Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How To Market In A Really Bad Economy

Eight ideas to help your small business.

Even if your company is doing well during a down economy, you need to make plans for customers who may start cutting back. They key is to shift your marketing from image-oriented marketing to direct response, measureable advertising. If your business is already feeling the effects of a weakening economy here are some strategies you can use to market in a bad economy.

1. Place your focus on more direct forms of revenues versus “image advertising.” It’s time to show good, measureable results. Coupon redemption programs and the use of promo codes can be very effective. When the economy is down everyone is looking for bargains. With coupons and promo codes you also get to track what’s working and what isn’t.

2. Learn more about your customers needs. Surveys don’t have to cost anything. If you have an email list, you can build a quick survey to send out using Survey Monkey. It’s free and easy. You can also put the survey on your web site and offer something free for people to take the survey. Since you may not be able to advertise everything during a bad economy, it’s smart to know where to put your money.

3. Call in favors from your vendors. You need to get the biggest bang for your buck. I’m not suggesting hitting up your vendors for such large discounts that it places an undue strain on them. However, get what you can while keeping your relationship good and making sure they stay in business to serve you throughout the downturn.

4. Not all customers are created equal. See who has purchased the most from you and make sure you stay close to them. As your best customers, they should be entitled to any perks you can afford.

5. Stress ROI. All of your campaigns need to convey how your customer will profit from your product. And you need to be as certain as possible that your advertising campaign will pay for itself. When you start a business you obviously need to watch your pennies. However, don’t abandon this practice as you grow your business.

6. Test. Test. Test. Segment your list and try different subject lines, headlines and sub heads. Try different offers. The key is to find the one combination that hits the sweet spot and use that one. This point brings us back to the importance of measuring your results. With limited funds when starting a business you need to know which message gets you the best results.

7. Try to “convert” everyone that comes to your web site. By convert I mean capture their name, company, email, and phone number. Get this valuable marketing information by offering your visitors valuable content. Reports and videos are great things to use. Think about any content and information that would help your customer or prospect succeed – especially in a bad economy.

8. It’s time for family values. When hard times hit, people tend to go back to the nest. Try to position your product in warm, fun, family-oriented scenes. Even if your product doesn’t quite fit that image or is more business oriented, every product will affect someone. The image could even be a coming together of office workers around your product. “Paint the picture” how your product makes a warm, positive impact on someone or something.

While no small business likes bad economic times it can be an opportunity to sustain revenue, build brand awareness and brand loyalty, and strengthen ties with your customers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Chase Or Not To Chase – What Business Am I In?

All those tempting opportunities

There’s always a balance when starting a business between keeping a razor sharp focus, and being open to new opportunities when they come your way. You can’t chase everything that comes down the path when you start a business.

When I first started my business in 1986 I was a manufacturer’s rep selling computer memory boards to businesses. One day I called on a prospect and they told me, “We don’t need any memory boards, but I could use a good programmer.” I few days earlier I had run into a colleague of mine, who was a programmer, and had just quit his job at the same company I had worked at, to start his own programming business. I called him up and in about 10 minutes we worked out the details. I presented him to the prospect and they hired him that day. From that one opportunity my training and consulting business grew.

Every now and then when you start a business an opportunity will present itself that’s not quite in the core competency of your current business. It may be in the same playing field but you would really have to find new resources or set up different procedures to handle this new opportunity. It’s always tempting to go for it because it’s either it’s a good-sized deal or you really need the business. (Or your entrepreneur gene is out of control.)

If you have salespeople, and they bring you the deal, it complicates the decision. If you decide not to pursue the deal, and your sales rep is working on commission, they may see it as taking food off their table. It’s another small business dilemma.
Ultimately, you have to make the decision if going after this business is in the best long-term interest of your company, regardless of whose feelings you may hurt.

Here are four things to consider when you are making this decision:
1. Are there any other current customers that could use the same product or service?
2. Will it cost you the same or even less to deliver this special deal, than you typically spend?
3. Are the profits from the deal worth the time spent going after it and opportunity lost from your current business?
4. Can you keep selling the product (or an upgrade to that product) or service to the same customer after the initial sale?

If you answered “yes” to all the above, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some flexibility and going to for the deal; especially if you really need the business. Just be clear with yourself and your employees why you are going for the deal. Go through the four points I list above with them as well.

Also, think about the downside. What if you invest the time and resources and then don’t get the deal? What have you lost? Will it really set you back? Since every situation and deal is different, I cannot tell you what to do. I just want you to be clear, and brutally honest, on why you are chasing the deal.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Turn Adversity into Opportunity

A Lesson From Google

Every self-help book has something similar to the following: “Inside every disaster there is an opportunity hiding.” I was always skeptical of this attitude, until a little adversity came my way.

