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How to survive this recession? 9 life rafts to save you

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No more sales hacks, please. Stick to basics.

As I write this, yes, we are in the middle of a recession.

Middle as in not the middle of a storm but the middle of an open city sewer system!

It was evident from the numbers on TV, economists, and soothsayers way back in Q2 2019 that we were sliding.

What happens to all our business planning, forecasting, sales numbers, marketing budgets? Do we stop, continue or cut it short?

The strategy I recommend is to go back to basics — doing the most elementary and fundamental.

Recession according to Investopedia is “ a macroeconomic term that refers to a significant decline in general economic activity in a designated region”

We aren’t trees, we can move and the one that moves fast will move away from the path of this storm.

We are at our best during the worst

When are we most humble, most true, most hardworking, more hustling, more honest and wiser?

Yes!! Bad times bring out the best in contrast to free-flowing good times.

How did we survive 3 recessions?

  • The 2000 Dotcom burst
  • The 2001 9/11 crash and

The 2008–09 subprime crisis

I remember sitting at office in early 2008, trying to pitch to Canadian law firms, doing my prospecting activities and parallelly chasing news on on US companies collapsing on Wall St.

It was a build-up of bad news after bad news.

Incidentally, law firms were badly hit because of their insurance and real estate clients which triggered a decrease in a slow down in outsourcing activities.

It wasn’t grim news all over. Personally, I landed up with a good 60% salary hike in a high tech US company based out of Bangalore.

The business was booming and sales guys’ commissions hit an all-time high.

The secret was that from 2008 to 2011, we didn’t do anything different, did not change any strategy or react. Sales leadership was commendable and it stretched everyone to do their best.

We stuck to doing basic sales stuff each day, every day.

  • Closed 700K USD in 5 months
  • Closed 1.5 mn US the next year
  • As a team of 20 odd sales guys, we closed around 45mn year on year

And the best part is that all of this business was closed using email, phone, and webinars without traveling to the US!

Let’s deep dive into my 9 life rafts, for the choppy waters ahead.

1. Divide and rule (for B2C)

As HBR’s consumer behavior study, there are 4 kinds of people we get to see —

  • The first kind are the ones who slam their brakes on spending
  • These are the ones which will live with pain but will continue spending
  • The third kind will not compromise on their lifestyle and will continue to spend
  • The fourth kind live for today and they really don’t care what’s happening outside

During a recession take a hard look at your positioning and language. It’s time to invest in your softer skills, hire copywriters not coders maybe.

Is your solution appealing to people who need your product vs. who want your product?

Sell to the 3rd kind of people — they probably have a need for your service regardless of the price.

For example, if you were a nutritionist, instead of saying “our meals come at Rs 500 for lunch and dinner” say “our meals give you the results that you can’t live without”

Your positioning is instantly shifted to people who believe in results and “need” it.

Stop selling to people who would take ever to buy from you.

2. Positioning

My good old training states — Humans make decisions based on emotions and justify with logic.

Food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and healthcare are some of the evergreen and recession-proof businesses.

Can you align your business communication with one of the above 4?

Can you be the “food” for an online business?

Example “ your business won’t survive without my SEO”

Can you be the “shelter” for the fitness industry?

For example, “you can’t ignore your diet, you know my results. Sign up for the annual package, now!!”

During good times, your product was a “Revenue generator”. During the recession, position your product as the “cost saver”.

This is the time to be a better storyteller than ever. Read my blog on similar strategies.

3. Keep your enemies (competition) closer

While it is great to learn and love your competition, during an economic downturn, it becomes a dog eats dog world.

Look out more for your nearest tier of competitors — watch their traffic, their social media posts and follow them on LinkedIn more.

  • Are they going overboard with their marketing budget? Follow suit
  • Are they cutting down prices to kill you? Hold tight, increase your offerings
  • Are they doing worse than you expected? Buy them out or put them out of business

4. Overserve now!

During recessions, give more, serve more than you would normally do.

Your customers deserve this for keeping your lights on.

Your new customers would choose your over your competitor because of the high perceived value just created.

