In these days of perpetual negative news about the economy and the stock market, one runs the risk of getting caught up in the bad news and foreseeing the same for your business. Yes, business will likely drop, perhaps by double digits if it has not already. However, a declining business in a declining market is not a death knell if you do not let it become one. Now is the time to focus in on your customers. Do NOT cut your prices. When you cut your prices you risk commoditization of your service and product offerings. What you should focus on instead is in adding significant value to your goods and services.

What “value” you could add depends on who your customer is. For B2B companies, the value depends on whether your customers are public works entities or other government entities, large corporations, industrial installations, retail developers, property managers,… and the list goes on. Although these customers appreciate some of the same things, each of these customers have nuances for which certain activities or offerings would resonate more strongly with them than it would another customer in a different category. The key is to determine WHO your customers are, then determine WHAT your customers want.

If you have a large customer base of satisfied customers, start there. Determine what they like and why. Sit down with a few of your top customers and ask them why they keep coming back, what you are doing well and what you could do differently. Are they fully clear on how you differentiate your company from other similar companies in your target geographic area? If not, what can you do?

If you are not in touch with your customer base, then you need to start anew. If you have traditionally pursued the “low hanging fruit” – any prospect who is relatively easy to obtain -, you may not know who your real target customer is. Nor will you know how to access that customer. If this sounds like your company, then you have probably been garnering business based predominantly on price. Now is the time to conduct the research to find out who your real customer (the best customer for your product or service offering and your strength in that area) is and craft a strong value proposition that will help you weather the construction industry downturn and position your business for serious growth when the economy recovers.

Here are some recommendations for conducting that market research affordably:

1) Get back to basics. A lot of the most valuable market research comes directly from prospective customers, not from a 50-page industry research report. Identify who your target customers are, build a list of people or businesses to call, craft a questionnaire to get the answers you seek and dial for dollars. Enlist the help of employees, temporary staff, or use a virtual assistant if the list is lengthy.

2) Use or similar website to determine who the larger companies in your industry providing a similar good or service are. Many of those companies are public which means they must publish detailed quarterly (10-Q) and annual (10-K) financial reports. You will find these in the investor information section of the companies' respective websites or on the SEC website at These reports are filled with significant current industry and market information that is often directly applicable to your company.

3) Some of the best research involves competitors. Obviously, no direct competitors in your area of operation (i.e., construction companies in Georgia) will freely share information with you but often direct and indirect competitors in completely different regions of the country will willingly answer questions that could help you assess the market, identify prospects, and avoid pitfalls. Find out who they are and call (preferred) or write.

In an economic or industry downturn, many times business as usual doesn’t work. So many industries - the construction industry, the automotive industry, the real estate industry, the heavy goods industry - are cyclical. During a down cycle those companies that focus on good fundamentals - which includes identifying and keying in on the most appropriate customers and ensuring your company has an excellent value proposition for them – continue to do well relative to their peers and ultimately position themselves to excel when the market shifts.

Author's Bio: 

Tiffany C. Wright is the author of the ebook, "Help! I Need Money for My Business Now!" available at She is the president of Toca Family Business Services, an interim management firm, based in Atlanta. As a former CFO and business advisor, she's helped companies obtain over $31 Million in financing. She has an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management from the Wharton School of Business at the Univ. of Pennsylvania and her B.S. in Engineering. You can also view her blog at