Why a cool head will help you manage the current recession and thrive.
Hmmm… How do I know which advice is best?
Look online, or even look over my shoulder most mornings as I check my email inbox, and you’ll see plenty of advice about how to survive a recession. Some advice is excellent (short, accurate and actionable) and some is very generic. But even the generic can be useful, so it can be hard to decide which might be best to follow. The reality is that most advice is worth considering, but only some will be appropriate to you now.
And ‘How to survive a recession’ builds in two flaws. First, it’s about survival when the imperative is to thrive. Second, it’s about a recession, not this one. Of course, some businesses will be especially hard hit and survival will be the priority. What follows should be relevant in that scenario too.
So, how to unpick what advice to follow and what course to steer? Perhaps it’s useful to look at the best general advice, before digging a little deeper.
The best of the Top Tips
A lot of the best advice has been around for a long time, or has been adapted to our current age. Here’s a selection of effective approaches that should help any business.
Make the general, specific
Taking these broad themes, I’ve been applying them specifically to what I do for my clients and how I approach my own business, now, in this recession. In the process of considering each client’s account I’ve reflected on how the strategies I recommend could be applied to my own business; and in considering actions for my business, assessed them as to how these might benefit my clients. The following is a summary of this process.
1. Daily business review
I put aside 90 minutes (yes, a whole hour and a half) at the start of each day to review the business. This means the business plan is subject to rolling scrutiny. It doesn’t mean it’s always changing, but it certainly means that each target, strategy and action is subject to regular evaluation.
Areas of particular focus include how best to serve existing clients, and how to acquire more customers to grow the business.
This fiercely protected 90 minutes helps with weekly, fortnightly and monthly plans, and also means we can respond in a measured way to unexpected events. The idea of an emergency is now extremely rare. It’s time well spent.
2. Pricing review
We are all at risk under the impacts of inflation and a slowing economy. But my business’ raison d'etre is business growth, so we are sensitive to the cost pressures affecting our clients, just as they affect us.
B2C companies may legitimately use strategic price reductions to stimulate activity. When this is the choice it is best to have a clear plan as to what is discounted, by how much and for how long. At all costs, it is important to avoid the trap of the customer always waiting for the next ‘sale’.
In some situations, those operating B2B can do the same, and discounting needs to be managed with equal care. My own approach, and despite our own rising costs, is to keep prices unchanged for existing customers for the foreseeable future; we might also offer a modest discount for some elements of our work, or add in something that we would normally charge extra for. New clients pay slightly higher fees, and this is measured carefully against the going market rate and a sense of what is fair and reasonable.
3. A positive marketing budget review
I run a marketing company, so it’s no surprise I think people should spend more on marketing – and that includes me. The reality is that marketing is not an add-on luxury, it’s a necessity.
Without marketing (as distinct from advertising) a business will wither and die. The real questions are around what sort of marketing will be most effective.
In almost all cases I recommend maintaining or increasing marketing budgets. If a business goes through a quiet time, that is an ideal opportunity to appraise marketing activity. Discussions might be around social media, paid-for advertising and specific promotional campaigns.
In the broadest sense, budgeting also includes the use of time. For myself – and I know it works for others too – this means networking both informally and in a more specific manner via networking groups. Rather like the daily 90 minutes, it is time well spent.
4. Regular and constant marketing activity
Marketing activity needs to be targeted, regular and consistent. Specifically, for me and my customers alike, this is marketing for the steady and continual gathering of new customers. It’s about building (at your preferred speed) an ever larger customer base that will sustain the business regardless of the economic climate.
The details are naturally specific to each business. For our own, we are planning very focused social media advertising, email marketing, an increased frequency of blogs and, in the new year, print advertising too.
5. Testing and measuring
This might be last on the list but it is definitely not least. Every single marketing activity needs to be tested and measured.
This is primarily about specific marketing actions, and how they are tracked and evaluated. It’s what we do for our customers and what we do for ourselves. From this broad proposition come other questions. For example, what performance indicators are we using, and are they the right ones? Or are staff using their time productively? Can some be upskilled and more empowered? Are there efficiencies that could be introduced in the way we work individually and as a group.
Taking this to its logical conclusion, are there customers who should be shed? Sometimes a customer becomes extremely high maintenance, to the extent that working with them is not cost effective. Naturally, this is quite a rare occurrence and drawing that relationship to a close can be tricky, but it can be liberating too. Suddenly life is less stressful - and significantly more productive.
Stay calm and keep on marketing
Unsurprisingly, keeping on with marketing is the theme of this piece. But even though, as the owner of a marketing company, I’m likely to say that, it doesn’t make it any less important or any less true.
And taking a calm and measured look at what a business does, and what works , and why, could be the difference between just about surviving, and thriving – regardless of what the economists tell us is about to happen.
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