How Customers Think When the Economy is Weak

Wondering what customers will be thinking as credit slows and the stock market jumps and falls like a crazy jumping bean? There are just three quick questions on your customer's minds.

1. What do I really care about? Does your product or service represent something people really feel strongly about? Does it offer capabilities beyond the competition? Is it something people get excited about? Do they think the design is amazing? Find out who will care about your product or service and market to these people.

2. What really matters? What kind of items are your customers shopping for? What matters to them right now? Are you customers concerned about giving back to the community? Are they concerned about the environment? Are they buying from you because you are an ethical company? Do they appreciate your quality customer service? Do they like your guarantee and warranty?

3. What's really unique? When money's tight, folks want the real thing. They want the computer that works, the piece of clothing that wears well and will last, and they want value for the money.

Marketing maverick Robyn Waters, former vice president of trend, design and product development at Target tells, "And those items will be the ones that everybody will rush in to buy, pay full price for and feel really good about the purchase."

"When we're in tough economic times, there's even more reason for innovation. Think of a brand as a love mark. If someone falls in love with a brand or a product even when times are tough, more than likely they'll build a relationship with it," Waters said.

Analysts predict this holiday shopping season could be one of the worst in recent history. In September, the Wall Street Journal reported on two grim predictions from Deloitte LLP and TNS Retail Forward Inc. These predictions were made before the most recent economic woes (including the bailout and subsequent stock market plunge) and consensus is that the harsh reality of what lies ahead for retailers could prove to be even worse than predictions.

Do companies panic? No. Now is the time for innovation. No matter what this week holds, panic is not the answer. Make a marketing plan (innovate!) and then execute the plan, one step at a time.