I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Love it or hate it, the 2009 Economic Stimulus Package has been signed into law. The premise behind the package is to infuse resources into the economy in an attempt to spur job creation, arm consumers with spendable income and restart our country's economic engine. Whether or not the Stimulus will accomplish its goals is unknown at this time, however, one thing is very evident—the Economic Stimulus Package has stimulated a great deal of anticipation and speculation. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The concept behind the measure appears to be solid; the economy is failing, in part, because consumers have slowed spending; consumers have slowed spending because of increasing unemployment and fear over the instability of the market. Consequently the Stimulus was devised to provide resources in the form of jobs, tax incentives, and the like, to offset consumer fear and prompt spending. Theoretically this hypothesis makes sense: understand what is hindering consumers from doing what needs to be done then, remove the obstacles enabling said consumers to do what needs to be done. Simple, right… <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> So is it possible for business leaders to use this model to stimulate business growth and increase sales? Let's examine this notion more closely.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>What Makes Customers Buy (or Stop Buying)?</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Even in a time of recession, with the stock market down and unemployment up, most industries are still experiencing marginal sales. Therefore, before devising a stimulating plan to increase sales, business leaders must first comprehend what types of products or services their customers are buying and how are they making their buying decisions? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In a growing economy business leaders can afford to take for granted how buying decisions are made as long as sales continue to climb. However, in a shrinking economy, a minimal difference in price or an unwanted or unnecessary product change could mean the difference between closing a sale and going away empty handed. Decision makers must be armed with relevant, up-to-date information that speaks directly to their customer's buying triggers before making an attempt to change or improve a product or service. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Understand the Needs of the Customer</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> What do customers need from suppliers to be in a position to make purchases? The 2009 Economic Stimulus Plan puts money behind infrastructure and other projects that are intended to generate jobs for American workers. The assumption here is that if people are working, they will have the income to pay their mortgages and make purchases. In business, customers may need flexible financing or alternative pricing structures. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Stimulating sales in a slow economy may require doing something that has never been done or offering innovative opportunities that have not been explored as of yet. Query employees and current customers to determine what changes they would like to see in product or service offerings. Perhaps take a second look at the ideas that worked when the business first started. Put a new spin on an old idea to make it fresh and new. As sales of the famous Barbie doll declined in the U.S., the doll's manufacturer, Mattel, opened its first Barbie store in Shanghai, China, predicting that China will become the biggest market for the doll. To generate further "buzz" Mattel sold a limited number of 50th anniversary Barbie dolls, wearing an updated version of the original swimsuit, priced it at $3.00 per doll, which was the cost of the doll 50 years ago. That is called "outside of the box" thinking.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Benefit the Company While Focusing on the Customer</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> A large part of the Economic Stimulus puts money into infrastructure at the state and local levels. The principle being, to put people to work doing jobs that need to be done such as improving our bridges, roads and facilities. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Any sales manager or business leader looking to stimulate new business by offering customers incentives, discounts or other special offers should strive to benefit the company in as many ways as possible. It goes without saying that if new sales can be generated it would benefit the bottom-line and increase company moral. But could it also position the company as a good corporate citizen, like the Hyundai Assurance Plus which allows purchasers to return their cars free? Or could incentives boost the company's exposure in a new market like Mattel’s new store in Shanghai? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Riding Out the Economic Wave</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> When it comes to the economy, experts agree what goes down always comes back up; so business leaders and sales managers should not loose sight of the fact that those companies that fight to thrive during tough times will inevitably emerge as industry leaders once the dust clears. The lesson for business leaders in the Stimulus Package does not depend on which side of the Stimulus argument is right, but instead in the lesson is in the amount of attention, discussion and expectation a new, innovative idea can produce…regardless of the outcome. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Joyce Harper is the Founder/CEO of Sharper Solutions, LLC, a management consulting firm specializing in organizational development and strategic management. She works with companies nationwide helping them create organizational effectiveness and increase their revenue building potential. Joyce is a sought after speaker, trainer and business consultant. Contact her through the company Website at <a href="http://www.sharpersol.com" target="_blank">www.sharpersol.com</a>.</i>