3 Recession-Proof Marketing Techniques For Small Business Owners

We are now officially in a recession and what does this mean for small businesses? If you are going to cut your marketing budget just because you are experiencing lower sales, you are getting it all wrong. Marketing is the element that can directly attributed to sales. Cutting your marketing budget will not help increasing the bottom line of your business at all because marketing is all about retaining current customers and acquiring new ones.

Without customers, your business will hardly survive. In this small business marketing article, I am going to share with you three recession-proof marketing techniques that will bring considerable results without having to break your bank account.

Marketing Technique #1 Social Media Marketing

The development of Internet, particularly in the field of social media has opened a wide range of opportunities for online interaction. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube act as a medium for web user interaction via different methods. People love to go to these sites and spend hours trying to meet like-minded people as well as learning more about a subject that they are interested in.

These sites also house millions (billions in total) of members. You are placing your business, products and services in front of these eyeballs if you start to upload content in the form of articles, videos, podcasts or documents onto these platforms.

Apart from providing the free content that will help to position you as an expert in your industry, you can also connect with your target market by solving problems that they have or by adding value to the relationships through giveaways of special discount codes to followers of yours on these social media platforms.

Marketing Technique #2 Customer Leads Collection

Do you have contact information of your previous and existing customers? These are leads that can play a crucial role in retaining customers to secure future sales. There is another type of leads that can be categorized as prospects, which are people that are likely to turn into customers after you follow up with them, either through phone calls or emails.

Collection of leads can be done easily with the Internet. There are a lot of autoresponders and email marketing services that seek to provide you with solutions on lead collection. Often times, people collect leads by offering their site visitors with free information. As mentioned above, you can also retain the email and contact information of your customers after they contribute to the sales of your business.

Marketing Technique #3 Organic Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, like social media marketing, requires little or no money to get the intended results. One can employ a search engine optimization agency to perform link building and website optimization tasks for them. If you are on a tight budget, you can always learn about important optimization factors from search engine marketing blogs and resources all over the Internet.

Search engine optimization often includes keyword research to find out keywords that a potential customer is likely to search for using search engines. You will then try to optimize pages on your site by implementing various optimization elements for keywords that you plan to target. Link building comes in later as links pointing towards your site act as votes on the quality of your content and search engines rank sites for keywords based on the number of ‘votes’ you get.

Avoiding the Most Common Errors of New Small Business Owners

The most common errors made by people when they are just starting out revolve around three central themes: preparation/research, time/money and customer relations.

Common Errors In Preparation/Research:

A. Going into business for the wrong reason(s): So many people go into business for themselves based on misconceptions and myths. Before you go into business for yourself you should look into the top myths of home businesses to try and avoid the common traps.

B. Not knowing enough about the business that they are going into: it is important to know about the business you are attempting to start. You should know: what qualifications/legal considerations could affect you, is there a market for your business, who is your competition, how much money can you expect to make from this business, how much money do you need to start the business, etc…

Common Errors In Time/Money:

C. Spending too money: The inclination for some new business owners is to throw money at a new business – to buy all the toys and tools they can get their hands on. This can quickly lead to a cash crunch, which in turn can lead to the failure of your business. There are many great products and services out there to help you with your small business – but it is important to manage your spending – especially during the start-up phase.

D. Spending too little money: Like many things in life – opening a business often requires some investment. The person who sets up a company and then never spends the money to promote and market it – will probably fail. The hard part is figuring out what things are important to start and grow your business and when you have reached the stage in your business when you should be spending money on the important things.

E. Bad cash budgeting: Without proper cash budgeting many small businesses not only fail but lead to personal cash flow problems and bankruptcy for the owners. Before starting a business you should perform a cash budget, which you should update periodically.

F. Errors in setting your product prices and consulting rates: If you set your rates/prices too low then you will not be able to afford to stay in business. If you set your rates/prices too high then you will not be able to get any business. Therefore it is important to do your research and set your rates and prices accordingly.