  • Create loyalty programs to give them more in return for referrals
  • Give them more of your offerings for the same price
  • Be creative with your pricing, instead of taking bulk, try a subscription model
  • Try deferring the billing for 2 months if they commit for a longer contract tenure

Listen more.

No company has ever shut shop because they over-served their customer. Jazz up your customer service.

You pick up the phone and call your customers instead of waiting for them to call you.

In fact, my favorite strategy is customer service.

It is the most potent, underutilized and underestimated marketing weapon of this century.

5. Your B2B strategy

Do not complain about stalled deals, decision-makers taking longer than usual and people pushing you hard to cut your pricing.

Anticipate such moves from B2B players.

Please understand that most B2B decision-makers are employees and they are appraised based on their key result areas (KRAs) of saving cost, saving time, and increasing revenue for their organizations.

Hence to eliminate risk, organizations go for a bidding strategy to find out the best service provider by seeking 3 quotations.

Put yourself in the shoes of your point of contact —

  • Is your product or service aligned to their KRAs?
  • Can you make them look good in front of their bosses?
  • Will they be promoted because they made a choice to side with your product?

You could be the best in the market, but when tough times arrive, the guy who makes the fewer mistakes with the cheapest price tag wins.

Think hard, if your deals are stalled, where can you over-serve, add value and make them look good.

6. Never stop marketing

Document case studies of your customers

How has your offering impacted customers’ lives — this story can be told in a single line.

  • Put out stories of them on Facebook, Instagram, youtube, WhatsApp. Your new customers will catch this vibe
  • Send questionnaires/polls to your new leads
  • Send google forms or survey monkey questionnaires to your new leads.
  • Ask them What do they want and what do they really want?
  • Polls can be done over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as well.

All these strategies don’t cost a dime. You shall reap a rich crop later on though.

7. Pricing strategy

The More your lock and make it difficult for people to try you out, the more difficult your sales will be.

Make your business, small like a street mom and pop shop where customers get to feel your product before making a decision.

  • Instead of taking money in advance, let them take you for a spin for a couple of weeks or months like what SaaS companies do with a 14 day free trial without a credit card.
  • Offer money-back money programs with no strings attached.
  • Offer monthly payments instead of bulk payments.
  • Learn from local bars, how they increase revenue by having “ladies only” Wednesdays. Can you offer something like this?
  • Don’t reduce your pricing — bundle more for the same amount. E.g. offer SEO along with a web designing package at the same cost

8. Good talent gets cheaper

The silver lining during a downturn is that good and great talented individuals are either out of jobs or not getting fat gigs.

Catch them cheap! Right away!

Don’t be an ambulance chaser but be the life raft for them.

I have seen great marketing freelancers, struggling to find meaty gigs because their large fat paying clients are gone.

This is the time to keep a close eye of such people on Upwork, LinkedIn and Fiverr to make your move.

They will also serve to survive this downturn along with you.

It’s a win-win.

9. More self-promotion

The best way to sell is to educate.

Attend more networking events, conduct more free webinars, answer more questions on Quora.

Read my blog on being a writer without a blog here.

If you are in the services business, educate your potential leads by taking a 2-part mini-email course.

No tech required. Create a course content and start sending out emails using Gmail.

None of the strategies I have mentioned so far required any capital investment.

If you have some cash, put it back into your business in the form of Google or FB ads to push those promotions, clear our inventories, get more leads.

In Closing…

When times are dull, spend more on marketing to invigorate the market. When times are great, you can afford to relax a little.

Be it your pricing, self-promotion or marketing efforts, these are like deposits that you will be making into your business, so that you can withdraw tomorrow.

Success during recession asks for your creativity, ingenuity and hunger to survive.

But the trick lies in digging the well before you are thirsty.

It will be easier to execute these strategies before recission hits you vs. you in the middle of it.

Karmeish Ghosh, is a Side Hustling Dad, Intrapreneur, author and a blogger on unorthodox sales strategies for tech companies. Lives in Mumbai, loves food, fast bikes and cars.

Get his free E-guide on Getting BPO Clients — click HERE

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