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Irrigation Association of New York

Economy-Get Ahead in 2010 by Jeff Carowitz

So we’ve put the wraps on an incredibly difficult economy this year for our industry, and now we must start thinking about how we can dig out of this economic morass and get back on the growth path.

In the last year, I’ve watched companies lose their marketing nerve, implement “death by a thousand cuts” to their budgets and demoralize their sales organizations with a lack of focus and direction. I’ve also seen companies cut prices, or go after business that was a poor fit, simply because any business was better than no business. Some of this has yielded results, much of it has not. And it has made a lot of people mighty grumpy in the process.

The most important thing to do in 2010 is to stop worrying about the economy and to start focusing on what you want to do to move forward. Take a proactive stance to drive your planning for the next season. Get ahead of your competition by doing something (anything!) while they are asleep.

Focus, Focus, Focus.  Decide what segments of customers really drive your business and laser-target your focus there. Instead of trying to be everything to everybody, invest in the customers that are the best fit and the most profitable.

Diversify, with Care.  Be cautious with new products or customer segments that take you too far afield from your expertise. Go too far from your base of knowledge and capabilities, and the promised profits turn into a mirage. But do the research and take the training seminars to see what options are right for you and your customers.

Reorient and Reinvigorate Salespeople. A couple of years ago, reps would drive aimlessly around new subdivisions prospecting for business (or killing time?). This year, give them a list of who they need to be seeing. Point your salespeople to pay attention to the profitable accounts and the prospects that can become new profitable accounts. Make sure that every day is a productive day for your talented team.

Stay Consistent. Don’t give your customers any chance to doubt your continued ability to deliver outstanding service. In this market, clients are far less tolerant of phone calls that aren’t returned quickly and service techs who don’t show up when promised. Some are even complaining when they get anything less than a bubbly person on the phone. Never give anyone an excuse to go elsewhere, unless they’re one of your unprofitable accounts as noted above. Put in place a process that monitors revenues account-by-account, and red flags those with sudden declines in revenue.

Listen. Conduct customer and market surveys to take the temperature of your market. Find out what “game-changing” enhancements will make you stand out from the rest of the pack. Use customer comment cards to capture continuous feedback on every transaction and to inquire about new items customers might need.

The Bottom Line. You’ve got downtime, make the most of it. Based in Houston, Jeff Carowitz is a leading consultant to the green industry. He can be reached at Jeff@StrategicForceMarketing.com or 760-532-7034.