I used Google to host a web site for me. As I mention in the eBook, I like Google web sites when you start a business because they are easy to put together, give several different template options, and most importantly, they generate a site map for you and index your site very easily. This gives you a better chance being found by their search engine.

There are two downsides, however, to using these sites:
1. Flexibility. For the most part you have to design within their template constraints. This can make your site look cookie-cutter.
2. You have to play by their rules. That’s where I got into trouble.
One morning I went to my Google site and a yellow banner came across the top that told me, “This site has been suspended for violation of our Terms of Service.” Yikes!

Google did not tell me what I had done wrong, only that I had violated the terms. They did give me a link to dispute their decision and a link to the Terms of Service for me to figure out the violation myself. After reading the terms, I guessed that the site was suspended because of a parity video I had created using my wife. It was a take-off on the Charles Schwab commercials. It had that “cartooner” effect the Schwab commercials had been using. So, I took the video off the site and wrote Google asking if we were friends now and if I could have my site back. Of course, there was no immediate response.

Panic setting in. This was my main site for my sales copywriting business. If people could not get to it how would I get business? If people saw that threatening banner at the top what kind of credibility would I have? How could people trust me with their sites? Is Google putting me out of business?

Breathe. The truth of the matter is that I had wanted to create my own pages for my business and host them with another provider but I had been putting it off. I had already created one site to give away this eBook on starting a business from scratch, and I thought it would be nice to have my sales copywriting pages have the same look and feel. But everything else took priority. Now it was time to buckle up and the pages done. I had no choice.
Take action. So, I jumped in and gave it priority. Within one day I had converted most of what people visiting my site would need to see if they wanted to hire me and I really liked the way it came out. I think it makes a much better impression and I’m already having better results. Taking action is the key to opening the opportunity door. Contrary to “secret” believers, you cannot just wish it to happen. You have to do something about your situation and put all your mental energies into it.

The Lessons. You usually don’t knowingly walk into adversity. Somehow you just end up there. But when it strikes, you have a choice to make: Wait for things to get better or take action yourself and try to turn the adversity into an opportunity. There a lot of lessons for entrepreneurs to be learned from what happened to me and how you can apply them to your business. Here are a few:
1. Don’t ever forget – Nothing in business is ever really free. If it was, it would be called a charity and not a business. Google gives away a lot of software for free because they tie it back to the advertising revenue model. And they do it very well. Google gives good, quality software at no cost. You can do a lot without spending anything. But you are playing in their sand box and have to play by their rules.
2. Make sure you have a backup plan for areas that are critical to your business. Don’t just think about it. Get them ready to go at a “Violations” moment’s notice. Your list should be prioritized and have the items that will shut you down listed at the top.
3. Don’t be lazy by thinking you will get it done but, “it’s such a hassle and I have important things I have to take care of.” Set aside a half hour a day and go through your list of critical areas to your business. Knock off a piece each day until you feel comfortable. (Don’t forget about data backups. Most people do forget to back up their data until it’s tragically too late. Thumb drives are ridiculously inexpensive these days.)
4. There really can be opportunity in adversity. You just need to stay calm, make a plan and take action. I’m a true believer now.

Google finally did write back to me. Their team said I could not use that particular site but I was welcome to create a new Google Site. It turns out I had a “link referral” on my site. Google does not allow those types of links on their sites. When you start a business from scratch, you need to know the ground rules for every part of your business.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Really good resource

Check out this article. http://www.insidecrm.com/features/marketing-startup-budget-051208/index.php#comments

This a really good, comprehensive list. It also fits in with the theme of my free eBook. - How to start a business from scratch…without having any.
You can download it at www.sales-getter.com

Monday, November 3, 2008

How to boost sales even with a slashed marketing budget

Is your marketing budget cut?

If so, you’re not alone.

Marketing and ad budgets have been cut everywhere.
But that doesn’t mean you sit still. There are plenty of things
you can do get results for very little money; and a lot of things are free.
Let’s look at the freebies:

First off, make sure your company comes up higher in the search
engines. Here are a few things you can do at no cost:

- Write articles and submit them to www.ezinearticles.com and other
article sites. Search engines like sites they consider experts in their field.
Articles are one way to show your expertise.

- Create a Site Map for Google. It will help them find you. Google suggests it. Why ignore it?

- Create a blog and get other people to link to it - backlinks. Search engines like sites that other sites think are relevant.

- Comment in other peoples blogs that are in your industry. And make the
comments meaningful. Don’t just copy and paste.

- Subscribe to Google Alerts. You can receive an email every day about
what’s going on with the keywords that affect you or are related to your
industry. It will also give you a list of blogs for your keywords.

- Reuse your content in your blog. It’s a little known strategy but used in
the correct way can bring results.

To get a innovative list of other ideas and talk to an award-winning,
persuasive copywriter, visit www.LouieBernstein.com

Keep the faith,

Louie Bernstein