Early this year, we drafted a marketing plan for ourselves — a top-level outline of what we need to do to be successful this year. One of the organizing principles we used is how to grow a business in a recession. At the time, nobody was sure if we were in a recession, but plenty of people thought we were headed for one. And now, with the financial market meltdown, it seems more and more likely. As business owners, what can we do to make sure our businesses survive, or better yet, thrive?

We’ll start posting tips for you to consider. If you have additional ideas, please post them in the Comments section.

Tip # 1 — Shore Up Relationships with Existing Customers
What are you currently doing to service your existing accounts? Do your customers LOVE you? I mean, really, really think you’re amazing? What can you do to consistently amaze and delight them? Make a commitment, today, to surprisingly good — outstanding — customer service. Pull your team together and brainstorm what that might look like. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Ask your clients what you can do to help them sell more (or do more of whatever it is they want to do).
  • Surprise them with a gift, discount, extra service. No reason. Not a holiday surprise, but “just because.” Expect nothing in return. (Simple gift ideas: a subscription to a relevant business magazine, Starbucks gift card, gourmet food items)
  • Call them. Don’t e-mail. Call and say “hi.”
  • Take them to lunch, dinner, a movie, a play.
  • Keep your eyes out for relevant articles, research, etc. Send it to them with a personal note.

Ideally, you should do a combination of things. We encourage you to get your team together today and talk about “creating customer evangelists.” There is, in fact, an entire customer evangelism movement over at the Church of the Customer blog.