Your small business is operating in a time where things are uncertain.
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Business traffic coming through the door might be spotty, customers seem to be spending less, and making the bills is a much bigger struggle than it once was.
But that doesn't mean that customers aren't out there to be had.
People are still spending money, and they still need what you're selling, just like they did a year ago. The key is doing the little things to bring in 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 also doesn't have to be expensive if you have a little know how and creativity.
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 are still one of the biggest drivers of new customers to a business.
You shouldn't shy away from asking for customer 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.
This is a good example of how a small investment can yield big results. All you have to do is use your creativity and do things a bit differently to bring business to you.
Remember, tried and true marketing methods that don't take much of an investment should be done in both good times and bad.