The novel coronavirus has created an unexpected global economic downturn, and while New York is bearing the brunt of it, we know that the city will recover. For now, it is critical businesses take this time to reaffirm their loyalty to customers and employees so they come out stronger when the economy ramps back up.
In their report "How To Market In A Downturn," John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz argue that companies benefit from entering long-term business relationships during a recession because during these times it is important to build on your existing strengths, which will make you more viable as the economy improves. They recommend focusing marketing efforts in sectors where you already have a presence, since your experience, expertise and network make businesses willing to work with you in the future if they are unable to now.
Since loyalty strengthens business partnerships, what are the different ways to build loyalty in business-to-business transactions? In his explanation of how consumer and business sales are different, Das Narayandas argues in his essay "Building Loyalty in Business Markets" that “companies in business markets must use an approach based on benefits (‘Here’s how our product or service can help solve your specific problems’) rather than features (‘Here’s how our product is superior’).” Presenting your business in a visually appealing way with easy to follow explainer videos, infographics and other eye-popping messaging continues to be the best way to share information about your service benefits that your audience will remember.
Right now for Manhattan’s small businesses, sharing information could mean using social media platforms to promote discounts you are offering, sharing what you are doing to support first responders and reminding your audience of the products or services you offer. For those working from home, show others in your industry and those in the markets you want to reach that you are still working by posting information they can use, such as what you did that day and about the products you offer. Even if these efforts do not show immediate rewards, they will provide returns in loyalty dividends later when your audience does need your resources and/or services.
The best ways to implement these marketing strategies are with high-end techniques like videos or graphics. Crisp materials and assets grow confidence in your ability to produce. Narayandas also argues in his paper that even if you decide to offer your services at a discount, that discount can lead to a longer-term contract as well as a client eager to promote you to their network. Shifting priorities and ideas to match current circumstances is key to success.
But none of this can be done unless your house is in order. Employee loyalty is just as important as your clients’ because the institutional knowledge they have stays in the company. Ensuring employee retention saves stress, money and time, and the value an employee brings to the company increases the more they understand how the company operates. The best way to retain employees? Keep them happy.
Engaged employees way outperform the unengaged. In times of economic stress, it’s important to ensure employees feel like valued team members so they continue to do the best work for your clients as possible. And this does not have to cost you anything. By identifying a common theme or goal, you can bring everyone together to better streamline processes. Make sure everyone is involved in the project, on the same page, and feels like they are contributing. Simply put, your employees will not want to leave if they are comfortable and engaged in the work they are doing.
In these times of uncertainty it can be easy to think only about your bottom line. But for entrepreneurs to be successful in the long term, you must invest the time now to build loyalty with your clients and your employees.
Caroline Petersen is Founder and Creative Director at Gallery Design Studio.