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Marketing In A Recession

Updated on August 29, 2012

Marketing

This lens is about Marketing in a tough economy and surviving by putting your customers first. The paper was written as an essay and all words are original. In-text citations and references are also included. The writing was my final essay at Everest University Online and hopefully gives encouragement to those needing direction in the areas to address for their business.

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Connecting With Clients In A Recession

This is a complete essay on Marketing In A Recession by Janet Deskins 2011

Connecting With Clients In A Recession

Connecting with clients during a recession can be quite difficult if you don't know how to present yourself or company. Business owners who successfully connect with clients during a recession need to provide excellent customer service, advertise wisely, market their products/services, connect with the right clients, and prepare for the economy to pick up again. In order to protect a business, owners and managers need to first evaluate the customer service they provide. Advertising and marketing a product or service is crucial as well, even during a recession. Once you cover these key points, your business will have more of a chance in surviving these slow economic times and will be ready to thrive when the market increases.

Customer service may seem like a basic form for any company to follow, but during a recession the way in which a business handles its customers can make or break it. According to Dan Jones (2011) of Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, "We train our employees to greet each customer as they come into the store. Our customers are guided through the process if they are a first time visitor. There is also a rewards program that gives the customer back $5 for every $50 they spend. Repeat business is the backbone of our success." In Lakeland, Florida, Auto Masters was facing roadside construction that hindered customers needing automotive repairs from entering their establishment. So they took drastic measures and decided to go to their customers. They began providing incentives and also went after corporations with fleets of vehicles. These fleet contracts have allowed them steady monthly business by providing repetitive maintenance.

Design by JanetD
Design by JanetD

The Recession of 2008 Continues

When the recession hit in 2008, a report in Business Week's 2009 "Customer Service Champs" report showed an increase of 18% in sales at Amazon.com and also rated them as number 1, due to superior customer service. (Humphrey, 2011) Amazon stated that their customer service representatives who hold at least a two year degree are able to handle critical thinking and stress better than other representatives. They were shown to have a better understanding of psychological issues and provide good communication skills. Customer service is more than just talking to a person on the phone or face to face. It involves interaction that invokes empathy, understanding, genuine concern for a particular situation, knowledge of the product or service, friendliness, and gaining trust of that customer so they want to come back.

There is an old saying of, "For every dissatisfied customer, they tell three people. But for every satisfied customer, they may tell one." This may not sound like an important statistic, but it is. Providing poor customer service spreads faster and can ruin a company pretty much over night. Whereas gaining loyal customers and their trust, slowly grows the company into a solid foundation that will withstand tough economic times. However, for any and every bad customer experience issue, it's a chance for the company to make it right and correct any problems in order to regain their customer's trust. When Jaguar heard that their cars from the 1960s-70s were poorly made and that customers said, "If you're going to buy a Jaguar, buy two-one to drive and one for parts!", they had a decision to make. So they changed the way they handled warranties and completely rebuilt their vehicles. By the 1980s they gained back customer loyalty and were only second in customer satisfaction to Mercedes-Benz. (Humphrey, 2011). Sites like Yelp.com influence consumers because it is not only user-driven online by the area you live in, but they provide a smartphone application that allows people to rate them on the spot.

Marketing Your Business During A Recession

Many business owners may complain that spending money during a recession is the last thing they want to do. However, this is not the time to back down on advertising and marketing. There are several methods to promoting a business and they include, but are not limited to the following:

* Social networking on places such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Yelp, websites, E-mail blasts and newsletter, smartphone Apps, and blogs/vlogs.

* Developing a customer rewards program that gives incentives for repeat business like coupons, additional discounts and/or a free item(s).

* Face to face meetings or word of mouth introductions, whether at a business or social gathering.

* Vehicle magnets or wraps, business cards, fliers, and post cards.

* Large-scale marketing that may include mobile or stationery billboards, newspaper and/or magazine advertising or article write-ups and press releases.

* Barter services/products with other business owners during this time.

Simon Judd, (2011) the owner of Auto Masters stated, " We have also decided to hire a Marketing Representative that is creating a website for us and our customers; he'll go business to business and introduce our shop to prospective clients and we'll continually pass out fliers." Office supply stores and print shops can provide company materials, without the need to invest in high-priced equipment. (Sugars, 2008)

Your own company website also needs to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. During this time of "rebuilding", make sure your own presence is known through the Internet. Confirm that all of your product pages are correct and that all Internet browsers can view your site. If you have created a "smartphone app", make sure it's viewable by all phones. The one misunderstood "feature" that many business owners ask of me, as a Web Designer, is to put "flash" on their website. I have to continually advise these business owners that "flash" is not viewable with MacIntosh's Apple products. And considering the iPhone is one of the most popular cell phones with "apps" on the market, it's not a very wise decision to create a website that uses all flash. Nor is it wise to use flash for an application (app), which is a smaller version of your website. Sure, it may look great, but how many potential clients are you losing? When they attempt to pull up your website on their Apple product, all they see is a little blue box, where the flash material would go. Flash is also not searchable by Internet robots and therefore defeats old-fashioned typed text onto a webpage. Always remember that you have approximately 2-3 seconds to grab a person's attention before they move onto another website. Make your site attractive and informative. Hire a professional Web Designer that designs with a marketing aspect always in mind. And one that understands the wide range of users.

