The economy is not down, it is different! If you want to be successful in this economy the first thing you need to realize is just how incredibly different this economy is.  I don’t care what economists, experts and business gurus are saying or predicting, the truth is no matter what the economy does – whether it goes up or goes down – your customer has forever changed and that change impacts you and your business.

In my opinion the mind of our customer has been more deeply impacted then their wallets. When the economy started to shift in late 2008 so did our customers. Unlike other blips in the economy, this one was different. At first, consumers slowly waited for the economy to bounce back, when that first bounce took longer than expected the first change in the consumer mindset took hold. When that bounce was far less impressive then expected, consumers got more cautious, and the more uncertain things got with the economy the more consumers started taking matters into their own hands.

As consumers started to realize they could not control the economy, they focused on what they could control, their  approach to managing and spending their money.  Consumers may have been experiencing different things with this economy; losing jobs, finding new ones, starting businesses, shutting businesses down; but  they all shared one thing in common; how they began to think about and how they began to spend money.

Research study after research study shows that young or old, consumers and their spending habits have greatly changed.  This economy is uncertain, and the constant fluctuations have created a more cautious type of spender. In addition, globalization, advancements in technology and increased competition have put the consumer in control of the buying cycle. They are calling the shots; they can buy what they want, when they want it, and from whomever they want it. Making the products and services we as business owners offer mere commodities, but how we sell them our competitive edge.

Consumers in this new, uncertain economy are willing to spend money, but trust and value are the return on investment they are looking for. Our society has changed and frugal is in. People want quality and value instead of quantity and price. Gone are the status symbols of overspending and abundance.

So how do you succeed in this economy, how do you compete? You need to embrace this new reality (step one in the ten steps to finding success in a trust and value economy) and ask yourself four simple questions:

1. How has my customer changed? You need to step back and think about your customers. Get clear about the problems or changes they may be facing. What, if any, opportunities this new economy has brought to them. You need to truly understand your customer.

2. Where does your product or service fit in their new reality? Once you understand their most pressing problems and challenges, ask yourself what your product or service does to help. Get clear on how your product or service can help them solve their problems, find new solutions or help them take advantage of their opportunities.

3. What value do you add? What is your customer getting from you that goes above and beyond? You need to get clear about the “little extras” that you provide your customers, with no additional cost, that make them feel important or special?

4. How are you different from your competitors? Again, what you are selling, and what you are providing is a commodity. Your customers can buy your product from anyone, anywhere and at anytime. You need to get clear on why they should buy it from you.

When you take this first step and embrace your new reality, you begin to the build the foundation you need to be successful in a Trust & Value Economy.