Doing well in a downturn? It’s a (Fe)breeze!

May 21st, 2008 Posted by B2B Selling 1 thought

man holding his nose

You’ve seen articles in plenty of places (including this blog) on how to survive the economic downturn. And the advice is interesting, with the messages that different sages are delivering. It seems you should:

  • Curtail spending…or spend boldly to gain share.
  • Focus on your core business…or diversify more.
  • Prospect heavily; potential clients are desperate … or prospect less; concentrate on keeping current customers happy.

See? The answer is simple.

But permit me to throw one more thought on the pile. The fact is, some brands and companies do well during tough times. And B2B marketers might learn a few things if they looked more closely at the sometimes less-than-obvious reasons why.

For example, you might think that air freshener would be one of the first items scratched off the shopping list when the family budget tightens.

If so, you’ve got another sniff coming.

A recent article in the The Cincinnati Enquirer, on Proctor & Gamble’s home turf, mentions that the sales of Febreze Air Freshener have remained strong. And it quotes Martin Hettich, P & G’s “air care market director for North America,” on why he thinks that is happening.

“What we’re finding is that people are cutting down on their trips to the mall, they’re eating out less; by virtue of spending more time in their home, they actually want to make sure their homes smell nicer,” Hettich said.

At first I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t think of a better explanation. And I was forced to admit I would never have thought about that. And it led me to wonder what B2B marketers might learn if they thought a little deeper about what their customers and others are thinking and feeling in the face of an economy that, well, stinks.

Purchases involving big capital investments are hard to come by these days; customers are making do with what they have. Are you simply mourning that fact, or telling them about our servicing capabilities that will help their current equipment perform better?

If our customers’ employees are less busy, is it a good time to suggest training sessions or other programs you could offer that would add to their efficiency now, and maximize their output when better times return?

If customers are reluctant to entertain our sales people under these conditions, is this a time to replace the usual sales call with an empathetic, relationship-building visit from one of our top executives? Could pay big dividends later.

If you’ve been considering email or viral marketing or some other kind of electronic customer communications, now might be a great time to try it. It won’t squeeze big sales out of our economic turnip, but you’ll gain experience in using it. And our customers might be more inclined to read it than during business boom cycles.

Employee morale is probably a little low, and job security a worry. Perhaps this is an excellent time to hold informal snack and beverage gatherings and share information with them frankly. Or to pull that old employee newsletter out of mothballs and use it on a more regular basis to disseminate information and build some camaraderie.

Of course, your product may not be in the right place at the right time, like Febreze. But if spend a little more time looking at things through your customers’ eyes, you just might come up with a fresh approach.

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1 thought on “Doing well in a downturn? It’s a (Fe)breeze!”

  1. Mac McIntosh says:

    Mike,

    Viewed through the lens of a down economy, you can often come up with reason why they need your products or services even more now than before. For example, stressing the overall cost-savings your product gives them, or the reduction in cost of raw materials.

    Or you can adapt what you sell for the times. Such as your suggestion about selling service rather than capital equipment. Or maybe promoting lower-priced refurbished equipmen. Or leasing as a more affordable option to purchasing.

    Another thing to consider is when sales are down 50%, half are still buying! The CFOs at many companies cut marketing during these difficult times. But those compamnies which continue to invest in marketing often close more of the fewer sales available, then exit the downturn on a sales tear.

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