The upside to a recession

recessionWhen we talk about a recession, we don’t usually tell happy tales. We talk about struggles, cutbacks, and loss. If you were old enough to be in the workforce, own a home or business in that 2007-2010 season, you remember the challenges that we all faced, personally or professionally.

But from a marketing perspective, I think there are a few outcomes from that recession that we should actually be grateful for, as we look back on that time period. I’m not saying I’d like to go through it again anytime soon, but I do appreciate the discipline and learnings it offered us.

You had to be good to survive: In many industries, there was a glut of competition prior to the recession. People, products, and businesses could be mediocre and still survive. When the recession hit, it culled out those who were not offering services or products of high quality. If you were left standing it meant you were delivering something of genuine value.

The recession spotlighted trends we needed to be cognizant of moving forward: When every dollar is a precious one, people spend much more judiciously. It was a forced R&D era for many of us as we tried new offerings and stopped promoting the things that no one seemed interested in buying. Business owners and leaders got a clear understanding of how the marketplace perceived them and what they had to sell.

We learned how to demonstrate our value: There was no option – we had to sell based on value. Getting someone to even listen to your sales pitch meant you had to be proving an ROI or you weren’t going to get past hello. If we couldn’t clearly communicate how what we sold was going to enhance the buyer’s work or life, it didn’t get bought.

We valued and rewarded loyalty: The recession reminded us just how valuable our existing client base was to our business and our spirits. It was easy to get discouraged and worried back then, so when a client came back with their trust and their wallet – it not only helped pay the mortgage but it was affirming in a time when everything seemed so hard.

We got back to basics and realized the importance of them: When you are scrambling for sales, trying not to avoid having to lay people off and counting every penny, you scale back to the basics. This wasn’t just in terms of how we spent our marketing dollars but in how we ran our businesses in general. Marketing tactics like word of mouth were critical to our survival. To earn that word of mouth, we invested more deeply in our clients and solving their problems.

We lost our complacency and got innovative: When your back is against the wall, you get creative. Many companies, as they got very honest with themselves about their lackluster sales, re-invented some aspect of their offering. Our products and services improved as we fought to stay alive and earn and keep our customers’ attention and loyalty.

Our people got better: One of the best outcomes of the recession was that we had time to invest in our team. When sales were lean, we still had to keep everyone productive. Many organizations invigorated their internal culture to embrace more peer-to-peer learning and teaching.

The recession forced us to improve our offerings, our communications, and our team. The real question is, have you sustained those practices or has our recent economic good fortune allowed you to get a little out of shape again? Recessions are cyclical, and many believe we’re due for another soon. What could you do now to get ready?

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