One thing you should do during any financial crisis is keep marketing to get new business and customers—especially if sales are slow and you feel that you are losing market share. If your current customer base is not producing the sales and profits you need to survive and grow, you must broaden your scope to draw in more.
This is easy to say, but how do you actually do it? Start by testing new markets that may be able to use your products and services. Be willing to make adjustments to what you are currently selling to appeal to those markets. Look for new products and services that will complement your current ones, attract new sub-markets, and interest your present customer base. New products are out there; you just need to find them. Do Internet searches and attend industry tradeshows where new ideas are often introduced. Don’t stand like a deer in headlights and wait for creditors to run over
you—go on the offensive and bust out of your financial crisis.
I have a speech called “Five Cheap Marketing Ideas” that includes ideas you can use in any economy—but even more so in a financial crisis. These consume few or none of your marketing dollars, which you have a shortage of anyway. Here’s a brief description of the five ideas, which you may be able to use now.
- Use cross-promotion. Partner with one or more noncompetitive businesses that are marketing to the same target
customers. Refer buyers to each other using word of mouth, discounts, and incentives.
- Create positive publicity. Make your business and yourself known in your target market. Be an expert, tell the media, and create word-of-mouth publicity.
- Treat customers like dogs. Many of us treat our pets better than we do other people—they are pampered and loved
members of our family. Treat your customers as well as you treat your beloved pet to make repeat customers so loyal that they don’t even consider your competitors’ sales.
- Use direct mail. Direct mail can help you reach your best prospects at a reasonable cost. Always test new lists before you use them and make a good purchase offer with a deadline in your direct-mail piece.
- Find a better way. If you have been coasting on past sales and growth, you may have ignored new ideas and changes. Add new value to your products and services before competitors take away your customers.
Another way to keep marketing and create cash flow now is to pre-sell products and services with a discount or a reduced price. For example, you might offer $45 haircuts for $35 each if customers prepay for 10 haircuts. You can even make the haircuts transferable to other people, because those people may be new customers. Or you could use a loyalty card that offers something free if the customer reaches X number of points in a certain time period. The loyalty card can be high-tech, with a magnetic stripe or barcode, or it can be as simple as a plastic punch card. Regardless of how you do it, people will tend to remember your business and keep coming back—and refer other prospects.
During any tough financial period, it’s important to keep sales coming in, and continual marketing will do that. Buy business cards by the thousands for you and all your staff. Give them out freely and leave them in any stores and offices that will allow you to. People will pick them up and save them for purchases now and in the future.
Write a one-, two-, or four-page newsletter with articles of interest to your target customers. Leave them in banks, cleaners, restaurants, or wherever you’re allowed. This will also make prospects feel that you are an expert in that industry, and they’ll contact you with questions. Your should always be thinking, “How can I promote my business when finances are low?” The ideas will come, but it’s up to you to use them and create results.