By: Shama Hyder
The US economy is not booming at the moment, and according to many experts we are somewhat on the brink of a recession. This is definitely affecting some industries more than others. Often professional services (the intangible) are the first to get cut during tight economic periods. But, there is a way to keep your business thriving in uncertain or stormy economic environments.
Here are 5 strategies to keep your business profitable during rough times:
1) Come up with a new way to attract leads: Think about what your target market needs NOW more than ever before. Is it a faster way to do business and close deals? Is it a way to cut supply costs? Perhaps they need some way to reduce turnover rates? As the economy changes, you can bet that your clients’ priorities will change as well. What is your target market’s greatest priority at the moment…and most importantly, how can you help them with it?
Example: Sally is a coach for real estate agents. As the housing market tumbles, her target market is feeling the pressure because they can’t close deals like they used to. Ideally, they would go running to Sally for help. But most people do the opposite. They feel they can’t afford to hire her services, so they go at it alone. Sally realizes that what her agents really need is some encouragement and solid advice. So, she puts together a panel of marketing experts and motivational speakers. She then grills them with solid questions, records the session, and distributes it online for free. Soon, the recorded session gets downloaded by thousands of agents all over the country, and Sally’s inbox is full of leads who are grateful for her support.
2) Establish yourself as the go-to person for your clients: Write helpful articles, provide complimentary consultations, and offer free tips and tools. Create a space (online or offline) that serves to guide and inform clients. Instead of turning to Google for generic advice, they should be able to call on you with their questions. This requires you to build a level of trust and credibility, and the fastest way to do this is by providing solid content.
Example: Joe is an accountant, and realizes that tax time is stressful for many of his clients. So he decides to start a monthly newsletter with the latest updates and tax saving tips for his clients. His newsletter catches on so well that people start forwarding it to their friends, and soon his practice is overflowing with new clients.
3) Redesign your marketing materials: As the economy tenses, people have less patience for riff-raff. Make sure your marketing materials are sharp and can cut to the chase. Your marketing materials should make it crystal clear to your market that you can help. Emphasize benefits over process.
Example: Diane is an HR Consultant who specializes in helping businesses retain good talent. However, people keep mistaking her for a head hunter. Diane realizes that her marketing materials need a major makeover. She invests in a professional copywriter and web designer to re-do her materials. She attracts 2 new clients within the month.
4) Increase your marketing channels: In tough times, you have to do more to reach more. If before you were using just email to keep in touch, you may now have to consider following up the emails with a call. Lead generation in tough times requires more reaching out. This also means you cannot simply rely on word of mouth marketing.
Example: Shelby is a psychologist who used to get all her clients through word of mouth. Now, her pipeline of prospects is drying out. She decides she needs to use more marketing channels, and she starts her own weekly podcast. She then distributes the podcasts online. In two months, she is approached by a radio station who is willing to pay her for the use of her podcasts (free publicity!). Shelby is no longer dependent on word of mouth marketing. She regularly attracts clients from her online podcasts and through the radio broadcasts.
5) Team up: Find another independent professional or company that offers services complementary to yours and team up. You can both cross-promote and reap the benefits.
Example: Rita is a small business consultant who works with start-up companies. She finds that a local accounting firm also works with start-up companies. She approaches them with the idea of teaming up. They will recommend her to their clients, and she will recommend the accounting firm through her blog. It’s a great deal for both of them. Within months, they are both adding new clients to their roster.
The bottom line here is that tough times call for a more service-oriented approach than ever before. Furthermore, you have to be willing to try many new angles to generate new leads.