Control The Economy

Does the news about the economy have you down? Well, is there something that you can you do other than just shutting off the television and not picking up a newspaper?

We’ve developed seven keys that will help you get control of the economy and help you capture your piece of the economic pie. It’s all about your business, and how you will grow it. Unless you are near the front of the line on government bailouts, you need to focus on what your organization can do and not what everyone else is doing.

1)      Expand your reach

2)      Seek out new markets

3)      Reinvent your products and services

4)      Get closer to your customers

5)      Talk to your competitors

6)      Review and re-establish your goals

7)      Communicate your goals and vision clearly to both employees and customers

Expand Your Reach

There are two approaches that should be executed regarding expanding your reach. First, your reach should be expanded within your current customers. This means that you should establish goals for your sales team to develop new relationships with other people at your current customers. This can be as important as a new senior vice president or getting to know some of the people that are affected by your product or service. In the case of a company that sells corrugated boxes that are used to ship a customer’s products it could mean getting to know the person that manages that important inventory or even a production line supervisor. The more people you know within an organization the better chance you have of keeping that customer during a downturn in the economy. You’ll have advocates that will help to protect your business even when the purchasing department is trying to reduce their company’s costs. The second approach is to reach for other departments or divisions within your current customer base. This can be as easy as asking for an internal referral from one of your current contacts or it may be introducing yourself to a decision-maker in another division. Either way, you should use your current relationships to leverage opportunities within the same parent company.

Seek out new markets

The more established your business, the more challenging this will be. If you’ve been selling into the automotive sector…forever, it would be very wise to take the time to evaluate your organization’s capabilities and determine how they can be translated into a new market. When seeking out new markets it is vitally important to elevate yourself above the noise of your business to see new opportunities. If you try to take a perspective of someone that doesn’t know your business nor your customer base you will find new clarity and potentially new ideas. Another approach should be to talk with your employees…find out what their past experiences have been and determine if you can translate those experiences into a new market.


Reinvent your products and services

What about looking at what you do and figuring out how to do something different? This may be the most difficult path to take when dealing with a challenging economy, but it can also have the most upside potential. As a reminder of what taking a look at your products in a different light can do for you, remember what 3M did a number of years back. Their research department was experimenting with new adhesives and came up with something that wouldn’t stick on anything permanently. What an odd adhesive, unless you’ve used Postit™ notes. They took a disappointment in the labs and turned it into a spectacular success.

While you probably don’t have a research department the likes of 3M, you should still meet with a cross functional team to discuss how to reinvent one or more of your products or services. This brain storming session may produce some crazy ideas, but none of them may be nuttier than an adhesive that doesn’t stick!

Get closer to your customers

Who doesn’t remember the United Airline’s commercial in which the president of a company has gathered his sales team together to tell them about the call he just got from one of their biggest customers. The customer told him that they were moving their business because they (selling company) didn’t know them anymore. The president then said that he was personally flying to see that customer and then started handing out airline tickets to the rest of the sales people, instructing them to do the same. Sure it was about United wanting to sell more airline tickets, but the message was loud and clear…teleconferences, e-mails, and other non face-to-face communications was not enough. Their customers wanted to “see” them.

This is what you should be doing today. Now you’re probably thinking, but I just got this advice from an e-mail…where the heck is my personal visit!! Don’t worry, for those of you that we don’t see on a fairly regular basis, we are going to make it our highest priority to schedule an appointment in the very early part of 2009. Now when it comes to your past customers, you should do the same. But when you do, please be sincerely focused on your customer’s needs, not your own. Talk about new trends in their specific industry, share some knowledge with them, and most importantly, listen to them. They will tell you what’s happening in their world and honestly, isn’t that the most important world? At least it is for them. See how you can help them, if they need it. I assure you that if you keep your visit with them focused on them, you will benefit. It may not be in new business, but it will be in the area of building a more meaningful relationship with them. No matter how high tech we get, we are still all people and we truly like doing business with people that we like, trust, and that deliver on the promises that they make to us. Be that person to your customers and you will be successful.

Talk to your competitors – in other markets

We know it sounds crazy, but it can really help you grow your business. We’re not suggesting that you get together with your competitor across the street that just stole your best customer. What we’re saying is to talk with people in your line of work that you don’t necessarily run into on every deal. Talk about your challenges and learn about what issues they are facing. If you can find the right competitors you will all benefit from sharing your knowledge and collaboratively solving each other’s problems. We know that most of you belong to trade associations. Before your next meeting, reach out to a few competitors and see what they think of the idea of getting together to talk. Plan on using the next annual meeting to break into your small group and discuss your most perplexing issues. Don’t go to the meeting like you did last year and just slap backs and tell everyone you see how terrific your business is this year. Take that meeting to the next level – help a competitor and help yourself.

Review and re-establish your goals

It cannot be said enough…set goals. This is the perfect time of year to “really” evaluate where you’ve been and where you’re going. Create written goals that are SMART. If you have not heard of SMART goals, here is what the acronym stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Action-Oriented

R = Realistic

T = Time-based

Going through the process of creating goals or re-assessing your current goals can have a significant impact on your entire organization. We suggest that you start at the top and create organization-wide goals. Then help your departments create departmental goals that are aligned with your organizational goals. Next, work with your department leaders and help them create their own specific goals that support their department goals. Then you should help your department leaders help their subordinates create goals that support the department goals. And finally, review the progress of all of your goals (organizational, department, and personnel) on a regular basis to keep everyone on track. This can be a daunting set of tasks, but we can tell you that if executed properly, you will be thrilled with the results.

Communicate your goals and vision clearly to both employees and customers

Publicize them, talk about them, show the plan to your people, and share your goals and vision with your outside stakeholders. Clear communication is incredibly important in everything that you do, but it is magnified a hundred times when it comes to your vision and your goals. But this is a good thing. The more people that know what your goals are the more likely you are to achieve them. If you’ve ever done this, you know that it’s true. Remember the last time you set a goal for yourself, but told no one. How quickly did you lose momentum towards your goal? Did you ever achieve it? Probably not. Don’t let it happen again. Set great goals and achieve great goals by being public with them.

We can help you grow faster than the economy is dictating. Take control of your business’ future.