by: M Dana Baldwin, Senior Consultant, CSSP, Inc.
In these uncertain times, it is very important to do things right, right? Absolutely! But doing things right is only good if you are doing the right things! What are some of the right things to do?
Make your company invaluable to your key customers. Your company should be focusing on serving your core customers to the best of your ability, so they will continue to buy from you, even if those purchases are at a much lower level during these trying times. But, are you really doing the right things to build your relationships with those key customers and clients that will keep them as customers when the economy finally does rebound and sales volumes really do increase.
One thing you should consider doing is working to become deeply integrated into your key customers’ operations. For example, if you supply components to a manufacturing company, are you working with their purchasing group to optimize value for your customer? If your customer does a lot of research and development for their product offerings, are you involved as a resource in the engineering and development areas of the company?
The purpose of these types of efforts is to become more important and more valuable to each customer. By becoming better integrated into the fabric of those customers, when a customer has a need you can meet, your company will be the first one they think to ask for assistance with their problems.
Get rid of those things that are no longer necessary to the mission of your company. Every company builds up things which are not necessary to the effectiveness of the core business during low volume times. Those things that are outside the core business arena, or are no longer used and likely won’t be needed in the future, should be trimmed if doing so will help lower costs, provide more liquid assets (cash) in place of the unused items, or free up space which could be better utilized, either now or when business picks up in the future.
Look to the future. Work hard at trying to predict where your markets will be headed once the economy starts to recover. Look for niches where your expertise and your customers’ needs match, and brainstorm solutions to their problems.
One approach is to develop new applications for existing products or services. One company which sold lasers for measurement systems determined that there was a limited but potentially lucrative niche in applying laser measuring systems to parts of wind generator units. While their original business segments are languishing, this new application is doing quite well. The potential volume is modest, but for a smaller company, it is a lifeline.
Another stratagem is to work hard to anticipate how your company can better be a part of your customers’ futures. Work to help them survive the slow times, and innovate so that you will be more valuable in the future. Building these relationships, especially if you can do it while others are husbanding their resources, will very likely enhance your competitive position not only now, but when the economy improves. It should result in your expanded relationships becoming that much better, and closer, for both.
M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.