In a Crisis, are You a Necessity or Luxury?

When things get tough, really tough, for your customers, will what you sell be seen as a necessity or luxury?  I have clients in a wide variety of situations; some having their best years ever, others solidly in crisis.

When customers are in a crisis they tend to stop buying luxury items but continuing buying things they see as necessities.  Tips to make whatever you sell more a necessity than a luxury:

Modify Your Unique Selling Proposition

People buy your product for a variety of reasons.  Obviously, in a crisis their reasons for buying change.  How can your product save them money?  How can you save them money?  How can you reduce the risk they are feeling? 

Example-  When larger organizations move into crisis the first thing that goes is training.  How do I know this?  I have training clients that sell to larger organizations!!  NO dollars will be spent on non-essential training until further notice.  The question we’ve had to answer (after 9-11 and now) is how my clients’ training is essential.  In one case, business writing, training that is not inexpensive, we have focused on how much time can be saved.  Write 30% faster and business writing training can help an organization get more done through fewer people.

In another case, business acumen training, we’re focusing on need and price.  Based on our delivery model the cost-per-training-hour is very low.  Also, it’s more important than ever right now for employees to make better business decisions.  Business acumen training addresses exactly that.

One client is working on their biggest order in company history.  The other, a start up, is experiencing real traction on the message and is hearing “We can find the money.”  Trust me, they can always find the money.

Ask Your Customers

Before you change your message consider talking to a few customers to find out how they are feeling, what language they’re using and how they are being forced to change.  This will greatly improve your chances your new message will fit their new initiative, main concerns, etc.


This is the toughest, but in a crisis, the alternative may not be an option for you (failure).  If you simply aren’t getting traction with a modified selling proposition and what you’re hearing from customers isn’t encouraging, well, maybe your big, high quality, total service, complete warranty product needs to change.  Please, remember, what got you where you are today may not be what will get you through a crisis. 

Have you ever heard the expression “Don’t get caught fighting the wrong war!”?  Examples are legendary.  The allies were fighting WWI style when Hitler started WWII with the blitzkrieg.  We fought the Vietnam War Korean War style for the first several years.

Let go of the past.  Adapt.  Innovate.  It’s always easier to do it sooner than later.  Example-  For many years the typical model for my new clients is we’d start by doing a marketing plan.  Then they’d hire us to implement.  We’d study the situation, make recommendations and start testing our solutions.

Now, we’re doing a lot more what I’d call micro interventions.  I’ll sit with an owner on the phone and we’ll solve the problem at hand (improve website conversions, revise a brochure, redo an ad).  And guess what?  It’s fun, I’m delivering good value and we’re thriving.

2 thoughts on “In a Crisis, are You a Necessity or Luxury?

  1. Teresa

    Good stuff here, and I agree that a lot of businesses are stuck on the wrong thing. Yet I think that it is less of a usp issue, or even a question of product. Rather, I think that it is all about the core influence of the market. For example, if you are saling a how to make cash product, and you know the following about your market,
    they’re afraid because they don’t have a clue how they will meet their next morgage or car payments,
    they are awakened by the thought of not being able to put food on the table, then you can craft your message to hit on that fear.
    in truth its about noing exactly who your market is, and what they realy want.. core influence. And, I don’t think it matters as much whether your product is a need or a want, as long as you can craft that message to hit them on that level.
    Anyway, good post, I will be on the look out for more.
    to your success,
    Teresa Blaes

  2. hamilton Post author

    You bring up a good point (“I don’t think it matters as much whether your product is a need or a want, as long as you can craft that message to hit them on that level.”). If you take the time to understand exactly how your customers are feeling right now, you can craft a message that speaks to that. Which, practically by definition, turns your product into a need, not a want. Yes, there are exceptions. But the fundamental is true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *