While the current business environment isn’t as great as we all wish (far from it) and there are plenty reasons to remain concerned, it’s a great opportunity to win new accounts and strengthen relationships with existing customers. The business environment is far from perfect, but opportunity is everywhere.

Here is a fact: In bad times, the strong and smart thrive. The weak fold.

For those of you that are good great at what you do, these are truly exciting times. Stop listening to all the gloom-and-doom news and keep doing what you do great. For you, things may tighten, but you’ll likely be wealthier and better positioned in your market when the economy returns to a commonly accepted definition of normal.

For those of you worried about your future, don’t sweat the things you can’t control. You need to get smarter about the way you market your products and services, focusing on the delivery of valued benefits. For you, here are five things you can focus on to win more business opportunities in a tough economic environment:

  1. Focus on bringing your customers new opportunities, not fixing problems: When people are concerned about bad times, they often delay fixing things that are broken, preferring instead to save money and repair later. But rarely does someone pass on an opportunity to win more, regardless of how good or bad times are. Position your product or service in such a way it creates new opportunity for your prospective customer and they’ll be more likely to give you time and consideration. Don’t save money, make money. Don’t save time, create more output. Don’t reduce rejections, create more response. Create opportunity that otherwise doesn’t exist.
  2. Create opportunities specifically for your existing customers: Now is the time to get closer to the customers you have. Existing customers are a wonderful source of revenue growth and new opportunity. The cost of sale to existing customers is low and sales cycles are typically shorter. The key is knowing your accounts and tailoring solutions they’re likely to respond to favorably. Win more of your customer’s business.
  3. Align yourself with business people: This is something you should always do, but especially when the economy isn’t strong. Senior staff make more purchase decisions in tough times than compared to others. Position your offering first and foremost as a business solution to create new opportunity (see item 1 above). Business people are always open to business discussions — forget marketing and sales language and convert your message into the language of business leaders.
  4. Get enthusiastic: No one likes a doomsayer. I’m not suggesting you feign excitement; I’m suggesting you feel it. The glass is always half-full. If you’re really good at what you do, now is your time. Seize it. People want hope — give them a sincere dose of it. Sincerity is a must.
  5. Shift more marketing effort to direct response activities: Direct response marketing is the only marketing approach whereby every dollar you spend can be tracked to a sale. Now is not the time to skimp on marketing and sales activities and it’s certainly not the time to squander money on feel good branding activities in hope of creating interest that may lead to an inquiry and opportunity to make a sale. Track every lead generation message and dollar you spend.

There are other things you can do to succeed in bad times, but the five things above are great foundations to thrive in tough economic times.

What would you add to my list?

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UPDATE: via SmartBrief. BNET | The Corner Office offers a 3 step process to market segmentation. A nice addition to this list.

Market segmentation is essentially leveraging whatever differentiates you from competitors to target a distinct market segment with common customer attributes. If successful, the benefits are higher profit margins and, in some cases, market share and revenue growth.

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