In this post we talk about 7 survival tactics to help you as the business owner get through the challenging time during these challenging economic times.

1.Reconnect with your customers: Your customers need and want to hear from you.

This is the perfect time, in these times, to talk to your customers to see how they’re doing, what’s important to them and how they feel about your business. Customer surveys are a great way to ask customers about what they’re looking for, about what they want, and to get feedback about new products or services that might be of benefit to them.

We recommend Survey Monkey (we use it for printing everything from our invoices to our brochures) and Survey Gizmo (we use it to create and print professional-looking survey cards for specified groups using one of their templates).

2.Take care of your existing customers:Think about this from three different perspectives. Does that business currently need the products/services from you? If so, certainly your business is a candidate for continuity programmes, providing that business with continuity and security. But if your business does not currently need these products/services, it is not a good time (for any other reason) to invest in that business. Some restaurants, for example, start a loyalty card scheme. This gives customers a chance to earn discounts, and encourages them to become frequent customers. This is a great way of ‘keeping’ existing customers, but it also helps to bring in new customers.

3.Develop your customer relationships:This may sound counter-intuitive for many people, but it is actually a good time to develop some relationships with your vendors and suppliers. It is certainly a great time to follow up on some of your client relationships. Your salespeople need to be sure that they’re following up on all those accounts, referrals, or billable work, that you may have not followed up on in a while. Your food & beverage team, if you have food and beverage distributors, and your HVAC and plumbing teams, or your service teams, just to name a few will be challenged to be sure they deliver on those contracts. Your food and beverage distributors will be pressed to help you, the manager will be calling in to talk to his vendors, and they’ll need to be sure of their delivery in time for you to deliver on your client promises. If you don’t already have, a project manager will be there to work in real-time with the service manager to ensure positive delivery of your project.

4.Revitalize your team:Involve your team in the process by setting up stages of work to be completed by you, to get you through the rough patches, and to ensure that you have everyone taking responsibility for their specific part of the problem.

5.Get everyone excited about what you are doing.The single, biggest part of your plan for 2009, you will consider as the main reason for your business succeeding, will be that you will find ways to keep everyone involved and excited about what you are doing.

6.Create a plan to generate leads:In these economic times, it is critical that you create a plan to generate enough leads to last through all the tough economic times. Your plan should consider people and their needs.

7.Grow the value of your core-customer base:There are more contacts to convert to customers in these tough economic times than ever before… make sure that you are sure that your core-customer base, including your extremely loyal ones, are going to be the winners and be willing to leverage any opportunity to convert new potential customers.

These tips, nevertheless, will not make up for an economic downturn, and they are by no means the only way to tackle the challenges facing any business in these difficult times. But when all of your competitors are seeking bankruptcy, they will not be too busy in competing with you… and let’s face it, it probably wasn’t your fault for the past year. Remember that the first rule of business is…

“People buy when they are ready to buy, and are available to buy now”

… they will not be waiting until the next great opportunity to buy.