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123rf7592463 largeWith the country’s economy – and Alberta in particular – bracing for the longest slump since the 1980s according to the Globe and Mail, Canadian business owners are understandably concerned about how to weather the storm. But, as with every dark cloud, there are undoubtedly benefits to be found if you know where to look.

The primary advantage is that while everyone else is cowering in the root cellar, so to speak, the bolder among us are perfectly placed to take away market share from others.

The primary advantage is that while everyone else is cowering in the root cellar, so to speak, the bolder among us are perfectly placed to take away market share from others. There are a number of ways to do this, and if you need expert help to make it happen I have two words for you: Get it!

Invest in Marketing

You’ll often hear it said “without marketing there is no market” and that’s especially accurate in times when the market takes a tumble. I’m not talking about the financial markets, although those are usually also affected. I’m referring specifically to your target market—those people who need your products or services, and who have the power to choose whether to spend their money with you or your competitors.

The tougher it becomes to sell, and the less money available for customers to buy, the more critical it is for you to stand head and shoulders above other companies in your industry.

Make it your mantra to invest in your marketing, even while everyone around you is cutting back on theirs.

Make it your mantra to invest in your marketing, even while everyone around you is cutting back on theirs.

Grab Available Talent

A downturn usually means layoffs, or at the very least an increase in unemployment, and a slump of this magnitude is likely to have affected even companies’ top teams.

This is a very good time to review the structure of your organization and create new or fill existing key positions from the ranks of available talent. Employees at the top of their game don’t hang around collecting dust, however, so don’t wait or you’ll be disappointed.

Consider hiring a business management consultant or HR expert to help you find ways to attract the right people to take your company into the future—before somebody else catches them.

The Superior Propane Example

Ontario-based Superior Propane discovered the truth of this maxim recently.

By implementing a strategy aimed at developing and vetting the best people, they created a solution-focused sales organization.

By implementing a strategy aimed at developing and vetting the best people, they created a solution-focused sales organization. This means they are now delivering a value-based service to their clients, which is killing the previously-held “commodity” mindset.

The change has helped the company achieve a 180-degree turnaround in their culture, and they have been able to grow by 3 percent annually in a marketplace that is declining by 1 percent per year – every year!

Make Your Spend Work for You

It’s not enough to throw money (or time and other resources) at a problem

It’s not enough to throw money (or time and other resources) at a problem and expect a good result. You need to also review where you’re allocating your marketing spend and how you can really make it work for you. Get an expert in to help you identify how you could better spend your marketing dollars to make them really pull their weight.

This is particularly important if you’re still spending significant amounts on traditional marketing methods such as print advertising and direct mail. Digital marketing methods generally offer better returns for your spend than anything mass-produced, and perhaps it’s time to implement some powerful new thinking in your marketing strategy.

A Sustainable Response

During times of challenge it’s common practice to start questioning widely-held beliefs, even those that have worked for long periods in the past. You might not be able to answer the question of why the slump happened. Spend some time brainstorming ways to avoid diving alongside into that pool of despair over which you control nothing. Use the energy to inspire and help you implement a new approach, rethink old ways of doing things, question your assumptions, find pro-active cost-reduction opportunities, and improvements to your business efficiencies, new ways to win over and keep customers

(What do they gripe about? That’s your clue about what to fix, make their problem your problem.)

(What do they gripe about? That’s your clue about what to fix, make their problem your problem.) and become more agile and responsive.

In the Superior Propane situation, for example, growth continues because of the company’s ability to really understand their prospects and clients. By asking great questions, digging deeper to understand has become a core skill all of their team continues to develop. The shift in the culture’s attitude has been the foundation of the growth.

Productivity per sales representative was annually $115,000 gross profit and grew about 3 times to $271,000 per sales representative. With 60 reps across Canada that is $16.3 gross profit.

All this makes for a sustainable response to the challenge that ensures you won’t be sucked into a downward spiral.

All this makes for a sustainable response to the challenge that ensures you won’t be sucked into a downward spiral.

HVAC Industry’s Success

We experienced a similar reaction from the HVAC industry in Ontario. We approached five HVAC dealers and converted three of them in just four meetings. The end results? Read for yourself:

  • “I’m so much more organized. I am booked three weeks out and never looking for something to do.”
  • “We’ve had a 50% Increase in sales - in a soft market!”
  • “I’m now able to understand others’ needs and desires more accurately, earning the right (and gaining larger) contracts.”
  • “I am achieving so much more - in the same number of hours.”
  • “It’s a simple but effective process to earn the right response and get the order.”

Don’t wait for the slowdown to suck you in.

Don’t wait for the slowdown to suck you in. By acting now, gear up for a better way to respond to it than others in your industry. It takes work, and often requires outside help to achieve results like this. A company owner who sees the down economy as an opportunity where others see only doom, however, can

change their future by approaching it intelligently and resourcefully.

change their future by approaching it intelligently and resourcefully.

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