By Rod Means, SCORE Marketing Advisory Council
First and foremost stay calm and don't panic! Recessions and economic downturns have occurred before. Prepare now to position yourself and your business to benefit from the eventual and inevitable climb back to success.
Be Creative - It's time to be creative in your sales and marketing efforts. Remember two old clichés, “step out of the box” and “don't be vanilla!” Now is the time to maximize your sales and marketing effort. Don't sit back and wait.
Focus on Existing Clients - Start with obvious fundamentals. Contact all past and present customers as soon as possible! Be enthusiastic. An example would be, “We're overstocked on items you've bought previously.” Offer significant incentives and/or “preferred customer” discounts on everything including the highest turnover items. Liquidate old and slow moving inventory at cost or less. If you provide a service create a package offering, a “special series,” or an evening and weekend rate. Don't forget ladies’ day, senior citizen’s day and holiday specials. Don't forget incentives to pay now. Think cash! Cash is always king, especially in recessionary times.
Think Long Term - Revise your marketing and business plan to position yourself for long term success. What are you good at? Set realistic goals and measure progress often. Narrow your product line or the services you offer. Now is not the time to introduce fringe products or allied services. Don't forget customer service with this definition: an unexpected service, delivered at random, a memorable event! Unexpected, random, memorable. Make use of sincere thank you's. Follow up. Follow up again.
Use the Web - Valuable tools are available today that didn't exist during previous downturns. Technology has given you the internet, email marketing and search engines. What about cell phones and text messages? There are professional networking sites such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.
Be Smarter in Your Marketing - Maximize utilization of inexpensive items like press releases, trade shows, speaking opportunities and email marketing. Network at chamber of commerce events and other “mixers.” Offer to provide a door prize in order to get recognition and exposure. Investigate business networking groups like Business Network International (BNI), Leads Club and business Meetup groups. Don't forget to read industry trade journals, newsletters, and visit appropriate websites for the latest industry trends and fresh ideas.
Professionalize Your Web Site - Finally clean up your Web site and make sure it’s user friendly. Offer up-to-date professional product or service information to those who provide an email address. Also, utilize search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to drive visitors to your site.
Rod Means of San Diego, CA is a SCORE District Director and national Marketing Advisory Council Member.