With 2008 providing us a maelstrom on the economic front, it is no wonder that businesses are looking at 2009 with a wary eye.  Here are some tips on how companies can cope in the times ahead.

  1. Focus on the customer – When the economy gets tough, it gets tempting to cut back on what we may see as “frills” that we give to customers.  But, as Sam Walton of Walmart said, "There is only one boss - the customer.  Customers can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending their money somewhere else.”

  2. Give unique value – Do you have something that makes you stand apart?  If not, then it's time to discover, define and, if necessary, create a value that is unique to you and your company. Be prepared to adjust or rework some of your products or services in order to support your vision for standing out.  There are many strategies out in the market to go about doing this (e.g. Blue Ocean Marketing).  Whatever your strategy, the first step in creating a unique value proposition is to find out what your competitors do well and then find a way to do it better.

  3. Market, market, market – Cutting down on marketing, even in an economic downturn, may be equal to business suicide.  The important thing to remember is to have the capability to increase marketing efforts without increasing costs.  This may take some creativity, but there are simple ways of doing this, such as: getting in touch with old customers (they can be a great source for new business); and offering customers freebies (the AOL strategy – one of the biggest internet companies in the US, that started out by offering free CDs to customers, a strategy they use to this day);

  4. Be honorable-  Many tragic events in these times have increased feelings of distrust across the board. To set yourself apart, go out of your way to conduct business in an honorable manner. Bend over backwards to be fair about refunds and exchanges. Do all you can to act in the customers' best interest. Honorable actions can hurt a little in the short-term, but the payoff  is remarkably quick and well worth any sacrifice you may have had to make. In the final analysis, having a reputation for being trustworthy can be the most precious marketing asset of all in the times ahead.

  5. Stay on course - We have to remember that economic cycles are periods of change just like the seasons.  Take the chance to look at the opportunities to be had with the times, and learn to ride with the waves. As Warren Buffet, investment guru, says,  “A market downturn, doesn’t bother us. For us and our long term investors, it is an opportunity to increase our ownership of great companies with great management at good prices. Only for short term investors and market timers is a correction not an opportunity.”