Last night I went to a presentation sponsored by the Luxury Marketing Council called, “How to Survive in 2009“.
Seasoned marketing consultant Alf Nucifora gave some very practical advice, which I have pared down to focus on tips that are ideal for green businesses:
> One recommendation is to highlight your products or services that can be considered “luxury within reach“. Organic cotton towels, lotions with essential oils, beautiful bamboo bowls all come to mind, but services fit this bill as well–maybe prepared meals from locally sourced ingredients.
> Family friendly entertainment is big right now. People are staying home or are looking for “staycation” ideas.
> You might also focus on teens, who tend to have a high level of discretionary income (and from a project I worked on, I know that they influence almost all spending within a household).
> Position your product or service as a gift-giving option. Wealthy people aren’t as comfortable these days with conspicuous consumption, but it is still good to be generous to others.
> Deep discounting is happening everywhere. Can you be creative? Nucifora noted that even iconic NYC restaurants are offering 5 o’clock specials.
> Focus on quality of ingredients and that your green products have more value. Nucifora recommended focusing on craftsmanship and keepsake value, and for green products, you can feature the added value of lessening a customer’s impact on the environment.
> He also recommended taking risks you weren’t willing to take before–possibly trying new market niches. Experiment with new products or services or make new partnerships.
The second speaker was Greg Winston, promoting new book called “Opting for Opulence”, who reminded us about the importance of attitude. You can be depressed all day about the economy, or you can see it as a challenge and rise to the occasion. He recommended focusing on the positive things that happen each day and setting aside time to think about what CAN happen given the current environment. Every minute you spend thinking negative thoughts is one minute wasted, and now is not the time to waste resources.
For one thing, you might face less competition as only the companies who achieve true customer loyalty will survive.
Winston recommended having your team sharpen their people skills. Anyone on your sales team who just expects to take orders versus spending time getting to know customers has to go. Now is the time to let your customers know how much you value them and to look for additional ways to provide value to them.
As for getting new customers, Winston recommends turning to your network. By all means ask people in your network for help, but also remember to thoughtfully thank them for their time and assistance.
And as a recommendation about how to complete a sale in a difficult economy, Winston said to “create dissonance”, meaning create a vision for a potential customer about about what could be. Use language like, “Just imagine….” or “One day, your family can live in a toxin free home,” for example. Put the vision it into their heads, without telling them what they should do.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll see that there isn’t a magic bullet. Surviving 2009 is going to be a lot about basics and about working hard. It will be hard to find the opportunities, but they will be there.