customer in this economy. What would you do in their situation?
Now, help them to do it.
Chuck McKay is a marketing consultant who helps customers discover you, and choose your business. Questions about helping your business thrive during an economic recession may be directed to ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com.