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The Top Five Ways to Attract and Keep Customers in Any Economy

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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.

* * *

When you do all the above, with style and grace, truth and honesty... your business will thrive in any economy.

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Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter at Writing With Personality. For more, visit his blog Marketing Wit & Wisdom.

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  • by robert Tue Jan 12, 2010 via web

    looks like an excerpt from dr joe vitale's book 'buying trances', but without a credit...

  • by Tim Tue Jan 12, 2010 via web

    This type of article serves no purpose and adds no value for the reader. Nothing here is actionable. It's simply an aggregation of cliches. This is a classic "Top 5 Ways..." piece that offers a juicy title to get people to click on it (and if it's an ad, enter their information) and then offer the reader something he probably compiled during his 10-minute lunch break.

    A thoughtful article would have used real-life examples, anecdotes, concrete advice that can be implemented. All this "make their dreams come true" absurdity offers nothing, leaving the reader feel duped for reading it.

    I'm very surprised Marketing Profs chose to publish, as their content is usually good.

  • by Carter Tue Jan 12, 2010 via web


  • by Marcy Wed Jan 13, 2010 via web

    I liked it, it may have been fluffy or something obvious, but its always good to hear again.

  • by Sylvie Sun Jan 17, 2010 via web

    Great title but useless content. You guys are usually more pragmatic.

  • by Tegan Sun Jan 17, 2010 via web

    Another one to add to the Top 5 would be to 'Not waste their time.". I found the article was , whilst good as a reminder of that which we already know, did not provide the value that i was hoping i would receive by reading the Marketing Prof e-newsletter.

  • by Mayra Wed Feb 24, 2010 via web


  • by LIFT Sun Feb 28, 2010 via web


    Nothing to sink your teeth into.

  • by rockyj Tue Mar 2, 2010 via web

    Yes, there could be more meat to digest in your article Barry. I'm sure there is a time and place for that meat to be added to another article. Thanks for the reminder of the state of mind that many of our customers are in today.
    Healthy relationships all begin with understanding. Peace!

  • by Jeff Ogden Fri Mar 12, 2010 via web

    I'm not one to cast aspersions on an article, but I found it interested as a "we feel your pain" approach. But I side on making a difference for them, nurturing them, tracking their behaviors thought lead scoring, publishing great content and more.

    Businesses need to improve the way they engage prospective buyers. Spouting product specs and company jargon does not cut it anymore. New approaches are needed.

    Jeff Ogden, President
    Find New Customers "Lead Generation Made Simple"

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