Are we headed for a recession? Maybe yes, maybe no. But history has shown that just the mention of “recession” can wreak havoc on the psyche — and unfortunately, on the economy. But regardless of the dollar’s buying power, life goes on. There will be appliances to replace, vacations to take, achievements to note, and occasions to celebrate in the coming year, recession or not. One can’t change the fact that a fiftieth birthday, a silver anniversary, a graduation, or a birth, will occur in 2008. So consumers will be spending; but they’ll be spending more cautiously. How do you convince the budget-conscious consumer that her money is best directed in your direction? By focusing your energy and your dollars.
Stay In Touch With Your Best Customers.
This is a group that is already on board with your product or service, so keep them posted as to anything new you have to offer. Amazon.com does this very well: they remember what books or music a customer has purchased in the past, and sends an email blast that states, ‘we know you’ve purchased, “A” in the past; we think you’ll like ”B,” too. Tripadvisor.com has a similar tact regarding vacations and hotels. In addition to keeping your name in front of your customers, now is the time to offer them incentives, too. An upgrade, an add-on, even a small savings offer can be the motivation that seals the deal.
Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs
Everyone likes to be remembered, and that certainly holds true for your customer. Being on top of their needs and personalizing the message goes a long way in building loyalty. I remember the first time I got a birthday card from a business—my health club sent a card saying, “you’re not getting older, you’re getting fitter.” They enclosed a gift certificate (no gift cards back then) for a free session with a trainer. That was in the mid-eighties, the onset of sophisticated database software. I was flattered, and took advantage of the offer. And yes, I hired the trainer for a few more sessions, too. Today it’s not unusual to get “reminder” mailings and emails ranging from, “You’re due for a check-up” to “it’s time to replace your refrigerator’s water filter.” These reminders serve both the recipient and you. So whether it’s a hair salon saying, “time to welcome spring with fresh highlights,” or a baby boutique announcing, ”we’ve got great new outfits just in time for your daughter’s first birthday,” do show your customer you remember her and appreciate her business.
Continually Communicate Your USP
While you may choose to concentrate on your customer base, of course you want to attract new customers– as challenging as that may be when money is tight. But one tact always works: touting a product or a service that no one else has. Never underestimate your Unique Selling Point. Whether it is your convenient location, your one-of-a kind product, your awarding-winning service or unbeatable value, it is imperative to keep your message out there and keep your brand top of mind.
We’ve all been here before. Hopefully we’ve learned that business is cyclical and a strong economy will eventually return! In the meantime, stay ahead of the curve by carving out a strategy. The word “recession” is not so scary if you’re prepared. Better yet, to see tough times as simply a catalyst for change— a change for the better! The Japanese seem to have known this for centuries: part of their symbol for “crisis” means “opportunity.”