In recent years, we small business owners have seen some tough times. And many parts of the country have not been strong economically since before 9/11. In times like this, the first instinct of many small business owners is to cut their marketing way back…or out completely.
This is a huge mistake. As I once heard someone say, “Cutting out advertising to save money is like stopping your clock to save time.” If you are not constantly marketing your business, you soon won’t have a business to worry about!
During tough times, business owners are faced with tough decisions. Just be responsible…and be wary of making any drastic decisions when it comes to promoting your business. Now is the time to be even MORE targeted than ever before!
Increase Your Marketing…Increase Your Marketing Share
It may sound a bit crazy, but a down time is a great time to really increase your marketing presence! Most of your competitors will be looking for ways to scale back…and they will cut back their marketing. By increasing your marketing efforts, you can increase your marketing share during a tough time. And when the economy bounces back, you will be in a better position for real growth!
Don’t believe me? Check out this study for proof!
In a study of U.S. recessions, McGraw-Hill Research analyzed 600 companies from 1980-1985. The results showed that business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during the 1981-1982 recession averaged Significantly Higher Sales growth, both during the recession and for the following three years, than those that eliminated or decreased advertising. By 1985, sales of companies that were aggressive recession advertisers had risen 256% over those that didn't keep up their advertising.
In addition, a series of six studies conducted by the research firm of Meldrum & Fewsmith showed conclusively that Advertising Aggressively during Recessions not only Increases Sales but Increases Profits. This fact has held true for all post-World War II recessions studied by The American Business Press starting in 1949.
So use this time of downturn to plant the seeds for future growth by increasing your marketing efforts.
Become More Targeted
Notice I said increase your marketing “efforts.” I didn’t say dollars. My entire marketing philosophy is about creating targeted efforts, and during a down time that targeted effort becomes even more imperative.
You need to make sure that each and every dollar you spend has an impact on your sales…and ultimately your bottom line. So now is a great time to re-examine the way you are spending your marketing dollars. If you need to cut, consider cutting the low-return marketing items you do. These are often your “habit buys.” Things like this might cost $25, $50, or even $100 per time and probably don’t really give you any return. If you are going to cut something…there’s the place to start.
Now that you have trimmed some fat by eliminating ads that don’t show returns, take that money and increase your efforts that DO generate success. By simply doing this one strategy, you will be pleasantly surprised by the return.
Create A Target List
Each business is different. But when you are re-evaluating your marketing efforts, I encourage folks to create a target list of customers they want to have. If you can’t name specific potential customers, then create the image of what your ideal customer would look like. Doing so will help you to focus your efforts. What would it take to make this person or business (and lots more like them) a customer of mine? Once you have a clear vision of the type of person you want—and what it would take to get them—attack that plan!
Re-Visit Dormant Accounts
When you are looking at ways to create new customers, you also need to consider ways to get old customers back! Sometimes they have stopped doing business with your for legitimate reasons…but sometimes not. Now is a great time to reach out an olive branch to those customers that used to don your doorstep regularly…and see if you can get them to return!
See the People
One of my early sales managers used to say that if you wanted to increase your sales, you needed to “see the people.” With all of the advertising methods, venues, and options, we can all fall into the trap of waiting for customers to come to us. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so don’t beat yourself up if you do it. But one of the best ways to jump start your revenue is to simply go out and “see the people!”
Business is often built on relationships. And you can certainly strengthen these business relationships by showing your customers that you appreciate them. My advice would be to make these visits a “thank you” visit. Obviously you want to use these opportunities to sell yourself and your business. But you will be surprised by how much business will come to you when you show your customers that you care about them…and their business.
There’s no doubt about it. Tough economic times are tough on small businesses. But by re-evaluating your marketing efforts, and making sure your efforts are more targeted, you can survive and position yourself for future growth!