Repositioning Your Business for the New Normal

My business partner and I attended an Agency Management Roundtable (AMR) meeting in early November with some pretty savvy marketing and public relations professionals who own small agencies across the country.  These entrepreneurs meet semi-annually to share best practices designed to improve the performance of their businesses.

After two days of swapping new ideas and advice about their agencies and doing business in a recession, it became clear that most of these agency owners face many of the same business challenges I do. Our discussion also reaffirmed that we need to plan for what likely will be the new “normal” way of doing business, even long after an economic recovery.

Here are a few of what we marketing types call the BGOs, or “Blinding, Glaring, Obvious” takeaways from my AMR experience. Many of these BGOs are not new concepts. But all are worth revisiting as we adjust our business plans for 2010:

Know Your Sweet Spot. Do you know your strengths, including which products and services produce the highest profits and share of revenues? Are you prepared to make changes to adjust or eliminate the less profitable products and services so you can focus on your sweet spot?

Know Your Competition. Do you know the difference between your products and services and those offered by your competitors? Can your customers tell the difference? If not, how are you going to make customers aware of these differences? Are you monitoring traditional and non-traditional competitors that can cut into your sales in 2010?

Know What Services Your Customers Will Need Before They Do. Are you keeping abreast of your customers’ industry trends and are you prepared to provide new offerings that your customers will need and expect from their business partner? We all know the high cost of losing repeat customers if they turn to one of your competitors because your company fell behind the curve.

Know How to Win and Keep Good Customers. In a recession we are more tempted to take on new customers that are not a good fit. Perhaps they ask for more than they are willing to pay, or they treat your employees poorly. Regardless of the situation, we need to focus on landing larger, quality clients that are a good fit. We also need to create a new business development strategy in which more members of our team are promoting our services and engaged with the entire sales process.

Know What It Will Take to Reposition Your Business. After you’ve completed a SWOT analysis of your business, do you know what you need to do to reposition your business to market effectively in the new economy? Are you prepared to enhance your company culture, attitude and team strengths to reposition your company?

Gone are the days when our phones rang off the hook and we scrambled to keep up with new business and unprecedented growth. The new normal requires us be more analytical about all aspects of operating and marketing our businesses. The good news is that the changes we make now to compete in this new environment will strengthen our businesses in the future.

Linda Welter Cohen, APR, is CEO of The Caliber Group, a brand marketing and public relations firm based in Tucson. She is a 2009 recipient of the Arizona Small Business Association’s SASIE (Southern Arizona Smart Inspiring Enterprise) Award and the 2009 Advertising Professional of the Year by the American Advertising Federation, Tucson Chapter.

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