Sunday, December 7, 2008

Spend? During a Recession?

Well, yes.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the need for consumer spending despite fear and lack of confidence in the economy.

The same holds true on the B2B side. True, we are in an economic slowdown, and true, businesses need to carefully evaluate all areas of spend and cut back wherever possible. However, they must be cognizant of expenses that are necessary for sustaining their businesses during these times as well.

While a recession is a time to cut costs, it also presents an opportunity to assess business processes and streamline them in a way that is most prudent to the business—an exercise that is advisable even in thriving economic times. After all, it is never a good time to spend on inefficient processes and non-value-added activities.

Now, what about spending?

The need to remain close to customers is stronger than ever, making cutting back too deeply on human elements of customer relationship management a costly proposition when it comes to sustainability. A partial list of these elements necessary for keeping customers close includes:

- Sales and marketing personnel
- Public relations/media relations agency contracts
- Customer feedback sessions and online communities
- Social media personnel (including agencies) and programs
- Service and delivery personnel

As you seek to cut costs, bring the people closest to your customers—such as those listed above—into the discussion to represent your customers and help prioritize the “golden nuggets” of value .

The changes in our economy result in changes to customer needs and priorities, increasing the value and pertinence of each customer touch point. And don’t forget to consider your prospects. New customer acquisition efforts will be paramount to increasing your customer portfolio, especially in a tumultuous economy when all seek to spend less, reducing their wallet sizes--and quite often, the amount any one customer spends with your firm.

On the B2C side, Dentyne acknowledges the value of the human element with its “Make Face Time” ad campaign. The same spirit holds true for B2B, with the addition of electronic means of customer touch—as long as a human is behind the interface, phone line, or chat window to engage directly.

So keep spending, even during the recession. And in every stage of the economic cycle, spend wisely and remain focused on remaining close to your customers and prospects, using technology to aid people. There is no true replacement for that human touch.

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