Keys to client success in a recession

In spring of 2007, I heard an economist speak about the housing market and economy for the coming years and what it meant for business owners.

In spring of 2007, I heard an economist speak about the housing market and economy for the coming years and what it meant for business owners. At the time it scared me to death, but it certainly made me think. I came back to the office and started exclaiming, “Cash is king!” as we focused even more on client service.

Cash is still king, but this recession is different. In the last two downturns I've experienced during my career, communication is the first line item to be slashed from budgets. Not this time. This very publication is reporting even the financial sector is boosting its efforts to communicate their competitive advantages and the investment opportunities available.

Warren Buffet has a great quote: “Be greedy when others are fearful, and be fearful when others are greedy.” This is certainly applicable to communications.

We have our work cut out for us as we help our clients communicate their competitive advantages to target audiences and alleviate internal and personal concerns. How can we continue adding value to our clients during these scary times?

The answer is client service and more client service. Uncertainty about the economy and mortgage payments, or layoffs at work can lead people to withdraw into themselves. Clients are scared and we need to help them transform all that is negative into positive. We can help them be greedy while others are fearful.

A few ideas we use that keep our senior leaders at the table during economic downturns:

Use what you know about your clients' industries and write a white paper on the competitive best practices for them to use in their marketing materials and sales presentations, and on their Web sites. Create proactive, one-page tips and tools for every subject, from blogging and social networking to employee and crisis communications.

Help your clients focus on building their media, customer, and community relationships in order to increase the viability of their product or service.

Provide solutions that help your clients eliminate dangers, capture opportunities, and reinforce strengths. Watch the trends and use new ideas to infuse new creativity.

Consider business growth opportunities your own company is using and package those ideas as case studies for success for your clients.

The Financial Times recently reported CSR is going to be the first communication to be cut from budgets. Educate your clients on how important CSR is to a long-term business strategy and how cutting it one year hurts more than it helps.

While no industry is recession-proof, it should come as no surprise that everyone needs to communicate in order to stay in business. It's the job of each one of us to find new and different ways to help our clients do just that in order to make it through the financial crisis.

Buffet also says, “If you wait for the robins, spring will be over.” Use this economy to help your clients grow so they're looking for the robins now and not when they've hatched.

Gini Dietrich is the CEO of Arment Dietrich.

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