Having started our own business in a recession, we know all about how to trade in these times. There are two key choices:
1. You hide and panic and hope it gets better
2. You stride out confidently knowing it is as bad or worse for your peers and take the opportunity to grab their market share.
Too many businesses drift into receivership by quietly fading away with a whimper, but the best of us use it to adapt and possibly expand and help redefine what we do to make it far easier for our customers to connect with our businesses.
Only if you truly connect with your customers will they continue to trade with you.
There are three ways that we believe we act as customers.
1. Customers want real value.
This does not mean a cheap price, but a sensible price for a good quality product. We would say that it is more likely that people will buy fewer higher quality staples than lots of cheap poor quality products.
So with clothing it would be the likes of Primark who would see a negative effect as they are so dependent on high volumes. Those who concentrate on really looking after their customers and listening and acting on what they want, such as John Lewis and Next will almost certainly do very well in the long run.
They can even offer value ranges for those who wish to trade down without totally compromising on quality.
2. Customers are nervous about commitment.
Again, what this means to us is that the answer is NOT huge great lead times for when you have to pay for things. An ad on TV yesterday was claiming that you paid nothing until 2010 and then took interest free credit. That is just ludicrous and I’m sure it will not be what people want when they are nervous about what their future holds.
Make yourself easy to buy from and offer sensible value and your customers will remain loyal.
3. Customers only trust those they know.
If you have bought from someone before and you know they did a great job or provided a great product, it is more likely you will come back to them as a customer.
Therefore, use PR and advertising to show potential customers other satisfied customers and be loyal to them. Don’t go offering massive incentives to new customers and neglect the ones you have. It is far, far more sensible to build a business based on the ones you have already than always chasing after the next new exciting one on the horizon.
In summary, you have to be clearly differentiated in a way that is not just different for the sake of it but that offers a real and desired point of difference. This point of difference may be as simple as being consistently better in service than others (which is in itself harder to achieve than it sounds) – but whatever it is, you need to tell everyone about it in everything you do.
The days of mass branding are over. We do not want to be the same as everyone else, even if we do buy the same brands.
Branding is not rocket science, it is not just good design, it is a collaboration of clearly thought through common sense delivered through exceptional customer service and a product or service that matches and makes people feel good about their decision.
Treating every single customer as though they are important and valued individuals will ensure your business will not just survive, it will thrive and grow in this recession.
You can see this release on Pressbox by clicking here