How To Survive and Thrive in Tough Economic and Political Times

This is my first business blog post in I don’t know how long.  You’ll see it appearing in the next issue of Business in Gulf (BIG) magazine, and I thought I’d share it with you here.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, things are bad – really bad.  Every business owner I speak to tells me how tough things are.  Sales and profits are way down, and some businesses are on the verge of closing down, while others have already closed shop.  It’s no surprise, seeing that Bahrain has seen it’s worse political crisis in living memory.

But all hope is not lost, there are things you can do to mitigate the damage.  Remember, you’re an entrepreneur, and us entrepreneurs are by nature survivors.  It’s what we’re all about; facing challenges and overcoming them.  It’s in our nature, right?
Let’s look at some things you can do right away to help improve your business situation:

Remember The Real Economy That Counts

Someone wise once said “the only economy that exists is between you and your customer.”  This saying might be a bit oversimplified, but there is a lot of truth in it.  Your focus from now onwards should be on strengthening your relationship with your customers.  You can cut spending on whatever you deem necessary, but don’t cut spending on marketing and advertising, as these are the activities that are bringing the customers.

Increase Customer Communication

Look, the essence of good marketing can be summarised in this single word: relationships.  If you don’t have a relationship with your customers, then it’s time to start right away.  Send out a monthly newsletter.  And even better, add a monthly postcard as well.  Also, increase email communication to once a week.

Ask yourself, how many businesses in Bahrain are doing that?  The answer is very few, which is my point.  Your customers will appreciate that you are taking time to contact them and ask about them.  It’s a safe bet to assume that your competitors are not doing this, and that they are reducing their customer communications, which means they will pay extra attention to you.

Though you should send out special offers (see next point), at least half of your communication should have nothing to sell.  You can just update your customers on the latest news in your business, and even in your personal life.  You can also provide them with how-to information.  You could even create a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly YouTube video series on the area of your expertise (we’re doing that soon).  You want to make sure that your customers and prospects like you, and that you are the first one they think of when they want to buy.

Create Special Offers

I highly recommend creating special offers to incentivise people to buy, but I discourage you from over-relying on discounting, as this can really eat up your profits.  Instead, do more bonuses and other offers.  You can do things like “buy two get one free” offers, or extended warranties/guaranties, or gift voucher with purchase above a certain amount.  You can also team up with other business owners and ask them to give you free offers or gifts that you can give to your customers.  This is a win-win for all; you get an additional offer you can give to your customers, your customer gets something free, and the other business owner gets a potential new customer when he comes to redeem his gift.

The Superhuman Mind Set

Your greatest assets by far are your attitude and mind set. Make sure not to give in to the negativity and the feeling of hopelessness.  Now is a good time to read and listen to motivational material, and to avoid as much negativity as possible.  Remember that you are an entrepreneur; you are superhuman compared to others, and God willing you will not only survive, but thrive as well.

Talk to you soon.

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