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Five Tips for Stability in Any Recession

It’s all too easy to start running around with the rest of the Chicken Littles (including those who were first to see the sky falling). The recent recession was the nastiest recession the US had seen since the 1970s, maybe since the Great Depression. But as a business owner, you have obligations and responsibilities, not least of all your own interests.

Keeping your agency on an even keel through an economic crisis calls for hard work, dedication, and determined optimism. You can best serve the needs of clients and your own organization by following some key strategies for keeping your clients, replacing those you lose, and ensuring the soundness of your own business. The following tips apply in any recessionary economy.

Be Visible
Send clients an annual report letter recapping the current year's achievements and results, and looking forward to the coming year. Cite opportunities and suggest ways to continue marketing while reining in costs/expenses. Agency principals should proactively meet with or call key client contacts and ask if the agency can assist with any issues or concerns. Don’t wait for clients to call you—you may not hear from them at all.

Focus on Core Needs
In a recession, your clients pull back and adopt a more cautious stance regarding all expenditures, not just marketing. Be sensitive to this mindset and focus your efforts on the marketing needs that companies should never abandon (PR, strategic planning, customer service, etc.). Don’t push clients to test new media or untried projects unless you can reliably predict positive results. Recommend that non-essential programs or projects be selectively cut; clients will recognize that you are focused on their needs and will be more willing to talk about marketing that should continue through the downturn.

Proactively Suggest Solutions
Keep tabs on your clients’ situations and standing in their industries, and actively identify challenges and opportunities that the client (down in the trenches) may not be aware of. More importantly, recommend cost-effective tactics to address these situations. Clients operating in survival mode may be grateful that someone is keeping an eye on the larger picture and long-term prospects.

Pursue New Business
More than ever, regular new business pursuit is critical to your marketing firm’s survival. Focus on your prospecting A-list and regularly call your B list.  Should current clients falter or cut your services, you’ll have other opportunities in the pipeline. Move your new business plan into a “full court press.”

Maintain Perspective
The 2008-09 recession may have been the longest recession the US faced since the 3-1/2 years of the Great Depression, the recovery to which took far longer than anyone could have imagined when the stock market first failed in 1929. In such down economies, recovery can be a long hard slog back to stability, and many business practices will have altered beyond recognition by the time we recover. Recognize that business operations must change to meet the "new normal." Rein in your own expenses, make essential cuts, and work hard to stay positive for your clients’ and your employees’ sakes. This too shall pass.

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