How to survive a recession

3. Build non-price value

Adding value to a company, brand and product by adding support or enhancing the experience can be the extra incentive to get customers to bite. It is also a powerful counterbalance to pressure to cut prices.

For retailers such as HMV, adding value and emphasising quality has been crucial. “The price of CDs and DVDs has been coming down for some time now, so there hasn’t been much scope to use price as a response,” Button says. “Our route has been to add value through the shopping experience, our service and the range of products and titles that we stock, including limited editions and exclusives.”

Since late 2007 HMV has been unveiling “next generation” shops that include juice bars, free-to-use Apple computers linked to social networking sites and terminals where customers can preview films and music before buying and arranging home delivery.

4. Keep the customer satisfied

Going the extra mile for consumers is a clear way to add value. High-tech agriculture business Syngenta supplies fertilisers and seeds to more than 4,000 UK farmers. When conditions worsened in 2008, it stepped up its advisory role, helping them to maximise yields and reduce costs. “We spent a lot of time with our customers to let them know we were there to help them make money,” says James Barkhouse, country head of its UK and Ireland business. “We work through what drives their profitability to find out how best we can provide solutions to increase it.”

The extra investment in time and money has delivered results: Barkhouse says that 2008 and 2009 have been Syngenta’s best two years for revenue and profitability.

As a firm specialising in long-term projects, architect Benoy also had to engage with clients to secure its pipeline of work in 2009. “We do a lot of early-stage work as an investment in future projects,” says Nick Lamb, its UK managing director. “In good times clients pay in full for this. More recently, we’ve done it at a rate well below our costs, but knowing it would secure the future work.”

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