The Value of Being Flexible in Tough Times
With the markets in turmoil, the economy slumping and our customers spending “nervously,” now is the time to remember the value of being flexible. Here are some ideas to help make your businesses as flexible as possible:
* Continue mailing, no matter how bad the economy gets. Maybe you don’t need to mail a full-line catalog to everyone, but continue mailing. If you have customer segments that have clearly shown they order online and only order one or two product categories, maybe there’s a less expensive way to “mail motivate” those shoppers. I’ve recently seen several creative examples of mail pieces that stimulate online shopping while costing only a fraction of what it costs to mail a larger catalog. Those savings can be reinvested into circulation and/or new creative formats and offerings, or tucked away for potential difficult times ahead.
* The beauty of marketing on the Web — including pay per click, e-mail, affiliates, etc. — is it can be immediate and extremely flexible. We can assess and react to our customers’ online shopping habits very quickly, defining new selling opportunities and launching offers in hours, not weeks like in print.
* Our call centers need to be flexible, too. As inbound call volume slows, there should always be a list of projects for customer service reps to work on to avoid any wasted resource. Updating data files, preparing ad hoc test mailings, calling to update customer records and calling lapsed customers with a special offer are ways to keep your inbound reps flexible.
* Take advantage of downtime to cross-train employees. The more employees learn about the other functions of the business, the more valuable and flexible they’ll be.
* Listen for requests to “be flexible” from your customers; they too are struggling to find ways to be more innovative, creative and productive. By being attentive, responsive and supportive to your customers’ needs, you’ll stand out. Maintain a “can do” attitude toward any new or unusual request, at least until you’ve had a chance to investigate its feasibility further.