If you keep doing what you've been doing, your competitors and customers will leave you behind in 2011.
In the last two years, you made the changes needed to ride out the downturn -- but so did your customers -- and many of your competitors. Now, a new race is starting.
With the change comes new growth potential for the companies that quickly identify new opportunities and pounce on them.
Here are five new business realities and the questions to ask yourself about your marketing strategy to make sure you gain and retain customers -- and move ahead of your competitors in 2011.
1. Your Market Changed
Cash flow, labor availability, operations cost, and hundreds of other things have changed because of the transformation in the economy. But, each change creates an opportunity.
For example, financing is tighter than in the past. And that opens a new marketing door for a company that, based on the current availability of financing for themselves and their customers, finds a way to meet their customers' needs.
Although there are some things you can't do anymore, conditions are now better than ever for some of your products and services.
"Based on the new economy, what new opportunities, customers, and markets are open to me?"
2. Your Competitors Changed
In the same way that the National Football League changes each season due to the trading decisions each team makes, the relative position of each of your competitors has changed.
Your competition has changed strategies, targets, sources, goals, territories, structure, financing, and personnel.
"Because of what my competitors have done and not done --- what new opportunities have emerged that I didn't have before?"
3. Your Customers Changed
The last two years have changed the buying techniques of your customers. They research more, want feedback from other buyers, and expect personalized attention. They want quick, direct, easily-available, accurate answers to their questions in order to determine the quality of your product or service.
In return, they can be more loyal than ever before and will even help you sell your product or service. This is true for both consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) marketing.
"How can I help my customers to understand my business, products, and service in a way that helps them make a decision that benefits them (and my business)?"
4. Your Customers Wonder If You Changed
If your organization maintained marketing and advertising efforts over the last two years, you are perceived as being financially and strategically solid. On the other hand, if your target customers have not seen you as much lately, you are perceived as questionable ("Are they still pursuing my business?" Or even, "Are they still in business?") And it's not just a question of perception.
Every organization benefits from the sense of familiarity, stability, connection, dependability, trustworthiness, community involvement, and long-term investment, whether from their target market or the public.
"What am I doing to help customers have confidence in my company and in what I can do for them?"
5. Your Company Really Has Changed
Your company reacted to the shifting economy and made changes that worked -- otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.
What did you change to get to this point? Who is on your team now? What new technology are you using that you did not have two years ago? What new sources or resources did you switch to? What new efficiencies and processes?
With the new products, services, departments, people, or ideas you have, you can bring products or services to market that would not have been workable in the past.
"How can I develop and communicate my company's new potential?"
NOW, TO APPRECIATE THE MARKETING COMPLEXITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES -- COMBINE ALL FIVE CATEGORIES
For example, consider a customer who, in the past, always bought from your competitor. But, in the last two years, the competitor had to make some changes. The competitor closed their local facility and route their calls to a regional office. They are active online. Their new website makes interaction easy. Maybe they are not at the tradeshows like they used to be. They offer the same things as before, but they changed sources so the quality is different. They dropped some of their lines, targets, and representatives to be more efficient. When other businesses pushed into the market, they focused on the new competitors -- or maybe they ignored the new businesses and are focused on you.
Your competitor is not sure what you are going to do next.
Either way, your customer will research their options and make a decision based on what they know about you.
By acting now, 2011 will be your year of growth.
What new opportunities does my company have and what am I doing to pounce on them?