Keeping Customers in Rotten Times

Keeping Customers in Rotten Times
Savvy Guest - Tue Jul 21, 2009 @ 03:29AM
Comments: 8

Need to know how to keep your customers in hard times?The Savvy Sisters welcome Mark Schaefer who shares four simple ways to fortify your business despite the challenging economic climate.

The recession is a war and there will be far fewer companies standing at the end of it. If you're planning to be one of the winners, you'll have to concentrate your efforts to maintain (or grow) your marketshare and retain customers, even when cash is tight. Here are four things you MUST do to keep your customers on a tight marketing budget.

Listen. Do your customers annoy you? Maybe it seems like they don't understand or fully appreciate your products? Seem to be quick on the trigger with quality claims? Keep asking for new services? Don't ignore these gifts from your customers. That's right - GIFTS!

Here is the essence of competitive advantage: Listen to your customers more effectively and respond more rapidly than your competitors. That's it. Every business strategy stems from that simple philosophy. Every great product and brand was created from that wisdom. Keep listening! Keep responding! Keep innovating!

Tend to your core competencies. Do you think your business is too small to be a brand? Well, you're a brand whether you want to be or not. Everything you do and say communicates who you are and what your business stand for. The personification of your company -- that's your brand.

Think about what makes you successful and unique. What's special about what you sell, how you sell it and who you sell it to? One of the biggest causes of business failures is that companies lose sight of their core competencies - what their customers know and LOVE about them. Defend your competencies - your brand - with unwavering consistency.

Keep a long-term perspective. The economy WILL turn around and there will be vast opportunities on the other side. In the meantime, stay optimistic, stay tenacious, do what you need to do to survive and continue to serve your customers with determination and grace. You can't survive without that customer. Do what it takes to serve them now.

If you lose your customers now because of poor quality or service, what will it cost to gain them back when the economy turns? Ten times as much. Customer retention is always cheaper than customer acquisition. To "win" the recession, fight to keep your customers.

Be compassionate. A true story: Years ago, when I worked for Alcoa, we had a multi-million dollar account who bought exclusively from my company. During a recession, Alcoa had helped this struggling customer by extending terms for them and helping them with R&D with no promise of a pay-off. When the customer's founder was on his death bed, he whispered to his sons, "Always buy from Alcoa. They brought us to the dance." We had earned this customer's business literally beyond the grave.

This is the time to show customers what you're made of. You tell them you care - now SHOW it. You want to find mutually-beneficial solutions - work even harder for those win-win business offerings. Really listen and understand what you can do - together - to make it to the other side of the downturn.

It's probable that your customers are suffering too. The recession is an opportunity to build rock-solid, long-term relationships by showing understanding and grace in the face of difficulty.

Mark Schaefer has more than 25 years experience in industrial marketing and is Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions (www.businessesgrow.com). You can find his blog {grow} at http://schaefersolutions.blogspot.com

Comments: 8

Comments

1. Jonathan Kranz  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 22, 2009 @ 03:12AM

We live in bizarre times, because these same rotten times are also a time when communications and marketing are changing at a head-spinning rate. Which leads us to another opportunity: keeping our customers/clients informed about what's new and noteworthy. They may not be able to act on our insights now, but when the ice breaks, we'll have a foundation of trust that might just direct new business our way.

2. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 22, 2009 @ 07:32AM

@Jonathan - I couldn't agree more. I was having just that discussion with someone last night ... explaining how half my job is understanding the basic tenets of "classic" marketing, and the other half is keeping abreast on new ways to successfully leverage those concepts using always-new media. It is mind-boggling the amount of content we each devour on a daily basis - just to almost keep up with the curve. Great point about building up a "foundation of trust" that will benefit uor business "when the ice breaks." Thanks - as always - for stopping by!

3. Mark William Schaefer  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:27AM

How do we us social media to do the things I mention in the article -- Listen? Defend brand? Demonstrate compassion? Lots of opportunities to build brand this way!
@markwschaefer

4. Dan Gershenson  |  my website   |   Wed Jul 22, 2009 @ 09:59AM

Great thoughts, Mark. Ironically, the rotten times can cause you to work more on your own stuff than you ever did before, from e-newsletters, blogs, etc. In the best of times, I was always pushing this aside to devote to client work. It took the worst of times for me to realize that I am my own client too! I've done more in the last 2 months in this avenue than I have in the last 4 years. And when the economy picks up, I'll be consistent with it too. Thanks again.

5. Dianna Huff  |  my website   |   Fri Jul 24, 2009 @ 03:55AM

Dan,

I have to agree with you. This recession has been a boon to me with regard to personal development. I feel stronger, smarter, and more nimble than I did at this time last year.

And I can't believe how much I now know -- and how much I still need to learn -- simply because I've been listening to gurus AND customers alike.

6. Mark William Schaefer  |  my website   |   Fri Jul 24, 2009 @ 05:54PM

Interesting perspectives ... keeping yourself as a customer ... I feel another blog post arising : )

Thank you for taking the time to comment!
@markwschaefer

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