by David Garfinkel
There's gloom and uncertainty in the air, and most businesses are making
a terrible mistake right now in their efforts to ride out the tough times.
They're cutting back on marketing and waiting until the economy improves.
In an economy like this, cutting back on marketing is flirting with
business suicide. What you should do instead is increase your marketing
without increasing the amount of money you spend. This will not only protect
you from sales declines, but will also strengthen your business against
the threat of deep-pocketed competitors, who may see tough times as a
great opportunity to outmaneuver you and grab some of your customers.
How do you get more marketing bang for fewer marketing bucks? By using
proven lower-cost, higher-yield methods. Here are five sure cures for
marketing woes in tough times:
1. Get back in touch with old customers. It's all too easy to ignore
your old customers, but they are often your best source for new business.
Sometimes sending a personal note, making a phone call or inviting an
old customer to lunch is all it takes to rekindle a business relationship.
If you want to do this through direct mail or email, you can give old
customers a special "Welcome Back" offer - a freebie, a discount, or a
bonus when they resume doing business with you.
2. Offer prospective customers a free sample. This is an obvious but
often overlooked strategy that certainly can work for your business. Everyone
from grocery stores (who offer tidbits of food) to high priced consultants
(I spoke to one last week who snared a $10,000 personal coaching client
by offering a free first hour) can use this strategy effectively. Don't
think it will work in the corporate world? Hmmm... ever hear of a company
3. Focus your advertising. Many businesses think "keeping your name
in front of the public" is a valid advertising strategy. It's questionable
at best, but it's way too risky and low-yield in tough times. Instead,
make sure your advertising is only in publications that reach your best
prospects, and - this is the most important part - make a specific offer
and call to action to get readers of the ad to call you.
One of my clients used this strategy and progressed from 10 lukewarm
leads that wouldn't turn into customers, into signed contracts with 35
customers representing millions of dollars worth of business.
4. Let your customers help you out. Business is always a two-way street.
Some of your customers who you've helped in the past will be glad to return
the favor. Often, all you have to do is ask. Two things you can ask for:
testimonials and case studies you can use in your sales presentations
Another way they can help you: by giving you referrals. And if you have
an influential customer who's appreciative of what you've done, ask that
customer to write and send an endorsed letter to others recommending your
business. Offer to pay for the printing and postage, and help with the
writing if necessary.
5. Give extra attention to high-integrity behavior. If you think you're
the only one who's a little nervous about a lot of things right now, you're
not alone. Recent tragic events have increased feelings of distrust across
the board. To set yourself apart in the marketplace, go out of your way
to conduct business in an especially trustworthy manner. Bend over backwards
to be fair about refunds and exchanges.
Do all you can to act in your customers' best interest, even if it means
referring them to a competitor (if you don't think you're the best choice
for what they want). High-integrity actions can hurt a little in the short-term,
but payback is remarkably quick and well worth any sacrifice you may have
had to make. If you get (or strengthen) a reputation for being trustworthy,
that can be the most precious marketing asset of all in the times ahead.
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Enough with the doom and gloom. So the economy is not as strong as we would like it to be. If you decide to curl up into a ball and just accept the worst, then you've already lost. You might as well just close up shop now.
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