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.