I was catching up with a CEO last week and she said that her business had reacted well to the current situation by focusing entirely on retaining their existing customers. She said that growth right now is just not possible, their prospects have got too conservative. 

But if prospects are not willing to change supplier, surely existing customers might not leave her organisation easily either. So, I wondered whether she had become too focused on the wrong challenge? 

This is my fourth recession … actually, as an aside, I’m starting to wonder if they are my fault, it can’t be a coincidence can it?! 

Anyway, in my experience this is a great time to go for growth. Perhaps it feels like customers are getting nervous, but actually what they want is confidence and sometimes as a new supplier you are uniquely positioned to give them that. 

And right now, although we need to make sure we are empathetic to the situations of our colleagues and customers, you get more bang from your buck. Media is cheaper than it has ever been. For example, advertising rates have fallen by 30%. Your sales teams get a greater share of voice as competitors get internally focused and go quiet. And how you behave now is noticed by your market and has a lasting effect. Disappear now and you may be gone from their minds for a while. Be present, confident and on their side and they will reward you today and for a long time into the future. 

There will be voices in your business entirely focused on cost reduction. It’s an easy pitch to make and seems smart right now. But I think you are missing a trick if you are not also placing some bets on growth. 

But how do you decide how to invest? Here are 3 simple ideas:


Follow the money – Now is the best time to attract and grow those customers who offer you most value. Get your market analysis done, and then challenge it with some counter-trend instincts. Become singularly focused on specific segments, don’t go wide and general


Put your best people on it – Make sure you put your very best people on growth and don’t allow them to be distracted by non-priority projects. If you have been waiting for a moment to move that superstar or future hero, now is the time!! 


Turn up the energy, but also the empathy – Of course, focus and commitment will be necessary, but given the nature of this current environment then not only must you turn up your energy, you must also massively increase the empathy with which you work with your teams and communicate with customers. In this next period, it is easy for your motives and actions to be misunderstood 

It’s important to not react like vultures in these times, but you also can’t afford to get left behind. Good luck and go for it!

Simon Cooper


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