Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Expanding Market Share in a Shrinking Economy

Savvy business owners are taking the time to adjust business activity in order to maximize sales performance in current economic times. Following are six tried-and-true principles of business. Taking some time to adjust your business development activity to reflect these principles will go a long way in making 2009 a growth year.

1. If you do nothing, you get nothing. Another way to phrase this is: every day you don’t pitch a customer, is a day you have no deal to close. It is always important to invest strategically in keeping your brand in front of your target audience. In a shrinking economy, it can often be to your advantage to increase marketing and promotional budgets. Doing so assures: the right message, is in front of the right audience, at the right time and gets you invited to the table so you have a chance at winning the deal. Commit to presenting your company to at least one
potential client each day through advertising, PR and promotional activities or good-
old-fashioned appointment setting.

2. When it comes to relationships, it’s the little things that count. Often the courtship that occurred at the beginning of a business relationship dwindles. As sales and marketing staff move on to the next deal, the frequency and context of contact between the businesses change. No one likes being treated as a number. You must continue to make clients feel important, valued and appreciated. Make it a policy that your team is in contact with every client once a week. The contact needs to be personal and initiated by your company. Don't make it about a pitch or taking an order. Over time your client satisfaction ratings will skyrocket.

3. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. Businesses change vendors every day. Surveys show that more than 75 percent of those changes occur by buyers who were satisfied with their former vendor. This goes back to the little things and not letting the honeymoon end. On the other side, this offers great opportunities for new business. Every one of your competitors' clients is up for grabs. You can win their business if you keep in front of them and woo them with your attention and caring. Know that this also means that everyone of your clients is up for grabs as well.

4. Every piece of business could be gone tomorrow. Since business deals are primarily based on the relationship between two people, if you or your client changes staffing, that piece of business could be gone. The reality is, a client is only a client as of the last order they placed. There is never a guarantee of future orders. Murphy’s Law indicates that the day your pipeline dries up, is the day your biggest client will cancel their contract. This means you must constantly provide added value to your current clients to keep their business. You must also keep your new business pipeline full. Not just with growth leads, but with replacement business. To keep your pipeline full, advertise strategically and consistently; promote your company through intentional media coverage and event placements (PR); generously distribute professionally developed marketing materials; then get in front of your target audience and ask for a presentation meeting.

5. Change your message and the way you deliver it. Clients and potential clients in shrinking economies don’t care what you have to say. They do care that you hear what they need. Push-marketing works in a robust economy. In a shrinking economy, you have to figure out what clients want and care about. Put another way: I don’t care what you want to do for me. I care that someone does what I need done. Taking time to strategically evaluate your message and delivery is a must to keep your business alive. Every first meeting needs to be a lot of listening about what your client thinks, feels and wants. Then reiterate the areas of key concern to get their agreement. In the second meeting, make everything you say directly tie to what your client expressed. Think of it as saying, “what this means to you is…” as a direct response to each of their concerns.

6. Necessity is the mother of invention. If you only go after the opportunities that your company has previous experience in, you will never have reason to expand your offerings. If IBM stuck with manufacturing mechanical punches, sorters, tabulators and typewriters, they would not exist today. Staying on top of the latest-and-greatest in your market segment and incorporating it into your own offerings is a must. This means you must not only market what you do, but what you could do. It may even mean adjusting your core competencies to allow for new technology and fluctuations in market demand.
The great thing about shrinking economies is they force you to seriously evaluate your business, how you do things and adjust your tactics. In order to be relevant in today’s market and maintain long-term success, some great questions to always keep in mind are:

What do you wish to accomplish?
What is your strategy to achieve it?
What are realistic results for your strategy?
What are the steps and tactics necessary to activate the strategy?
What are the realistic results for each step or tactic?
Have you invested enough resources into each step or tactic to achieve the desired return?

Taking time to evaluate your marketing, PR and advertising will go a long way in making 2009 a growth year.