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Febuary 2009
ADM logoThe Shortest Month 
February is the shortest month in the year, and yet it is packed with lots of goodies. It begins with Ground Hog Day, originally Candlemas Day, which is a Christian observance that coincides with the earlier pagan Imbolc (thank you, Wikipedia!). All of these celebrations concern predictions of how much longer the winter will last.
Valentine's Day follows--and we all know what that is about (chocolates, anyone?). That also originated as a religious holiday, though its connection with romantic love emanates from Medieval times and the tradition of courtly love.
Two of our greatest presidents were born in February, and the observance of their birthdays has morphed into Presidents Week, replete with school vacations and retail sales. Let us hope the later are successful this year!
Finally, it is the month in which two friends, a cousin, and I were born. So Happy Birthday to all Aquarians and Pisceans! 
Customer Retention
Man & woman handshakeMore Important Than Ever 
Regardless of the business in which you are engaged, the customer is king--or queen. The main reason for this stems from the oft-proven principle that it is easier and less expensive to keep a customer than to acquire a new one.  In the current economic environment, it is more critical than ever to hold on to your customers; new ones will be harder to find than they were a year ago and you may not be able to wait for the economy to recover.
This does not necessarily mean that you have to slash your prices to an unsustainable level; nor must you "give away the farm." Here are some points to consider in developing or revising a Customer Relations program.
  • Give your customers value. This may take the form of extra features or additional quantities, but it is better if you plan to offer more or better benefits.
  • Keep in touch with your customers. Communicate on a regular basis--but don't be a nag, or become too intrusive or you will lose them.
  • Be responsive. Answer as many inquiries as possible. Look for common threads; if there's a problem, fix it. If you see that your staff is doing something right, reward them and publicize the success as an added benefit!
  • Encourage interactivity with customers AND with employees. When customers--or employees--feel they are contributing to your success, they develop a vested interest in it. You can't buy that.
  • Look for paradigm shifts in your customer base and respond accordingly. There is nothing static about your customer base--whether they are consumers or businesses. Technology alone has changed the way all kinds of customers make purchase decisions. Add to that cultural diversity, global markets, and new media. The result was best summed up by Will Rogers: "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

Of course, it is important to know what your customers are thinking, how they are using new media and technology to make purchase decisions, and what "value" means to them.  While this may sound like shameless self-promotion, it is nonetheless true. Without customers (or clients) you have no business.

If you are interested in reading more about providing value and how important it can be, read "The Tough Get Going" on The Knowledge Agency's blog.

Business and Cultural Trends

What Is In Our Future? 

Sometimes it is difficult to know which things are passing fads and which represent real changes in our society and business worlds. Last month's survey is quite revealing.

Environmentalism and digital technology are widely seen as trends (the top score on a 5-point scale, where the bottom score represented a "fad"), things that are here to stay. These involve products and services that have already changed our lives and will continue to do so for some time. The top business trends (closest to a rating of 5) are:

  • Buying and selling online (4.6)
  • Telecommuting (4.3)
  • Greening of homes and office buildings (4.0)
The outsourcing of jobs overseas is also seen as a trend that is already affecting certain industries (4.2). On the other hand, print newspapers and the 40-hour work week are seen as things of the past (2.6 and 2.7, respectively).
On the cultural front, technology leads the way, again, but a social paradigm shift is a meaningful trend, as well.
  • Hybrid cars (4.2)
  • Gay marriage (3.9)
  • Digital books (3.8)

Rap music (2.5), McMansions (2.6), and paper greeting cards (2.7) are viewed as being on the way out.

Given the importance of technology to our future, it is interesting to note that 50% of respondents are "somewhat concerned" about being able to adapt to new technologies and new social or cultural trends. Nearly two out of five respondents (39%) are not at all concerned.
Trends and The Economy
 Are They Short Term or Long Term?
The second part of last month's survey dealt with our economy and the likely after-effects of this recession.
Keeping in mind that this "snap shot" was taken at the beginning of January, predictions of a recovery were not rosy. About two out of three respondents believe we will not emerge from this recession until the second half of 2010 (68%), at the earliest. More than one in three believe it will be 2011 before we see daylight (38%). Fewer than one out of four believe we'll be in the clear by June 2010 (23%).
Quality of life, both pre-retirement (20%) and post-retirement (27%) are seen as suffering the greatest long term impact from this recession. Access to credit (17%) and housing (15%) are also thought to be long term victims of this crisis.
More specifically, respondents to our survey see more government regulation in our future, particularly as it relates to financial markets and instruments. They also see people tightening their belts more:
  • more consumer saving
  • more cautious spending habits
  • less access to credit.

Some respondents predict that people will work longer, unable to retire at 62 or even 65. This is already the case with many Boomers who do not have defined pension plans (or any pension plans!). This scenario is likely to be exacerbated by the recession and its effects on market investments and other retirement plans.

For a full report of the findings of our survey, write to me at
Upcoming Events
February 11, 11:30-2:00pm 
International Association of Business Communicators-Long Island is featuring a very timely program this month: "Talkin' 'Bout My Generation." Presented by Dr. Susanne B. Seperson, Chair of the Sociology Department at Dowling College and head of its Center for Intergenerational Policy and Practice, Dr. Seperson will focus on the way differences in age and gender affect communication styles, technology and expectations in the work environment. The program will be presented at Blackstone Steakhouse on Pinelawn Road and Rte 110 in Melville. For more details and to register, please visit
February 11, 8:00-10:00am 
In response to our economic situation and the proposed funding of public works from the new administration, SMPS-LI is presenting "Weathering The Economic Cycle; LI Towns' Perspective." Moderating this panel of Town officials and planners, John Cameron, Chair of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, will address the ways in which the Towns in this bi-country region are managing needed infrastructure projects. As usual, the meeting is held at the Milleridge Inn, Broadway, Jericho. Visit for more details and registration.
February 24, 6:00-8:00pm 
The New York Chapter of the American Marketing Association presents "Strategizing For Maximizing Your Opportunities: Learn What Separates Good Players from Great Professionals." This program, held at the offices of Microsoft, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, will help attendees learn how best to position themselves for growth in this challenging marketplace. For more information, please go to
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman