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Recession in the ‘highlands’?

Hands clutching the head, vacant stares, drooping shoulders and leaden feet …. Familiar signs of tough times?

It’s recessionary trends in the market and companies are hunkering down to wait out the chill – they are keeping budgets on a tight leash. Some of your customers say that their customers haven’t been buying as much as they used to earlier and hence they can’t afford to buy as much from you now as they did before. Everyone has a reason for not spending and businesses are either in the red or dangerously close to it.

Now imagine yourself trying to establish a new business in such a market. You do not have the deep pockets of the established players to help you wait out the lean patch nor do you have an big order book that will keep you busy for a while. You have to get out and sell. You have to win business to survive? Sounds familiar?

It is time to reassess your game-plan and make some important changes – but the first thing you have to confirm is whether there is strength in your value-proposition and that there is real demand for it in the market – if the answers to the above are “Yes!” then it is not time to panic yet.

Maybe people aren’t buying now because they are not in spending mode. They want to see a significant sign of improvement in the marketplace before they part with money. But if you can convince them that by buying from you now they are going to have further reduction in cost then they probably will go for it. So it is for you to do the study and prove to them that now is the time to buy.

Keep a close watch on what the competition is up to – if they are having significant wins while you are out in the cold then it is time to assess what is it they are doing right that you are missing out on? You may need to recast your product offering or improve your pitch. They obviously are doing something better than you. Time to rethink your act.

Price isn’t always the answer to win more business in lean times – can you add an extra benefit to your regular product so that customer gets more value for the same price? Is there some way you can stagger the fund outflow for them so that they don’t sense a huge hole in the pocket at one go.

It is important to keep yourself visible in the tough times; but as mentioned earlier money is scarce – so you can’t be lavish with your marketing spend. Can you find ways to reach the eyes, ears and minds of your customer in the cheaper yet effective ways? Can you use the Internet and innovative below the line activities to constantly occupy the customer’s mind-space in smart ways? Think about it.

Can you get your team to chip in a bit more than usual – can’t you avoid pruning staff if you can get them to contribute a little extra? Is there untapped talent in the team that can be used in another area? The team will be willing to help if it means continuity of their job and income. It is also a good time to ask your team for suggestions to improve the situation – maybe you will get a brilliant new concept that can change everything. Steve Jobs said that his biggest achievement was not any of his gadgets but the organisation of smart people he had been able to create.

Find ways to extract more from each of your spends and reduce costs on every front – remember the old axiom: money saved is money earned.

Work with your customer to ride the difficult times – stay close to them and find ways to deliver more value to them, keep them satisfied with the quality of your response and your service. Build strong partnerships and they may even be willing to accommodate and support if push comes to shove. Retain your best customers and make sure that they have no reason to be unhappy or dissatisfied. They are your lifeline.

Its time to evens for the leaders and managers to tighten the belt; they need to set the example by finding ways to cut costs, doing extra and by keeping the employees motivated – because its only when the entire team pulls as one that the organisation is able to extricate itself from the rut it is stuck in …

Use the head for a fresh set of ideas, free your hands to do more work and put a jump in your stride to get around faster; there may be recession in the market but there need not be a recession of ideas in our heads!


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