Friday, October 3, 2008

The Upside of a Down Market

There are companies who are actually doing well amid today's economic turmoil. Do you believe me? Well, it's true.

I know, today's economy is a mess. First, we had the subprime mortgage crisis, which burst the American housing bubble and led to serious loan defaults. Then, the high price of gasoline and increased food costs have encouraged Americans to tighten their collective belts. Now, we have the unstable financial sector with mergers, buyouts, and government bailouts.

But, there are companies who are thriving and growing. I have talked to to them. One company is in the business of converting structured settlements into cash. Ah, light bulb. You can see how this company could do a booming business right now. They can appeal to people who are feeling the crunch and want to access additional money. Makes sense.

Another company helps car dealerships create custom websites. They have found that dealers are cutting back on their traditional marketing efforts, but feel that a custom website is a cost-effective way to provide valuable and relevant information to customers and prospects.

What can we learn from these two companies? Well, several things:

1. Find your niche.
Both of these companies are focused on a highly specific product or service. They have found what they do well, and that's ALL they are doing. I am constantly surprised by the number of companies who try to do everything. I recently read an article about a search engine company that is dabbling in finding new sources of energy. Do those businesses go together?

2. Focus on the positive.
Both companies have found positive ways to help their customers. They could use scare tactics and focus on the negative aspects of the economy. But, they aren't. They have positioned their products and services positively as a good financial decision. People are smart, and they know when they are being treated with respect.

3. Be enthusiastic.
Both companies are very passionate and excited about what they do. And so are their employees. From talking to their sales staff, you can immediately tell that they love what they do, and they believe in their products and services.

4. Provide great service.
Now more than ever, customer service matters. These companies serve their customers and they are happy to do it. They keep their word and deliver what they promise.

5. Evaluate your products and services.
Are you offering something of value to today's customers? If not, it may be time to modify or improve your product offering. If you're a restaurant, you may find that more people are eating at home to save money. Maybe you could offer a special family night, or create a family take-out menu with discounted pricing to encourage customers to come to your restaurant. If you're a jewelry store, customers may be cutting back on luxury purchases. You may need to evaluate your inventory to see if you can offer more cost-effective products. Or, think about added services such as free cleanings and free prong checks to make sure the stones are secure. This can create more store traffic and help with sales.

Think about companies that you know are doing well. What can we learn from them? If you have more examples of companies who are thriving, let me know!