The airlines are full, cruise ships packed, and best restaurants still only available by reservation. That means someone is spending money, albeit selectively. Yet, you say, your new client pipeline is empty and your current customers are spending less?
When times get tough, the burden lies on the individual business owner to develop a sales and marketing plan that not only helps retain existing clients, but also attracts new ones. Here are five strategies to incorporate into that plan right now:
Acknowledge the recession: Don’t pretend it’s not happening. Instead, take a page from companies such as Hyundai, which offered new automobile lessees a chance to return the car should they lose their jobs, and Jet Blue, which is reimbursing ticket purchase prices without the $100 cancellation fee in certain circumstances. “Create a program that acknowledges the recession,” suggests Liz Goodgold, author of Red Fire Branding: Creating a Hot Personal Brand to Have Customers for Life and CEO at San Diego-based marketing consultancy, The Nuancing Group. A pool service provider or a graphics design firm, for example, might offer a risk-free, one-year contract that can be cancelled if the customer loses his or her job.
Instill confidence: We all read the headlines and know that even America’s largest firms are being hit hard by the recession. Let your customers know that you’ll be around long after its over and you’ll have a much better chance of retaining their new business, says Goodgold. “You need to instill confidence in your clients,” she says. Do that by advertising the fact that you’ve been going strong for 10 years and by developing a “state of the business” report. “Come up with a list of your customer industries that are doing well,” Goodgold advises, “and share it with your prospects to let them know that your company is solid.”
Use e-mail: It is by far the least expensive and most direct manner of reaching new customers, so make use of it. Using a service such as Swiftpage, for example, companies can develop targeted promotions, create attractive templates, and distribute e-mail newsletters for free (or, for a low cost, depending on the number of recipients and the features used). “If you keep your distribution lists to 50 recipients or less, e-mail marketing can be virtually free, and very effective,” says John Nolan, adjunct professor of marketing at the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Business and president of the Tustin, Calif.-based marketing agency CORE Marketing
Reduce customer costs: All companies are reducing costs across the board, so why not help them reach that goal by packaging your products or services in a less expensive manner? A mobile disc jockey who typically charges $750 for a 3-hour wedding could consider reducing that price to $500 for two hours. “It’s about lowering the client’s out-of-pocket costs, while still maintaining your company’s price integrity,” Goodgold says.
Increase your advertising budget: When companies slash their advertising and marketing budgets, they create clear paths for their