Unemployment and tight credit still pose significant challenges to many individuals and businesses, but all signs are that we’re making a slow ascent out of perhaps the greatest economic downturn of our time. “Cautiously optimistic” is the buzz phrase of the day.
If the leading economic indicators are the guideposts of tomorrow that we’ve always known them to be, then now is a good time for business owners to position themselves to take advantage of an upturn. As the economy improves, one or both of two things will happen depending on the exact nature of your business and whether or not you play your cards right. New customers for your products and/or services will enter the marketplace, and/or the demand for your products/services will grow.
Your challenge? How to ensure your company is the one consumers choose to meet their particular need for a good or service when the time comes.
That’s where smart and aggressive marketing comes in.
The Marketing Riddle
When times are tough, the first thing businesses do is cut costs. No surprise. If you’re not making it, you can’t spend it. Unfortunately, the first cuts are often made to the marketing budget. Big companies in particular often take this route. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is not a winning strategy.
Small businesses, in particular, need to market themselves most aggressively when consumers are pulling in their belts. In fact, some would argue there’s no better time to get your message across than when the clutter created by large companies pushing their products and services is reduced. Smaller voices become stronger when the crowd thins out.
The most successful business owners know that when the economy is down, there’s no better time to pick up market share. The good news is that marketing in a very targeted and affordable way has never been easier thanks to current technologies. At the same time, history has taught us that there’s still a place in any marketing plan for doing things the old fashioned way.
Effective Marketing Strategies in Any Economy
When the budget is lean, that’s when you need to get smart. Here are some marketing approaches that every good business owner should consider implementing, no matter what the state of the economy. Many of them are surprisingly affordable and very easy to sustain. Keep in mind that there are now hundreds, if not thousands of companies who cater to the marketing needs of small business owners just like you. Don’t hesitate to seek them out, pick their brains, get estimates and get referrals.
By giving some thought to how some of the following options can be sifted into your small business marketing plan, you can ensure your company is poised to do great things as the economy improves. Remember, constant customer contact is critical.
Thanks to the computer, more marketing options for small businesses are available than ever before, and some of them don’t cost a whole lot when you consider the return on investment. Here are just a few you might want to consider:
Mobile Technology Strategies
Cell and smart phone technology is evolving so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with the additional marketing opportunities they provide with each passing year. Text messaging of special offers and new product announcements is one way to keep your customers engaged and up-to-date. In addition, Twitter has become an incredible forum for keeping in touch with consumers and inviting them to take advantage of special offers and promotions and to attend special events, classes or other promos.
Facebook and Twitter are very quickly becoming not only outlets for socializing and catching up with old friends, but they’re terrific forums for talking about and promoting your business. In fact, using them to reach potential customers has garnered a name of its very own…social network marketing. Having a presence in these arenas can help you drive word-of-mouth referrals and create a “buzz” around your company and what you are up to.
Customer Service Strategies
Having a policy in place whereby you and all of your employees constantly strive to exceed customer expectations may sound old hat, but it works! Make sure your expectations when it comes to customer service are clear among all of your staff, and put incentives in place to ensure they are met.
You can drive a tremendous amount of traffic by offering incentives for referrals and creating special offers. Give some serious thought to what it would take to get new customers to buy your product/service and what it would take to generate repeat customers. Chances are the strategies to reach each audience will be different, in terms of not only the message, but the vehicle to reach them as well. Loyalty/rewards programs are particularly effective, especially when consumers are feeling the pinch.
Traditional Outreach Strategies
No matter what strategies you choose to employ, it’s important to have a plan, one that you stick with and that is mapped out over a specific time period. By sitting down and committing to a few key steps over the next 6 to 12-month period, you will see results. After all, the financial forecast may be working in your favor for a change.