Good Year or Bad Year? You Decide

It’s been a Bad Year.

I’ve heard this more than once from a variety of business people. So it must be true.

On more than one occasions I have been told that customers just don’t have the money to spend. They are behaving differently. The business is just not there anymore.

Explanations abound. The Bad Year has been caused, it would seem, by something “out there” – the economy, the recession, customers, the market, the town.

If I was to give in to the rhetoric, external factors outwith their control are the cause of this doom. It has rarely had anything to do with the business.

But here’s the thing. Our clients, across the board, have had a Good Year. Sales are up, visitor numbers are up, profitability is up. How come?

In fact, if we extend our reach beyond Scotland there are  many examples of businesses who are having a Good Year.

Apple now has more cash than the US government – an unusual victor in a worldwide marketplace that is supposed to be struggling to pay their basic living expenses.

Primark, the budget retailer, by comparison has had a Bad Year. In precisely the circumstances you’d expect them to flourish…..

So what’s making the difference?

I’d like to hazard a guess that it’s partly to do with innovation, and partly to do with vision.

Apple has a vision for the future. Apple has continued to innovate practically ignoring the recession, pushing on regardless. Launching iPads and iPhones and changing our expectations in the process.

Marks and Spencer announced significant investment in the layout of their 703 stores just last week, and “shook up” their marketing team the week before. Their share price rocketed.

Looking at our client base, the one thing that binds them together is that they all have a vision for the future of their business and they are just not prepared to accept that the recession will have an impact. They are ready (and eager) to bend and flex with the market to journey towards that vision. Many of them have altered their business models in the last 12 months. They’ve shifted their marketing activities significantly and trusted my judgement when I’ve said “That won’t work anymore”.

Marketing has also entered a new era. Media has shifted. Customers have shifted. Behaviour has changed and changed for good. Many businesses have failed to shift with them. And until they do, they will continue to have a Bad Year. And possibly another one after that.

I am still staggered that some businesses are trading off a hotmail or gmail address. Some don’t have websites. Many don’t have facebook or twitter pages. This is the modern equivalent of a business refusing, point blank, to invest in a phone in the 1960s. Wise up.

Wake up. Smell the coffee. If you want to start having a Good Year, the solution is very, very simple. You need to stop doing what you’ve always done and innovate. Customers are still spending money. The business is out there. You just need to focus on making it easier for them to buy. And that doesn’t mean dropping your prices. If you don’t believe me, visit the Apple Store.

Innovate. And your customers will come back. Stand still, and they won’t.