G. Not optimizing your business processes through continuous improvement: Nobody starts out in business doing things perfectly – the best way to be successful is to make sure that you not only devote time to working on your products or services but also invest the time to improve your business processes – whether it is finding a better way to find clients or a cheaper way to deliver your products or services – it is so important to always be looking for ways to do things better.

H. Working too much and burning out: Many new business owners think that you need to work around the clock in order to make your business work. The smart business owner knows that ideally your business should be making you money 24-hours a day BUT you should not have to work 24-hours a day to accomplish this.

I. Not investing enough time in your business: generally starting a business requires a lot of time and effort. Neglecting to give your new business the time it requires to build it into a legitimate business and maintain it – will quickly lead your business to enter a downward spiral.

Common Errors In Customer Relations:

J. Saying ‘yes’ to every client: some clients are just not worth the trouble, some jobs are not worth the time and some contracts are not worth the cost of the paper that they are written on. It is important to properly vet your customers before entering into a relationship with them. One bad debt or shady client could lead to the downfall of everything you’ve worked for.

K. Turning down too many jobs: While it is inadvisable to take every client and contract that comes your way – you need to balance this caution and selectiveness with a healthy understanding of which clients and contracts you need to take in order to stay afloat and grow your business. For me this has led me to develop two separate lists – the list of things I want from clients/contracts and the things I need from clients/contracts. This means that I will work for clients/accept contracts that do not have all the things I want (for example maybe it involves working long hours temporarily or traveling extensively) but I don’t take contracts that do not give me everything I need (for example if I have doubts about the integrity of the client then I will NOT take the job).

L. Trying too hard to look like a big business: This is an error on two fronts. For one thing many people go into business for themselves in order to escape the confines of the corporate world – working too hard to show yourself as a professional can put you right back where you started. The second way that this can hurt you is that it takes away the ability for you to connect with your clients honestly and openly. If you are projecting this persona then you never connect to your clients on a personal level – even worse when they find out that you are a “one-man show” they can feel misled and deceived.

M. Appearing too unprofessional: The flip side of the last point is that you cannot behave too unprofessionally. Most clients want to know you as a person but some topics should always be out of bounds. Further it is important to show your clients that you take your job seriously – things like having business cards, answering your phones professionally and delivering things on time and on budget are very important.

N. Not creating a business that adds values to your customers: if your services or products do not make your clients’ life better then they will not pay for it. Your business must be focused on adding value to your clients’ personal or professional affairs.

O. Bad customer services and after sales support: many small business owners complete a job and never look back – but great customer service and after sales support means return customers and great word-of-mouth – these are the most valuable forms of advertising out there. A flyer delivered to 1,000 may deliver a few clients who are curious about your business but someone who has dealt with you before or had you recommended to them is “pre-sold” – they already trust you and want to work with you.

The final issue to consider and one of the most common errors made by small business owners effects all three of the categories listed above.

P. Not doing things your way: people frequently get into business in order to “do things their way” and make their own decisions but quickly drop this attitude when confronted with the challenges of working for themselves. It is important to stay true to your own vision, your objectivism your values and follow your “gut” and intuition. This may be hard in the interim but it is critical to establishing a business that works for you.

Small Business Relationship Management With the Razor Sharp Edge

Strategy or technology-based solutions, small business relationship management needs all the help it can get to gain the cutting edge over competition. Businesses have to strengthen the key areas of customer marketing and sales, and they have to dare to be different in a sea of competition.

In the Name of Customer Service

What makes a business stand out? Innovative and quality products, competitive prices, and good customer service; add on time delivery of orders plus timely responses to queries and you will have it all rolled into an efficient small business customer relationship management package.

Small business customer relationship management is not purely customer information hunting. It needs all functions working in tandem to streamline marketing operations and cut cost without hurting customer service. Efficiently managed, this optimizes employee output and boost customer confidence.

CRM is therefore not about mining information data and keeping it stagnant. It’s about getting data to energize the company’s customer touch points. This way, every fact is recorded. Factors like incoming and outgoing calls, the type and cost of purchase, and billing statements are all recorded with accuracy and consistency.

