The Importance of Value in Today’s Economy

My column in today’s Tennessean offers two examples of businesses doing well during the recession by offering value to the market:

Not all small businesses are facing declining sales in these difficult times. Businesses that offer a product or service that provides a better value to the customer are finding they’re actually able to grow during a recession.

Two very different businesses in Middle Tennessee serve as prime examples.

Ken Harmon, his wife and two friends founded The Music Library. The service lets churches and schools resell used choral music and music products to one another through a Web site,

Harmon, an alumnus of the Belmont University MBA program, found this niche from his own experience as a music minister leading a small church choir that was operating on a limited budget.

In the current economic downturn, The Music Library has been able to capture many new customers in a relatively short period of time due to the tightening budgets of many churches and schools.

Another example of a business finding success in the recession is Cell Journalist, a Nashville startup venture founded by Colin and Parker Polidor. Cell Journalist provides a platform to local TV stations and newspapers, allowing audience members to easily send in images and videos of breaking news and community events.

“Even as layoffs are accelerating and budgets are being slashed, media outlets realize that now more than ever they must invest in new innovative digital platforms to make them more efficient and successful,” explains Colin Polidor a graduate of the Massey MBA program at Belmont University.

In a short time Cell Journalist has signed up about 40 clients, including some of the largest media groups in the country such as Scripps and Raycom. But, their platform also offers value to many smaller local television stations and other media.

Owners look ahead

Once the economy strengthens, retaining customers will be the next objective.

“When ‘normal’ economic times return, it will be much easier to retain these customers than to capture new ones,” suggests Harmon of the Music Library. They have a simple, cost-effective plan to attract and keep these new customers.

First, they ask customers how they found out about The Music Library. This helps Harmon focus a limited marketing budget on those efforts that are bringing in new business. They also actively encourage customers to pass the word about their services.

They motivate this word of mouth by always trying to wow customers with excellent customer service beginning with the first order.

Both businesses have found a formula for success by offering value to budget-conscious customers constrained by the current economic hardships.