Plan now for tomorrow's economy

The slowing economy has taken its toll on Northeast Ohio businesses, and the instinctive action is to bunker down and hold your ground until the storm passes.

As sales decline, you try to cut all possible costs from activities that don’t provide immediate and measurable return, including travel, training, advertising, HR, marketing, PR and employee communications.

In the short term, these cuts help shed expenses and make your profit picture rosier. But in the long run, they hurt your business. When the recession ends, you’ll begin to rebuild a trained, loyal work force, generate awareness, prospect for new customers and start the uphill climb back to prosperity. Your competitors will do the same.

Is that right where you want to be, in step with the other guys who have buried their heads in the sand the past 18 months?

Actually, you don’t. To succeed, you want to be ahead of the curve, positioned to leverage the upturn, not just grab on for the ride. To do this, you must increase spending in areas that will place your company squarely ahead of the pack.

Think big and someday you may be

People in the career counseling business tell clients to dress for the job they want, not the one they have. They buy the expensive suits, watches and pens. They don’t dress like they need the job — they dress like they already have it. Business is no different.

While larger businesses can afford to spend millions of dollars preparing for recovery, small enterprises often think they can’t. Obviously, scope and scale need to be proportionate to your revenue, but if you want to grow, you’ve got to think and act like a big company.

Target communications

A solid advertising campaign and marketing effort will convince your customers that you are stable, affluent and big enough to handle their needs. An internal communications effort will sell your employees on the long-term prospects of your company. This drives confidence, productivity and pride, increases retention and saves you recruiting and training costs.

A 1999 study of 913 businesses by the International Association of Business Communicators and human resources consultant Watson Wyatt Worldwide revealed a direct correlation between business success and a commitment to strong internal and external communications.

With today’s printing and online delivery technologies, you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to create exciting and targeted marketing material. Moreover, you don’t have to spend a fortune on advertising, creative design or public relations services, either.

Smaller, independent graphics, advertising and public relations firms deliver high-quality service and design at a fraction of the cost of the larger agencies. You normally work directly with the firm’s principal, who will manage your account and provide hands-on service, including PR counsel, writing and media interaction.

That’s not to say that some of the larger agencies are not great at what they do. However, for the most part, they’re organized to handle larger accounts that often have the budgets for national campaigns.

There is no time like the present to begin planning and executing a growth strategy that will ensure your success at the beginning of the next economic up-cycle, not the end of it. Greg Rosenberg is a 20-year veteran of corporate communications and public relations. He recently formed Business Communication Solutions Inc. to help companies grow. He can be reached at (440) 498-1134 or [email protected]