… insert venture here.

It could be a photography business (or expansion of an existing business,) maybe a magazine or newspaper, maybe a creative services company or a consulting firm. Things are tough all over and everybody is re-evaluating their budgets and plans. That spells opportunity. In tough economic times, brand loyalty falters. You are more likely to get someone to switch to your brand now, than at any other time. For example, a large national manufacturer of whatever has been using an international advertising agency from NYC. They’re a great agency with top creative talent, high production values and a great office on Madison Ave. They’ve also got the rates to pay for all of that cool stuff. Revenues are down at said client company and they need to cut costs. Some of that they’ll do through layoffs, some through cutting shifts and turning off lights. And maybe they do some by moving to a smaller, regional marketing company with lower rates (ie, you.)

Example number two, Bob and Michelle are getting married. They had planned on a big wedding at the Mandarin Orient, rehearsal dinner at the Palm and that photographer from Palm Beach was going to come out and shoot the whole thing. Michelle’s dad was invested with Bernie Madoff though, so plans have changed. This is a great opportunity for you, the local photographer.

Now please understand this isn’t a call to be a low baller. This industry is lousy with low ballers, awac’s (expletives with a camera) and amateurs who bill themselves as pros. You need to charge what you’re worth, pay your bills and do things the right way. This is all about value, not costs. People are changing their plans. They’re switching suppliers. If you can show you’re a better value, offer a better product, or a better experience, you have an outstanding opportunity to gain new business.

Also consider the your vendors and suppliers. Right now many of them are hurting and they may be much more willing to make concessions and generally to make a deal than perhaps they would have been before. Again, moderation and scruples are key. Find good people, pay and treat them well and it will work to your benefit. But explain the plan to them. Tell them you have an opportunity to get some good work together but you need to work with them to get in at a certain price point.

Finally, remember your current clients and do what you need to in order to keep them. I guarantee that right now, a new supplier is working hard on trying to take one of them away from you. You need to work harder and up your game to keep them happy and on your side.

Times are tough for everyone right now. At my year end meeting with my cpa last month we found that 2008 was down 30% from 2007, ouch. But it’s what we do in times like these that determine whether we’re just a bunch of hacks, or serious business people. Me, I’m not going down without a fight.

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