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April 2012

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Creating Opportunity out of Change

by: Jeanette McMurtry

A lot of us might think there’s less to cheer about as all the world changes around us. Yet, with change comes many opportunities that we may have missed otherwise. And more often than not, those result in plenty to cheer about.

At times like these, our biggest challenge is to think beyond. Beyond traditional means of doing things, beyond our existing revenue streams, and beyond our current customer relationships. We have to think well beyond the competitive boundaries we have set for years.

So here are some “beyond” ideas to get you thinking.

Change 1:

Collaborate. Stop competing and start collaborating: Instead of watching your competitors struggle with the same issues you do, and waiting for them to drop; call them. Explore ways you can combine resources to go after bigger accounts than you could win on your own. Discuss how you can collectively build your business category so in the end when the markets come back you all fare well together. Your resources, marketing, people, and time, can do more together than apart competing with each other publicly, as that is expensive and rarely pays off.

Change 2:

Train. When markets slow, customer acquisition marketing is not always the best bet for kick starting sales revenue. As we all know the fastest way to is to get more from your existing customers, and to do everything you can to keep them active vs. dormant or lose them altogether. Spending money on new marketing programs aimed at existing customers is a must; yet so is refining your sales process in order to support new offers and incentives. If you’ve been struggling on whether or not to spend money training your sales team, now is the time to make the commitment. You need to reenergize your sales staff by inspiring them with new ideas for improving customer relations, maximizing customer value, up-selling, cross-selling and most importantly, becoming solutions partners vs. order takers. Your sales training should emphasize how to get the most out of existing customers, and enlist their support in generating new leads. Programs I have been involved with have for the most part paid off more quickly that most traditional marketing means. It will also help you identify your weak links in sales, those that can’t nurture relationships to increase loyalty and value.

Change 3:

Market. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive ads to keep your visibility up. There are plenty of things you can do to keep your brand out there in good times and bad. Send out press releases to your local newspaper about industry trends, business updates and changes. Sponsor a community event like a soccer tournament or ski race. Buy weather sponsorships on your local radio stations as they provide great name exposure at significantly lower rates than regular advertisements. Whatever the venue, find ways to keep your name visible among the people in and supporting your market.

Change 4:

Give. This isn’t about the spirit of the season. It’s about serving your community in good times and bad. Staying visible in your communities and your business markets is the best thing you can do for the short term and long term. If money is tight and charitable donations not in your budget, give your time. Volunteer to help your community hospitals, food bank, homeless or women’s shelters. Volunteer for local professional organizations. Help solicit donations for their fundraisers, or line up sponsors for their events. While you do this, you keep visibility for your business, and send the signal that you are still in business. And when the market returns, a perception of stability and visibility will be key.

Change 5:

Change. Change your product mix. If you’re in the business of selling equipment, and no one seems to be buying right now, identify other things you can sell right now to keep your bottom line alive. Survey your customers and ask them what they need most to support the products you’ve sold them in the past. Do you need to broaden your offering of ancillary products or maintenance programs and put more effort into selling annual contracts? Is there an opportunity to consult companies on how to manage their inventory and equipment costs for the coming year? Again, these may not be your bread and butter revenue streams, but they keep you actively engaged with customers who will need to buy again, and they provide some revenue, and at difficult times, something is better than nothing.
As scary as the current changes in our world might be to all of us, health care companies not excluded, there are numerous op. It’s truly a matter of kicking the fear of uncertainty out of our psyche, and finding ways to change. The companies that are able to do this will survive and emerge stronger.

Jeanette McMurtry is a sales training and marketing consultant specializing in healthcare and direct marketing. She is an author and keynote presenter on innovative strategies and techniques for increasing customer value through engagement and emotional marketing. Jeanette can be reached at and 970-390-6909.

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