The economy is sputtering and you need a stomach of iron to watch the daily fluctuations of the stock market; but people ARE still buying. Many businesses are able to make money in spite of the economic meltdown and some are growing at a rapid pace.
According to Automatic Data Processing (ADP), a provider of business outsourcing solutions, the outlook for small business looks optimistic. According to ADP, over 200,000 small business jobs have been created in the last six months. There has been a continuation of growth by small businesses, defined as companies with less than 50 workers, adding 28,000 new jobs in September.
Small businesses have advantages over large corporations. They are able to move quickly in response to market changes and customer demands. They can maintain close contact with their customer base more easily to build customer loyalty. And they can flex staff in response to business demands to save overhead.
Whether large or small, there are things you can do to grow your business in any economy. Smart businesses are taking advantage of the economic meltdown by marketing and acquiring new customers. Here are some techniques to build your business:
- Get closer. Have a focus group of key clients and ask them what types of challenges they are facing. Buy them lunch and listen to their issues and brainstorm possible solutions. Make sure you follow up with each participant, thanking them for their input. Look for possible opportunities for new products or services.
- Conduct periodic surveys. Use Survey Monkey to get customer input quickly on issues in their industry. The basic membership is free and you can create surveys quickly to be completed on-line. This survey service can also be used to gather input from employees, etc.
- Offer solutions. People are willing to pay if you can solve their problems, save them money, or save them time. No one likes to be sold to but people love to buy, especially if they see value. What solutions can you offer that makes life easier for your customers?
- Network your clients. Have an event where your clients have the opportunity to meet each other, network, and possibly get more business. The meeting can have a topic with an expert presenting or simply a dialog between participants.
- Contact your top 25. Your top 25 customers are the key to your business. Make sure that you have regular contact including; phone calls, e-mails, snail mail, and face to face. Call them on their birthdays or send e-mail cards. Send interesting articles that can help them build their business. Attend the meetings and events that they do.
- Advertise your business in everything you do. I recently bought "skins" for my laptop and cell phone that have a picture of my new book, Energy Suckers. Now, whether I am traveling with my laptop or using my cell phone, people see this new book logo. Create a "skin" for your electronics. Design them with photos, business tag lines and logos for product recognition. You can get yours at Skinit.
- Conduct direct mail campaigns. While an old method to get new customers, it still works. People like to receive snail mail and your promo might arrive just when they are looking for your type of product or service. Get comprehensive mailing lists ready for download by using Hoovers. You can search by any industry, area of the country and other data to target your customer base. Send the letters directly to the people in charge using a stamped envelope; it is more like to be opened than bulk mail.
- Write expert articles. Showcase your expertise in articles that you send to local papers, newsletters, and article portals on the Internet. They can also be used in your press kit or as a quick mailing to key customer. Re-use the material by creating a "tip sheet" of commonly asked questions.
- Get plastered on the Internet. Submit your articles to as many article outlets as possible including a link on each article to your website. The inbound links will raise your website in the ratings. There are many programs that can submit articles automatically after setup. I use Article Submitter Pro and hire college students to submit articles on a regular basis.
- Speak at trade shows and conventions. Get yourself on the programs for trade shows in your area of expertise. There is always a need for speakers and it is an excellent way to showcase in front of potential customer. Log onto the conference websites and submit proposal with catchy titles.