By: Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

In a recession, everyone should be in marketing. Motivated employees contribute to creative thinking that can help retain current customers and identify new ones.

Here are five suggestions:

  1. Increase customer contact

Financial turbulence sometimes leads managers to over- emphasise pleasing banks or investment analysts while appearing to take customers for granted. But as we all know, without customers, there is no business.

Employees should become personal ambassadors to customers, thanking them for their business and making it clear that they want to help them succeed. Customers will know you care, you will be better informed, staff will feel more involved, and unexpected opportunities might arise,

  1. Look for new markets

Companies dependent on a few large customers are particularly vulnerable to changes in their customers’ fortunes, but all companies need the flexibility to move quickly into promising markets. In uncertain times, increase efforts to identify additional uses for company products and additional sources of customers for the future.

Creative thinking can End opportunities to offset losses from current customers. Starting research now on less-familiar industries will help you to move quickly when conditions improve. This might involve sales calls, tests of a new channel, postings on websites targeting new areas or industry segments, sending more people to speak at industry conferences and cultivate relationships – good investments even if they seem like the first candidates for cutting. During slow times, employees who might otherwise be idle could be deployed to gather information by discussions with end users.

  1. Invest in employee morale

When employees fear for their jobs, worries about family finances drain energy and increase the temptation to stay home on the slightest excuse. When morale is down, productivity and attention to customers suffer, right at the time that you most need zero defects, efficient teamwork and cheerful voices handling customer questions. Too many companies treat employees as costs to be cut, when they really should show employees how important they are; Greet employees personally and thank them for their contributions. Small tokens of appreciation go a long way to keep people motivated to perform well.

  1. Reward small wins

Innovation is an ongoing task, but turbulent times increase the need to get everyone involved in undertaking small improvements that can be easily and quickly implemented to find a cost-saving efficiency, improve the work environment, or convince customers to buy a little more.

  1. Stick to your values

There is always a temptation to cut corners when times are tough. Avoid desperate moves that could damage the company later – no accounting tricks, no shoddy merchandise and no compromises with ethics, such as “gifts” to a purchasing agent. Reminders about company values can reinforce solidarity and increase the confidence that customers have in the company.

Challenging times separate winners from losers. Winners survive because they never forget the important enduring truth: High quality products and services are created by engaged employees who know and care about customers. YB Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Publishing. Excerpt from Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s The Change Master blog on