The excitement of an economic boom is intoxicating.
I lived and worked in Silicon Valley right in the middle of the "web crack" growth period. There was a buzz in the air that lifted everyone’s feet a few inches off the ground. People were meeting and pitching and partnering and hiring and planning on taking over the world. Consulting work was abundant, and projects always grew in scope. Engineers straight out of college got BMWs as signing bonuses.
Then, the crash.
Bravado turned to desperation. Buildings were shuttered, cars were repossessed, up-and-coming engineers moved back in with their parents.
If I see one more news story about the rising price of gas, I am going to throw my television out of the window.
Things are tough right now, that is for sure.
BUT WE ARE NOT DEAD!
Every economic downturn has tremendous potential for the few smart people who choose to see it as an opportunity to shake things up.
If you are a business owner, this is what you should do right now:
- Make your customers feel better and safer. No matter the market or industry, people are skittish. How can you bring a feeling of safety, comfort and security to every interaction with your customers?
- If you have a cafe, clean up and make things cozy. Turn the chairs towards each other. Invite great speakers and musicians to come in for special events. Play good music. Provide great reading material. Connect people with each other.
- If you are a financial planner, stop harping on retirement and start helping your clients ease their money pressures today. Be positive and encouraging. The news covers gloom and doom exceptionally well, so give people hope!
- If you are a coach, help your clients get in touch with their inner strength and sense of humor.
- You know those people in your life you call when you have a crisis? Be that person. Let your empathy, clear mind and optimistic attitude be your customer’s rock.
- Find new ways to squeeze blood out of a turnip. You may not have needed to look at the economics of your life or business while things were good. Now that they are tight, find any way to prune, cut or reduce unnecessary expenses. Examine your business processes and cut anything extraneous. You might look to outsource certain tasks (which costs money) so that you can totally focus your energy on strategic efforts (like working with more clients, finishing projects, speaking and marketing, which will more than pay for your outsourced efforts) Seth Godin suggests only investing in things that will increase in value: your business, your house, your education.
- Rethink your market. Here in Phoenix, Arizona, we are experiencing our own economic nightmare in the real estate industry. Many formerly successful agents are in panic mode, desperately trying to sell homes in a spiraling market. But a few smart ones retooled their businesses to help people manage the foreclosure process on their homes. They are taking their knowledge of the market and customers to provide a useful service.
How do you find your new markets? Ask the following questions:
- What is happening in my industry? (businesses are consolidating, individuals have less discretionary income, gas prices are driving product costs through the roof, etc.)
- Which problems do these changes create? (business launches are delayed, capital spending is curtailed, credit scores fall with late payments, etc.)
- How can I use my skills to provide a solution to these problems? (instead of helping people leave jobs today, help them learn as much as they can in current job; instead of helping them buy new computers and servers, teach them how to get most out of what they have; instead of selling costly in-person events, create useful, cheaper virtual events that don’t require travel,etc.)
- Show customers the quickest path to money.
- If you are a VA or copyrighting type that works with service professionals, do you know that thousands of them have e-books or audio products or workshop ideas that are 80% done, sitting in a folder on a hard drive somewhere gathering electronic dust? If you know how to finish and launch a project, create a "we get it done and out the door!" program. Most people get stuck in the last 5% of the project (setting up the shopping cart and sales page, formatting the ebook, etc.), so help them complete things in the quickest way possible.
- Reduce/reuse/recycle. Many people think they need to create totally new material all the time for products or services. You don’t! Help your client create a killer workshop out of a great series of blog posts. Turn a popular series of podcasts into an audio product. Use your imagination — how can you repackage what you already have and sell it?
- Find complementary partners
Almost everyone is feeling the pinch drumming up business alone. But what if you looked for partners that bring complimentary services to your business? The example that jumped to mind is personal organizers teaming with eBay experts. You could come up with a package to guarantee that you can cover the cost of your services (and more) by not only clearing out junk, but reselling it to the right places.
- Monetize the little things
Are you like me and recommend the same people and services over and
over? I have gotten really lazy with affiliate links since I don’t
want to appear greedy or self-interested. Really, I am being silly by
leaving perfectly good diaper money on the table. Here is a guideline
- Only promote really great products and services you believe in. If you don’t believe in them, don’t promote them.
- If you use affiliate links, let people know.
- Done – conflict of interest solved. If anyone disagrees, ask them
to kindly buy your diapers (or toner cartridges or whatever you spend
your money on) for you.
- Do what you are meant to do
JK Rowling gave a wonderful address
to Harvard graduates last week where she spoke of failure and
imagination. Describing the place from which she wrote Harry Potter,
"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure
meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to
myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct
all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I
really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the
determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.
I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and
I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had
an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid
foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
- SAY SOMETHING AND MEAN IT!
The time for a safe and boring brand is gone. If you whither up and
shrink as the market gets scared, kiss off your business.
Instead, do what marketing freight train Peter Shankman is doing to the
PR peers in his market — kicking their ass! His Help a Reporter service is powered by the most basic technology: an aweber
mailing list service and a web page with a form. With these simple tools and a gigantic personality, he is connecting with top media organizations and providing a very useful service. He is leading his market, and
having fun doing it.
I can’t be the only one sick of cowering in the shadow of terrible news. What are your ideas for blasting through this crisis/opportunity?