Connecting With Your Clients

Connecting with the right clients may sound easy, but many fall into the trap of limiting their market of customers to a very small demographic or social area. Lehrer (2010) reported on a study done by a sociologist at Princeton. This study was done with 766 student graduates who all started their own businesses after college. He found that the majority of them stayed socially connected within their own realm of thoughts and business. Even though they all wanted to interact with others outside of their circles, only a few graduates did so. Those graduates who connected better socially, had what is called "weak ties". These ties were people who had other interests, but still needed the product or service offered by these few business owners. The other businesses fell into the trap of being self-segregated. This study holds true for online social networks and why we see so many companies adding a "Facebook" logo to their product labels and logos.

Thomas Fletcher, (2011) co-owner of TJSystems.biz offers health and beauty supplies to customers via the Internet. He states that their company hasn't been affected by the current recession and that they use a lot of heavy street teams to reach their customers. They also utilize many of the above strategies in order to keep in constant contact. Fletcher believes that many owners and managers blame the slow economy for their lack of focus on growing their business. He feels that this is the time to be "pounding the pavement" for customers.

Prepare For The Economy To Pick Up

Preparing for the economy to pick up again is the homestretch that doesn't have to be a hard one to follow. Donald Trump (2008) said, "Having confidence in yourself is key to being resilient and staring adversity in the face." He also stated that in the early 90's when that recession hit, everyone expected him to fail and were predicting his downfall and financial ruin. It was his ability to "never give up" that brought him back around. This was a time when people avoided him and the world made fun of him. Trump also suggests to ask yourself, "What am I pretending not to see?" (Trump, 2008). When you look at yourself and your business through another person's perspective, you will see things and be able to fix areas that you never noticed before. You will be able to grow and connect better than ever before. The point here is to not get so involved in being the best, but knowing where you need improvement and remain confident enough to get through it.

Now is when companies need to retrain their staff, possibly hire temporary employees and simply invest into building a solid team of workers. Raising staff morale is also important, for if your employee feels valued, they will in turn give that back to your customers in how they interact. Every business owner needs to realize that every single employee "is" the company. They are the "face" to the customer. You can even use online services, such as Guru.com to find freelance workers to accomplish what you need in the form of administrative and other services. (Sugars, 2008). These freelancers offer professional services, but without the need for you to provide any benefits. You are able to pay the higher rate they may demand, get high-end work and succeed in looking professional to your clients. Even virtual assistants are available and can handle all of your administrative needs, including phone calls and typing correspondence. It is also during this time that the social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter can be used to connect with customers and motivate them to buy from your company. These sites keep your company in continual contact on a daily basis with real-time benefits. Since these social sites are accessible through both a computer and smartphone, it's easy for one person to control the content and interaction with current and potential customers. It's simply another form of customer service and your company keeping up with the times. Not only that, but social networks don't cost anything to start or keep up. Therefore, it's a win-win for everyone involved.

Another aspect to consider in this preparation process is to research if the product or service you offer is considered "middle market." Middle market is that area between high-end service and products and the lower-end market. If the business product or service you are in can be found elsewhere for cheaper, meaning the customer can either hold off purchasing or using it, do it themselves, or go to another company, then you need to reconsider what you are selling or offering. This is when focusing on a necessity-based product or service is crucial. (Sugars, 2008). If you do offer a middle market product or service, try to find a niche' that will set your company apart from others. (Trottier, 2009). Check and see if possibly offering a delivery service is an option that competitors don't provide. Necessity-based products/services are those that are consumable or make people feel that they just "have to have it" and may fill a need or function. Some of these products/services can be auto repair and maintenance items, food products/services, personal hygiene products, and communication services that include both printed materials and electronic items.

Discussing strategies with other business owners is another way to prepare for when the economy regains strength. When a business owner is doing well, they normally like talking about their business and all of the things they are doing or have done to make a profit. Checking personally with other owners and even looking at online discussion boards can help give ideas in how to handle certain aspects of growing your own company and connecting with customers. Sending out a Press Release to the local newspaper on staging a "Grand Re-Opening", for example, will offer free advertising to your business and also send it throughout the media marketplace and help you gain exposure beyond just your local area. You can also target other business owners that may have a use for your product/service. Most importantly, don't fall into the trap of doing nothing at all, as your business will surely fail. Stay positive and use this time wisely in order to remain on top and succeed.

Focus On Your Customer

Focus on keeping your current customers satisfied and you will also gain new ones. By offering incentives, great service and keeping in contact with them regularly through continual advertising and marketing, you gain strength and trust. Provide excellent customer service so that your clients will want to return and tell others about your product or service. Spend money on advertising and marketing in order to keep your company in the forefront of potential customers, as this creates a vision of success. Follow the methods mentioned above and watch your company thrive in any economic situation.

Social Media Helps from Amazon

Here are some items that may also help you in social media networking.

References

Granat, J. P. (1994). Persuasive advertising for entrepreneurs and small business owners: how to create effective sales messages. Binghamton, NY: The Haward Press, Inc.

Humphrey, D. D. (2011). 21st century business customer service. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

Lehrer, J. (2010, July 22). The frontal cortex. The secret of successful entrepreneurs. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/07/the-secr... entrepreneurs/

Sugars, B. (2008, May 13). 6 strategies to recession-proof your startup. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/startingabusiness/star...

startupbasicscolumnistbradsugars/article193868.html

Trottier, R. M. (2009). Middle market strategies: how private companies use the markets to create value. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Trump, D. J. (2008). Trump never give up: how i turned my biggest challenges into success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

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    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Interesting and useful read. Thankyou.