We all know the economy took a nosedive in 2008-2009 due to multiple global events, most notably involving home mortgage lenders and others who were far too heavily leveraged.  That is not what this month’s article is about.  For the past five years we’ve heard countless speeches, blogs, articles, whitepapers, and all manner of communication start with the words “In these tough economic times…”  Quite frankly, the economy has normalized and industry has not accepted the fact.  Too many leaders) keep waiting for economic growth that was seen in the past to “return” without realizing it will not return unless industry and government leaders take actions to foster a growth environment.  Government regulation certainly seems to be increasing, and that also may be a new normal.  Business leaders need to accept that only their own actions to be intentional about growing the business is likely to change things.  We need to get over using the excuse that we’ll grow “once the economy gets back to normal” and just start doing it now. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but here are some things that businesses can do to help:

1)   Start thinking intentionally about how to differentiate your product or business to both retain current customers and to expand your customer base.    One strong brand can convey what makes your product better than the competition, and then can be marketed to not only your core customers, but to new customers you never thought about in the past.  That leads to the next suggestion…

2)   Update your marketing strategy.  There are so many different marketing methods and modalities out there, and businesses need to be taking advantage of these fully.  Don’t make the assumption that your customers are not reading print media any longer, and don’t make the assumption that they are not using social media and a variety of electronic gadgets from laptops to tablets to smartphones.  Tap into all methods and modes of reaching your current and future customers. And speaking of customers…

3)   Provide standout service to every customer, business associate, and potential customer.  Hyper-competition means customers have more choices than ever for accessing your product or service.  They will not have much patience or loyalty for a business that does not listen to them, provide high quality products and services, and correct problems quickly and courteously.  To focus on customer service means hiring right, developing employees, and empowering them to do the right thing…

4)   Develop and engage your employees.  Employees who believe in your company, product, services, and customers and who understand the business, and who have the authority to do what is right for both the business and the customers are still your greatest asset.  Hire employees who have a great track record for customer service, innovative thinking, problem-solving, and a desire to do right for the company.  Then, allow employees to truly provide outstanding service without getting bogged down in red-tape (other than complying with regulations that we all must ensure are taken care of), and staff will amaze you with their creative, productive, and enthusiastic work ethic.