Ten Ways to Reject the Recession and Build a Thriving Business
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a time when the lead news stories focus on businesses downsizing, the rising costs of gas and groceries, and general economic turmoil, it is hard to avoid feeling the "recession depression." But as business owners we have two choices: We can let the media send us into panic mode or we can view the economic downturn as an opportunity.
This is a time in the economy when millionaires are made. While some businesses are giving up and closing their doors, their competitors are seizing opportunities. Here are 10 ways to thrive in tough times:
1. Keep the marketing wheels in motion
Though your first instinct may be to cut costs, this is the worst time to cut back on marketing. Studies show that businesses that continue marketing through a slow economy are the ones that come out ahead when the economy begins to turn. Make sure you have a marketing plan and stick to it. If your current marketing efforts aren't producing results, try new strategies. When done correctly, marketing is an expense that should pay for itself. Find the strategies that work and then keep doing them.
2. Don't be afraid to discount
The reality is that consumers are holding on to their wallets more tightly. The key to unlock their dollars is in discounts. Take a cue from the big department stores -- they are holding incredible sales and offering more coupons than ever. Reevaluate your pricing strategy and offer discounts off your most popular products and services. This may also be a good time to lower your prices across the board and then advertise your new lower prices.
3. Leverage the Internet
Are you selling products and services from your Web site? Can you expand your sales channels by selling on eBay or another online venue? Are you reaching your customers with e-mail marketing? Is your Web site optimized for the search engines? It doesn't have to cost a fortune to implement an online marketing and sales strategy. Even if you simply add gift certificate purchases to your Web site, you could uncover a whole new revenue stream. Seek out an online marketing expert and evaluate the opportunities.
4. Form a mastermind group
Get together with your staff or assemble a small group of people who understand your business and brainstorm opportunities. When several people get together with a blank slate and some good energy, magic can happen. Ask for ideas -- you might be surprised by the results.
5. Tap into a new niche
Is there a niche that you have been meaning to focus on? Can you uncover a new market that makes sense for your business? For example, a florist that specializes in weddings could pursue the corporate market, a residential real estate agent could go after the investor community or a virtual assistant could decide to specialize in serving the unique needs of financial planners. Pick a new market and then develop a plan of attack.
6. Reach out to your customer base
One of the most overlooked business opportunities comes from your existing and past clients. The fact that they have already done business with you makes it far more likely that they will do business with you in the future. Make sure you are marketing to them, reaching out and reminding them that you are there. Ask them for referrals and offer a powerful incentive such as a cash reward or gift card for referrals.
7. Make improvements
This is an ideal time to evaluate all of your policies and procedures. Do they make sense in this economy? Is your customer service team delivering up to your standards? Could your sales team benefit from some additional training? How can you help your company perform even better? What are steps you can take to improve customer loyalty? Look at your business through a magnifying class and seize the opportunity to improve it across the board.
8. Survey your customers
Much can be uncovered by reaching out to your customers and asking them for feedback. Develop a short list of questions that include ratings on your products, services and staff. Ask specific questions such as, "How can we improve your experience with us?" Tools such as www.SurveyMonkey.com can help you accomplish this easily. Once you receive the survey results, evaluate them and take action to make improvements. You will undoubtedly find themes in the answers , so let your customers know that you heard them and share what improvements you are making as a result of their survey responses.
9. Keep an eye on capital
What goes down must come up and the economy will rebound, though it may be awhile. If business is slower than usual, form a plan for getting through this period. You might need to open a line of credit, visit your bank and apply for a loan, seek private funding or even bring in a partner. Running out of capital can quickly kill a business. Make sure you assess how much you may need before you need it and have a plan for forging ahead.
10. Get help and keep your eye on the prize
Now is a great time to sharpen your own skills. Take classes, read books and network with others in your industry so you can learn from them. Get involved in your trade association and make sure you are on top of your game. Look for joint venture opportunities. Make yourself more efficient by outsourcing services that consume your valuable time. Also, determine your priorities. Where should you be spending your time? What can you do to make your company bigger, better and stronger? Leave the worrying to your competitors and instead seek out opportunities and stay positive. When you put the right energy and focus into your business -- despite the economy -- the results can be extraordinary.
Source: National Federation of Independent Business
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