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Market Wise

20 Apr, 2009 By: Trynka Shineman imageSource

Market Wise

Are your customers telling you that they are uncertain about their business in this economy and they need to cut back or slow down their product ordering? Some are still spending money, and they likely still need what you’re selling, just like they did a year ago. But many are
hesitant. You need to get them excited about your products again, as well as gain the interest of others including new prospects that are “sitting tight.”  The key is in doing the “little things” to bring in more business, and that includes creative marketing.

You might think that marketing in a recession is impossible because of the costs, but staying on top of mind with customers and letting them know that you’re still there for them is paramount in a down economy.  Marketing to customers that you have already served, as well as
working to bring in new ones can pay long term dividends through any economic downturn. It doesn’t have to be  expensive if you have a little know-how.

When most people think about marketing, they think that it’s going to be too cumbersome in terms of cost to achieve any kind of results.  The truth is if you use your creative mind and do things a little bit differently, you can still make a marketing impact while tightening
your belt.  Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself out there and in the minds of customers for a very small investment.  Steps like these can be the difference between keeping your doors open and having to close up shop in tough times.

Focus on existing customers

It’s an old marketing mantra:  acquiring new business costs exponentially more than retaining the customers that you already have.  In difficult economic times, this rule is one that you should stick to.  Keeping the customers you have is absolutely paramount. Existing
customers already know your business and the level of service you provide, and can to some extent vouch for you and even recommend you.  Nothing generates business like word of mouth, and referrals; the biggest drivers of new clients. You shouldn’t shy away from asking for
referrals; even give customers tools to make referring others to you easy.  In tough times that means handing out business cards, or if you have extra budget, brochures that can be used as easy handouts.  But instead of handing someone just one business card, give them a few. 
The odds of them falling into a new customer’s hand will increase. 

You can even also do things to encourage repeat business with existing customers.  It’s easy and cheap to print up business cards with frequent buyer boxes on the back.  For every third order a customer places with you, give them a special offer. As you check off the boxes,
with a special stamp or mark, the customer will know they are close to a freebie or deep discount.  Make the incentive meaningful so the card with your contact information will be kept and hopefully acted upon when seen again.  Giving a customer an incentive will keep you on top
of mind, raise loyalty for your business, and also the chance that they will refer you to a friend. 

Get a Web presence

Traditional advertising spending, which has included newspaper, magazine, and other print publications continues to decline as the readership and circulation of these mediums continues to go down.  More and more customers are moving online to find the products and services
they are looking for.  Small businesses that can’t be found online and through local searches are missing out on potential business.  Getting your own web presence is also very easy.  Many companies offer Website packages that are even under $5.00 per month.  You can design your
own site and include your products or services, your contact information, pricing, and where you are available.  Often you can sell your products online using even basic packages, taking payments online & driving additional sales. 

Online search engines like Yahoo!, Google and MSN have also devised ways to increase your search results, and can help you use tools to get noticed in local searches and keyword searches.  If you have extra budget, you might even want to consider making some inroads into the
world of paid search marketing, which can reap big benefits when done effectively. When you have your own Website, you have another avenue for customers to find out about you.

Be creative, stay visible and keep testing! Now more than ever you need to use your business savvy and marketing creativity to drive business and keep your customers.

Trynka Shineman is chief marketing officer of VistaPrint North America, the small business marketing company.  For more information on VistaPrint go to www.vistaprint.com.

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