How To Market Your Business During A Recession
“In good times, people want to advertise;
in bad times, they have to”
– Bruce F. Barton, Advertising Executive and Congressman
MARKETING DURING A RECESSION
When times are tough, the tough start marketing. That’s especially true in challenging economic times. The number of unemployed people is off the charts, and experts say they don’t see any fix-all solutions on the horizon. That means business owners everywhere have to stand together to save their businesses and their employees. But what do you do? You feel the pinch, your revenue is down. It’s time to make a decision. You either have to fish or cut bait. If you don’t pay attention to your marketing now, you may find yourself out of business.
People in business know that now is the time to cast your marketing net to bring in new clients. But you need to do it strategically, and you have to pull in a sure catch. The trick is to focus on smart marketing that will strengthen your competitive advantage and leave your competition wallowing in shallow water.
Here are a few tips:
• Create a simple marketing plan. Work with experts that will help you increase your catch by developing a simple marketing plan that targets your audience, fits your budget, and includes measuring results. They will be able to show you the most cost-effective use of your marketing dollars. The key is to effectively communicate the benefits of your products and services. Be sure to put some fresh bait on your advertising hook and explore every avenue – advertising, public relations, brochures and other print marketing material, the Internet and all its possibilities, social networking, billboards and other outside media. If you cannot afford to hire a professional to do a marketing plan for you, then sit down and do one for yourself. You can find one online. Look at your calendar, determine the slow times, and market to fill those slow times at least a month in advance. Fill every week with some type of marketing effort.
Remember, you don’t have to do everything in the plan all at once and, in many cases, you can implement some of the tactics yourself, at no cost
• Communicate with your existing client base. Find out how they’re doing and see what you can do to help them stay the on course. Ask how you can help, and ask for a testimonial.
• Ask for specials from your local advertising avenues (newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards). There are some specials targeted to small business owners. Ask about running on a preemptible basis at a discount. Television advertising has a special plan for preemptible ads.
• Advertising frequency is important. Never place just one ad. In print advertising, run a minimum of three to four ads consecutively. If you cannot afford three large ads, run one larger ad and scale down the size for the others. Instead of running every issue, run every other issue.
• Update your website. Add timely articles. Consider adding a blog. Keep your site current. Making small changes to your website will help bring it up higher on the search engines. Create a marketing database by collecting names from your website. Offer something valuable in trade like a timely white paper on something of interest. For example: The Top Ten Marketing Mistakes to Avoid.
• Search engine optimization. How does your website rank online? If it is not ranking well, hire a professional to bring it up higher. This is not an expense that will break the bank. If done successfully, it brings in more business, without having to hire additional salespeople. Do not list your website on paid “link farms,” it will hurt your rankings. Google looks for any unnatural number of back links to your site. Too many at once, will ban you from Google. Page titles, subheads, bulleted lists, keyword rich copy are most important.
• Social Internet marketing. This has become increasingly important. It is free. Establish a few online accounts for your business: Linkedin.com, Plaxo.com, Facebook.com, Merchantcircle.com, YouTube.com, Twitter. Be sure to put your website on each source. It will help your search engine ranking. Reach out and touch old customers and friends through these sources. Ask a colleague to “make an introduction” through LinkedIn. Ask clients to post a recommendation for you or your business. Business people are closing sales with social marketing.
• Focus on your niche market. Instead of every market. Look at your client base and determine your perfect customer. People like to buy from specialty providers. You can have several niche markets. Perhaps you work with people in the healthcare industry, or small businesses, or women-owned businesses, or multi-cultural businesses. Focus your marketing efforts (brochures, websites, tradeshows, sponsorships) on those industries.
• Network at professional organizations. The Women Business Owners of North Florida (www.wbonfl.org) or Southside Businessmen’s (www.southsidebusinessmensclub.com). Volunteer to make presentations on subjects of interest that fall within your area of expertise. Groups like the Beaver Street Enterprise Center (www.bsecenter.net), Small Business Development Center at UNF (www.sbdc.unf.edu), Rotary Club (www.jaxrotary.org) and Chamber of Commerce (www.myjaxchamber.com) are always looking for good speakers with interesting topics.
• Enhance your image. Use your storefront to draw attention to your business. Update your sign or add a bright flag or something distinctive outside your business. Make your business stand out from other businesses near yours.
• Send an html-rich email blast. Use this inexpensive, quick marketing tool to send short, easy-to-read messages that offer specials and other items of interest.
• Don’t forget your telephone message on-hold script. You have a captive audience. Use it to inform your customers of new services or products.
• Send a press release to the media. Write a column for your local newspaper or trade publication. Position yourself as an expert. The news media is begging for stories. Look in the newspaper and magazines and determine which writer is suited for your type of story. If you are not a writer, rough out a story and have a public relations professional finish the work for you: www.maryfisherdesign.com. Also send this press release to your clients. It can be sent via snail mail, via regular email, or as an email blast. And add it to your website. A news story is normally cheaper than an ad and has a lot more credibility.
• Offer an easy payment plan. Let your clients pay over several months, or pay the invoice on a credit card. If you don’t take credit cards, and don’t want to pay a monthly fee, consider taking credit cards through Google Checkout or PayPal. You can send an invoice with either system. You will pay the service about 3%, but don’t have a recurring monthly fee like most merchant service accounts.