I have a friend in Florida who owns six Subway franchises.
He's rolling in dough, whole wheat, and greenbacks.
He loves the recession. He's remodeling his house (stimulating at least one South Florida contractor to keep swinging a hammer).
Dollar stores are also doing business like gangbusters.
The healthcare industry is thriving, too, but it's in a world of its own (as long as there's no cure for sickness and aging).
Supermarkets are packed. People are cooking, not dining out in restaurants.
In fact, those selling a staple of life, or offering a low-ticket product or service, are just happier than a pig in... you know what.
For the rest of us...
The Economy Still Stinks
But it stinks only if, during the long-gone good times, your business was on cruise control and you got complacent and lazy, and saw your customers as dollar signs and not people.
Some marketers are suffering far less than others, because they cared to look deep into their customers' eyes and not just plumb the depths of their wallets.
Call it relationship-building, call it caring about your customers, or just call it staying in business, making a great income, taking vacations, and buying new cars (Japanese or German) even during a recession.
Though I can't offer you, for obvious reasons, a precise five-point strategy to achieve that type of recession insurance for your particular business, I can give you the general blueprint.
The Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Prospects Loyal and Their Wallets Open
First, a note of caution: Reducing your prices may help, of course, and may even be prudent. But that's a short-term fix that commoditizes your service. In fact, by reducing your prices, what you're doing is training, even forcing, your customers to price-shop.
Remember, price is what your customer pays, value is what your customer receives.
Accentuate the value, and the customer will pay your price.
And you do that as follows...
1. Allay your customers' fears
Right now your customers are looking like deer in the headlights. They're watching too many doom-and-gloom news shows. They're hearing about once-upon-a-time giants of industry filing for bankruptcy, shutting doors, and putting thousands of people out of work. They probably even know some of those unemployed.
And, quite frankly, they're afraid they may be next.
So they're holding on to their money, worried the good times will never return. Frugal and conservative defines them. Food and shelter are their biggest concerns, to the near exclusion of everything else.
Your job then is to lift their heads, open their eyes, and sing, "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow."
Help them understand that change is the only constant in life—and that this economic meltdown... this, too, shall pass.
Show them that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer—give them hope, and put your arm around their shoulders.
Then infuse them with some good-old-time religion, lift their spirits, and get them dancing in the aisles—put excitement and happiness back in their lives.
2. Confirm their suspicions
Conspiracies, real and imagined, abound in times of economic stress.
Your customers see danger everywhere they look, and they wonder who is really there to watch over and protect their best interests and who is there to fleece them of their shrinking income.
Don't deny the reality your customers perceive. Don't argue about or ignore their fears. Put yourself in their shoes. Be on their side.
Recognize that the quickest way to bond and, most important, become an advocate on your customers' behalf is to first accept and validate (within reasonable limits) their viewpoint.
Then, once you've shown them you understand and agree with them, you'll find it much easier to persuade them of your viewpoint.
Switch their allegiance from fear and suspicion to fearlessness and confidence, and you'll immediately become their champion and protector.
After all, it's easier to close a deal and make a sale, even to a skittish and suspicious customer, when the customer trusts you—and sees in you a likeminded and kindred spirit.
3. Justify their failures
Don't make your customers feel like losers.
If they've yet to reach their goals, pat them on the back and then show them why.
There's a big difference between criticizing and critiquing. Be a mentor; help them see why they stumbled and fell and how they can pick themselves up and still reach the finish line.
Never put the blame solely on their shoulders.
Show them that many factors, often beyond their control, contributed to their failure, just as other factors equally beyond their control will determine the shape of their eventual success.
With your expert help, show them how you can decrease the number of failures they will face and how you will increase their odds of success, however defined.
4. Throw rocks at their enemies
This is too easy, and it's a cousin of No. 3.
Identify the immediate threat or obstacle confronting your customers' well-being, happiness, and success. Join them in a justifiable hate fest. Heap scorn, ridicule, and bad intentions on the perceived roadblock.
And then quickly move on. Don't wallow in that shallow pool, but splash there just long enough to gain your customers' attention and confidence.
Then, once you have made common cause with your customers—sharing the same enemy, and holding to shared goals and working together to achieve them—you'll be accepted on their team and into their inner sanctum as a trusted confidant.
5. Encourage their dreams
Isn't that what it's all about? Dreams and their fulfillment?
Without dreams what are we? Our dreams define us and are our life's work.
Some dreams are large and some are small, but all need more than just wishful thinking. They need the mechanism to make them come true.
What you market and sell are not made of metal, wood, plastic, gigabytes, or an intangible service—they are dream makers. They are magic and they are real.
And for your customers, your products or services are their best chance of reaching for the stars.
Do not deceive your customers into believing they can accomplish the impossible.
But if your product or service can make your customers' dreams come true, do not hide the truth; rather, proclaim it, prove it, and deliver it.
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When you do all the above, with style and grace, truth and honesty... your business will thrive in any economy.