What's Your Story?

Biz Narrative Blog by Ruth Halpern

Observations and anecdotes about business narrative in the corporate world.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Strategy for Hard Times: Improve the Assets You Already Have

What should we do when the news turns scary and all economic signs seem to point downward?

I was talking recently with Dick Frankel, my friend, attorney, and entrepreneurial mentor, who commented that, in his experience, when the economic news is bad, companies cut the two things they can least afford to lose: training and marketing.

When times are hard, what we should be doing is maintenance: polishing and improving what we've already got, so that its value really shines. If you own a house, take care of that termite work you've been putting off. If it's a car, check the tires and make sure it's running as fuel-efficiently as possible.

Your organization's most valuable asset is its people. Enrich them by training them to use their technology as effectively as possible, polishing their customer service skills, and helping them manage the inevitable stresses of their jobs.

For technology, rather than installing a whole new suite of software, focus on the features of the existing programs that could help expand your client base. Client Relationship Management software, or CRM, is a great example of this. If your firm has been using its CRM as a glorified rolodex, this could be the time to expand and improve the quality of the data you store in it. By enriching the data with areas of expertise, languages spoken, and a history of past work for a given client, you make it possible to identify new business opportunities that might otherwise be missed. Of course, once the data is there, you also need to train people to turn to the CRM for answers, and ensure that they know how to produce the information they need.

Providing on-going training for your personnel saves costs by increasing retention and job satisfaction. You also keep your customers happy, which is ultimately the most important way to improve your bottom line.

When times are hard, it's true that customers watch their spending more carefully, but they still need products and services. Use tailored marketing to tell your story to existing and potential clients: Make sure that everyone knows that what you're offering is the best of its kind. Halpern & Associates works with professionals, staff, and management, to help everyone in the firm tell their best stories.

When times are hard, we're all tempted to tighten our belts and lock our wallets. But the truth is, we can't afford to skimp on maintenance in times like these. Now more than ever, it's vital to invest in the assets you already have.