In a flood, you do what you can to protect yourself and, then, your property. Your planning horizon can be measured in minutes and hours.
Today many sales and marketing executives find themselves in a similar predicament, as their customers and prospects face an unprecedented economic flood that is causing them to rethink spending, cut ties with suppliers and try to survive the negative spending cycle we are in. These are formidable challenges, requiring swift and decisive responses.
Where should marketing and sales executives concentrate their levee-building efforts?
Focus on protecting your most valuable customers. If you don't have a clear understanding of customer value, do what you can with the best available information. Make a list of the customers that you absolutely need to keep. Identify ones that are at risk and make personal phone calls to them. Remind them how important they are to you. Target your efforts to have the most impact on the customers that you want to keep.
Next? Repeat the same process for the most valuable members of your marketing and sales team.
Take a deep breath. Look around. At some point, the flood waters will recede.
What can you do to be ready? Consider two actions:
? Pursue a competitor's customers. Economic uncertainty stretches companies to the breaking point. Their responses may inadvertently make their customers more susceptible to poaching. Pay particular attention to price increases and service-level cuts. These may make customers more willing than ever to consider alternatives. Find a competitor's most attractive and vulnerable customer segments, formulate a plan of attack and engage.
? Upgrade your talent. Although it might feel strange to be reviewing resumes, this could be the perfect time for aggressive recruiting. Pay attention to across-the-board staff reductions or compensation cuts, as well as business unit divestitures or shuttering. Before adding outside talent, however, tighten up your existing roster and trim your least productive marketing staff and salespeople.
When faced with today's flood conditions, marketing and sales executives may be wise to follow the advice of that famous marketing and sales expert William Shakespeare: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” We must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.
Jonathan Copulsky is a principal at Deloitte Consulting and leads its customer management practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org