First published March 25, 2009
As I've listened to the presenters at the Executive Publishing Conference and Expo this week, it occurs to me that in all this talk about the recession and who is navigating the economy well and who is still on the sidelines trying to figure out what to do, that there is a real cost to fear and uncertainty. And, in addition to real costs of inertia or non-engagement that there are also opportunities lost along the way.
Someone said yesterday, "if the new up is flat, then we're up." It's a bit of black humor that gets to the heart of today's business climate and that is, if you haven't lost ground, then you're doing pretty well. After listening to publishers' experiences these last two days, it seems to me that even jumping into the fray, investing-scrapping-reinvesting yields more benefits than inertia. The worst outcome for a company is losing relevance to its community while sitting on the sidelines.Josh Gordon, sales expert and speaker, cited studies that found that both fear and uncertainty light up the "fear" center of the brain. It also lights up when running against the crowd. The way to overcome this fear and uncertainty from a sales perspective is to provide more proof, reassurance or guarantees. Isn't that what we all are really looking for? Some guarantee that things are going to be fine? That we will all navigate troubled times and find ourselves leaner but stronger at the other end?
Students of business history know that companies that continue to market during economic downturns fare better than companies who don't.These companies can move into their industry's lead position during this time. It takes courage and conviction to continue to invest in your business when you can't predict the outcome.
But the real risk in non-engagement is not losing sales during the span of the recession (although that is certainly a reality), but putting the company's relationship with its community at risk during a time when the community needs reassurance from its leadership that things will, in fact, be fine. It is that relationship and relevance to the community that is the more extreme loss to a company, because the community has already moved on to some other industry leader that stayed the course and provided some level of assurance by the way they continued to operate that all would be well in the end.
Understanding both your core business strengths and your value to the community you serve is a key element in mitigating the cost of fear and uncertainty to your business.