Wasnât the economy supposed to begin its rebound once the uncertainty around the U.S mission in Iraq ended? That doesnât seem to be happening.
While some of our troops are already headed home, the economy that will greet them remains sluggish. Thankfully, consumer confidence, which has buoyed the economy ever since the 2001 recession, has remained remarkably strongâshowing a surge in April that was the largest monthly increase since March 1991. But this has to be balanced against rising layoffs, as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan reminded the House Financial Services Committee last week.
A bigger worry is that three dramatic eventsâthe dot-com blowout, the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the corporate scandals of recent yearsâhave rattled our national psyche in pervasive and lasting ways.
This skittishness is demonstrated most obviously by the absence of bold marketing initiatives. You have to look hard to find campaigns that push the envelope. Undeniably, the dot-com eraâs "excessive exuberance," to borrow Mr. Greenspanâs phrase, was unjustified. But equally unjustified is a risk-averse business mindset that reduces every decision to an ROI spreadsheet. Great American businesses and brands cannot be built this way.
Whatâs a business leader to do? Based on numerous conversations, articles, reports and BtoBâs own coverage, I offer these three steps.
Step 1:Find out what your organization sees as its mission. If employee perceptions or organizational structures are out of sync with the mission, youâll never accomplish the next step.
Step 2:Find out who your current customers are and what they want. Check our Special Report on database segmentation (Page 28) in this issue for some excellent ideas on how to start addressing one piece of this puzzle. Do you know your highest-value customers and best prospects? Unless you segment your data, youâll never know the answer.
Indeed, spending on infrastructureâpeople and systemsâis often critical to accomplish this step. "Back to basics" is not synonymous with "guess we donât need CRM integration or a modern Web site." Companies that shrink from these investmentsâparticularly in the areas of customer-facing and customer analytic technologiesâsimply will not be competitive in the long run.
Step 3:Make steps 1 and 2 part of your corporate culture. Too many businesses feel these jobs are one-time exercises (or expenses) and do not view them, properly, as an iterative process.