Saturday, January 8
Five things every small business must do to survive this recession
Guest column by Bryan Jennewein
Many small businesses fall into the trap of spending little or nothing during challenging economic times. But there are proven strategies for not only surviving, but also growing during recession. Here are five easy ways to make sure your business comes out ahead.
Understand who your customers truly are
Understanding your customers is easy – just talk to them. Don't have the time? Then use a tool like infoUSA.com's Advanced Customer Cloner. Simply upload a list of your best customers, and it kicks out a list of people just like them – even if your customers are businesses. You can even order a report that describes these best customers for a small fee. It's smart investments like this that help prevent the kinds of costly mistakes of less successful businesses.
You have to spend money to make money
We've all heard the age-old mantra, "you've got to spend money to make money," and yet we continually resist doing it. If you're in business, then people need to know you're in business, which means you have to communicate with not only your current customers, but also potential customers. This communication costs money. Many call it "marketing dollars," while I call it common sense. Committing to spending money is difficult – especially when you don't see consistent returns. When you stop spending money on marketing, you only compound the problem. This vicious cycle will only help your business close its doors for good.
Use your money wisely
Now that you've committed to spending money, do so with a plan and a way to measure success. Do everything you can to understand how many dollars you're making for every dollar you're spending. Try a smart direct mail campaign, with a professionally designed mail piece that will get it the attention it deserves instead of a trip to the garbage can. Make sure you include a unique 800# or offer, so you can record these new customers when they buy. Understanding success is easy - just add up all the sales you made from your campaign, factor in future sales from new customers, and subtract the cost of the campaign itself. Or, for even more cost control, try email marketing. It's a very inexpensive way to reach a lot of people. Typically, your response rate is lower, but because you can reach more people, a lot of times these campaigns see more success than their direct mail counterparts – and you don't even have to pay for the stamp!
Craft your message carefully
Think about these three things when planning your campaign:
Hook them with a great offer or special deal.
Reinforce the value of your product or service.
Issue a call-to-action.
Get their attention, tell them why they need you, and tell them directly and specifically what to do. Your message might be something like "Seasonal Discount – 50% OFF of the best baked goods in town, baked fresh every morning by Mama Louisa herself! Bring this coupon when you stop by our store in the Old Market. Visit us today!" And keep some extra coupons on hand in the store. When a customer uses a coupon, just jot down the amount of the order. At the end of the first month, see how well your campaign did by totaling up all of your new business.
Create customer loyalty
Keep giving your customers what they want, learn from what they don't, and look to them for ideas on what else you might be able to provide. This is the key to marketing smarter: a lifelong customer. It's the customer that you've built an emotional connection to in addition to being merely useful. This customer will come to you first every time. This is perhaps the best investment of your marketing dollars, because you've spent money to acquire them once, and they keep buying time and time again.