B-2-B companies need to think positively in a recession

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The Heartland Fund’s Hugh Dennison told the Milwaukee Rotary Club recently that one cannot be sure whether or not we are in a recession, only that the economy is mixed, at best. Some areas, like housing, are way down, while many small to medium-sized companies and businesses are doing very well.

Hugh noted that many newspaper reporters always seem to gravitate toward the negative.  This increases the buy-in that the end is near. Another real problem for everyone is the high cost of oil, because this can impede movement.

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For the purposes of definition then, let’s say we are experiencing economic uncertainty and "leaning toward" a recession, with no permanent fix in sight. As a B-2-B company, how can you grow your business in these uncertain times? Based on my 25-plus years marketing for industrial clients and the experience of successful companies, I would like to offer some suggestions.

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First and foremost, you should eliminate the word "recession" from your vocabulary.  Always think in more positive terms, such as we’re in a "correction" or a "restructuring" to account for current market conditions here and abroad. The result ultimately will be improvement, greater strength and more jobs for our economy and your company. That means also to try to avoid fretting about the daily shifts in the stock market; stocks usually rebound over time and our economy overall is solid. Try to insulate yourself enough to begin each day positively and with optimism.

Next, I think you should remain focused on your products, your services and your customers. Be sure to keep perfection as your goal in all of these areas and also in customer service and satisfaction. Call your best customers and ask them if the products or services they purchased are helping them and offer to do more. This builds trust. Also, keep communicating with your employees for their suggestions as to how you can better help your customers. Their jobs depend on it!

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In addition, keep looking for ways to reach prospective customers and go after them.  Consider new, non-customary ways to reach these customers that you may not have tried before, such as social media programs that may be appropriate for you. As a marketing manager, budget your time to call on customers you haven’t heard from for awhile, and new prospects, each day. And when you aren’t doing this, instead of reading negative news stories about uncertainty in the office, go out and network. Meet new people, learn new stories and laugh a lot.

Above all, position yourself and your company away from those who are spending hours that could be productive, standing still, talking and worrying about "recession." There are things you can do something about and some things you can’t. Just make sure that in marketing, do everything you can do something about, using the right words, tools, techniques and people.

I believe the outcome will be positive, regardless of economic conditions.

Phil Vollrath is a partner of Vollrath Associates Inc., a public relations and marketing communications firm in Milwaukee. He also is an adjunct instructor in the J. William Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.

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