Create a simple marketing plan.
Develop a specific list of marketing actions.
Research your target audience to understand what they really need.
Find ways to distinguish yourself from your competitors.
Update your brochure, web site, flyers, etc. to show prospects you have what they need.
Follow up with every lead even if it seems insignificant; blowing off a prospect can ruin a future relationship.
Many companies find that business slows down because of a sluggish economy. For some, this is a welcome break from the hectic pace of busy years. For others, the flow of business slows enough to cause real concern.
Take Advantage of Down Time
Most of us know that the best time to market is while you’re still busy and business is strong. In busy years, however, many small companies are simply too overwhelmed to do anything more than respond to specific inquiries from marketing prospects (I call this “marketing with a fire extinguisher.”) In leaner times it makes sense to switch from this type of reactive marketing to more proactive marketing by actively seeking new business.
Start With a Basic Marketing Plan
Take some time to think about what you want to accomplish with your marketing efforts. The How To section gives a quick overview of developing a simple marketing plan.
Make Yourself Stand Out
As you start to flesh out the actions in your marketing plan, it’s time to get creative.
Set Yourself Apart from Your Competitors
Scrutinize your competitors and develop ways to distinguish your business from theirs. Are you more qualified? Cheaper? More experienced? Do you have a better selection or higher-quality product? Provide the answers in your brochures, ads, web site and other materials to make it easier for prospects to understand why they should choose you.
Show Them You Have What They Need
It’s important to know what clients really want. Research your prospects so you can position yourself to meet their specific needs. Whether your target audience is big or small, the goal is to convince prospects that you have just what they need.
You might decide to expand your product or service offerings to provide something customers aren’t getting from “the other guys.” Conversely, you might benefit from tightening your focus, marketing yourself as a specialist: “the kitchen & bath renovation experts.” This earns you more credibility with specific target markets.
Get Testimonials from Past Customers/Clients
Testimonials can be very convincing. Use your down time to ask past clients and customers to write or email a testimonial about your business. Collect the testimonials to use in your marketing materials, web site, etc.
Update Your Marketing Materials (or create some)
Business is slow? This is a great time to update your marketing materials to set yourself apart from your competitors. If you don’t have any materials, spend some time putting together some basic information about your business. Try a simple trifold or whip up some individual sheets that tuck into a folder. Keep the info as brief and relevant as possible. Focus on the benefits you offer and the reasons why the prospect should choose you. Don’t forget the testimonials!
Create a Web Site (or update your current one)
When people are looking for a specific product or service (even locally), they often search the web to find companies that meet their needs. To help keep you in the running you can develop a simple web page with basic information. First impressions count, so make sure your page/site is accurate, useful and attractive. If you already have a web site, you might consider expanding it to give you an advantage over your competitors.
Shake Some Hands
Join a business or community group to promote awareness of your business and meet new contacts. Maybe the person you’re talking with doesn’t need your services, but she may know someone who does. Another plus: many groups will let you display promotional materials at meetings.
Start a Newsletter
A well-written newsletter can boost your credibility and generate interest in your business. Email newsletters are a great option. Just make sure they’re brief, useful and welcome…nobody likes junk email. Give the recipient a way to opt out of your emails.
Host an Open House
This is a fun way to touch base with past clients and show off your business to new prospects. Serve food and drinks and give a tour of your business. Buy some inexpensive giveaway items to help prospects remember you later. The best promo items are useful and memorable.
Do a Special Promotion
Think about a special promotion to increase interest in your business…mail out your new brochure; have a special sale; send a postcard to promote your new web site.
Follow Up! Any Lead Can be Important
It can be tempting to ignore leads that don’t seem very promising. But it’s important to follow up with every lead or inquiry, especially when business is slow. You never know when something big might be lurking behind that voice mail or email message. So take a few minutes to return the call, mail the brochure or reply to the email. Follow up again in a few days…sometimes the prospect just needs a little push to get the ball rolling!
Never ignore a potential client or customer. More than once I’ve seen business owners blow off people who might turn out to be excellent future clients. “We don’t bother to call those people back.” Don’t make this mistake. It can create a lot of bad feelings that might poison a future relationship. Every prospect is worth a return phone call or email.