How to Recession-Proof Your Business

Can you make your business as recession-proof as Apple?

Can you make your business as recession-proof as Apple? (Photo by Rob DiCaterino from Jersey City, NJ, USA [CC BY 2.0])

During the last recession, Brian Gracon, author of Meconomics 101: 16 Ways to Improve Your Marketing, Selling and Business Management for Today’s Consumers, wondered why it was that some businesses were still busy, even when unemployment was high. What was their secret to being recession-proof?

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It’s All About Me

The secret, it seems, is that people are emotional creatures, not the rational actors we were taught about in economics class.

What selling boils down to, in a recession or at any other time, says Gracon, is appealing to these three factors that drive customer behavior:

  1. Self-image
  2. Entertainment
  3. Pampering

1. Self-image

People who line up for hours to buy the latest iPhone have a self-image of being cutting edge technology adopters. People who buy at discount stores may have a self-image of being frugal.  As Gracon puts it in his book,

So think about the self-images of your target customers, and then design your marketing to appeal to those self-images.

2. Entertainment

People pay extra for entertainment

People pay extra for entertainment

Why do people pay hundreds of dollars to hear a band perform in a giant stadium with lousy sound, when for far less they could own and listen to a high-quality recording of every song that band ever wrote?

Because of the entertainment value.

Sitting at home listening to the music, even dancing in front of your mirror, can’t compete with the feeling of being in a crowd of like minded people all bopping together.

3. Pampering

When you shop at Holt Renfrew or Nordstrom you pay a premium for pampering. Yes, the clothes they sell are of high quality. But you can buy equal quality for less in stores like Winners. But at Winners, you won’t have a sales rep catering to your needs and wants, advising you, finding “just the thing” for you.

Different self-image draws each to their own type of store. Winners could even be argued to offer entertainment, in that for many people hunting through racks to find that amazing deal is entertaining. But pampering? No.

All 3 Together = Irresistible = Recession-Proof

Each of the three “lenses,” as Gracon calls them, will attract customers. But if you can combine two, or better yet, all three of them, you’ve got an offer that is no longer price-bound.

As I wrote in PeopleShock, people will pay to go to Disney even when they know they can’t afford it. It meets all three emotional criteria:

  1. Their self-image as great parents.
  2. Their desire to be entertained.
  3. The pampering Disney gives its customers.

Want to Recession-Proof Your Business?

Even in the B2B World it IS Possible

In business-to-business sales:

  • Self-image may be to seem savvy to their superiors. Or to showcase their talents (invite them to co-present at a conference). Or to get the best value.
  • Entertainment can be offered in the cliche ways (golf, fancy restaurant meals, sports tickets) or in more creative ways that are tailored to the type of prospect you are selling to. (I’d far rather have fringe theatre tickets!)
  • Pampering: well, in the old days it used to be an offer of strippers or hookers. Fortunately those days are pretty much behind us in many countries (I hope), but the fine dining is a form of pampering. So is customizing your offer to exactly their needs. Or making the purchase process smooth and easy.

So, if you want to recession-proof your business, think about how you can appeal to customers’ self-image, how you can entertain them, and how you can pamper them. Then adapt your 3Ps of Promise, People and Process to make sure you marketing and execution deliver on those goals.

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