The bigger challenge businesses face is building customer loyalty and getting more business from them. If you’re in business, you are aware that knowing your customers and how they relate to your business can give you an edge because you can plan your marketing strategies around this.

Small business customer relationship management can benefit greatly with this type of approach using different tools like sales administration, contact organizing, lead management, and customer preference management. All these tools work in the name of customer service to improve marketing campaigns and boost sales.

The Razor Sharp Edge

In the hustle and bustle of business competition and looking for ways to edge the others out, you might forget the appointments that have to be made or the quotes that have to be followed-up. If you can’t follow the leads because your CRM system does not have the feature, upgrade! Try having an auto roll call of leads that need to be doggedly trailed from quote to sale.

If there are lost sales, find out what’s wrong. Your small business customer relationship management strategies should include a review of the sales lost to other companies. Find out why the sale fizzled and strategize new marketing tricks that will lead your customers back to your door.

A CRM system can warn sales agents to bat for more sales. They know you can check them out anytime. You can also eliminate the problem of duplicate information that may bloat figures or sharing inaccurate information with customers.

Before you throw a marketing pitch, look at the CRM database and find out what’s with the customer and how to plan your sales pitch. It would be embarrassing to approach a customer who is nursing a grudge and the company did not make any move to solve problem. You might as well be sucked in a quicksand.

In small business customer relationship management, accuracy of information and consistency of good customer service are never compromised. These give the business the razor sharp edge – no excuses. One mistake can mark you and rebuilding your customer service reputation is not easy. But if you have consistently provided your customers with reliable service, the word will get around – word-of-mouth advertising that’s absolutely free.

How to Turn Your Small Business Website Into a Sales Generator

It’s unfortunate that so many small business owners end up with a website that isn’t much more than a glorified online brochure that attracts little traffic. If you’re in that situation I’m positive that wasn’t your intention when you shelled out the money and spent the time creating your website. At first you may have simply created a website because you knew you needed one, but other than to have information about your company on the Internet, you may not have had a specific goal for how it would create sales for your business.

Some of the fault for this problem lies with web designers who can design great looking websites, but who don’t explain to their clients that looking great and attracting traffic and sales are two different things. However, I don’t want to get started on that! Let me focus on some changes you can make that will begin to make your website work for you.

There are two kinds of websites, what I call a “rubber” site, where visitors bounce in and bounce out, and “sticky” sites where visitors stay a while and explore and/ or they take action by adding their name to your mailing list or making a purchase. Of course you want a sticky site. Here are some elements of your website that you need to fix to create a sticky site.

1) Navigation bar – make sure that the most important types of information that a visitor might be interested in are easily accessible from your navigation buttons. Limit your navigation buttons to the most general areas. Too many choices can create confusion.

2) Opt-in form on all key web pages. – it’s amazing how many small business owners don’t take advantage of the opportunity to get visitors to sign up for their mailing list. Your mailing list is your lead list. People that come to your website are targeted, pre-qualified leads who are looking for your specific type of information. Companies pay a lot to buy lists of qualified leads and here they are arriving at your website for free! Take advantage of this by offering them a downloadable gift that has value and they will willingly fill out that form. Make sure your opt-in box is at the TOP of your key web pages.

3) Ask yourself these key questions:
* What information do my visitors really want?
* How much can I give away to create value without giving away too much?
* How can I give away enough that people want more, and then show how they can get more by buying your product or service
* What resource will be compelling enough to keep them coming back again and again?

4) Make sure your website is regularly updated to include sticky elements that will keep people engaged and coming back. Here are a few ideas:

* Discussion forum
* Twitter update feed form to show all your latest tweets on your website.
* Regularly updated blog with easy RSS feed subscription sign up so they are notified by e-mail each time there’s a new blog post.
* Free tools or downloads
* Fresh audios, videos, or articles. Ask people to opt-in to get access to these.
* Any resource that they need to check or access regularly – like links or industry news updates.
* Free give-away on pre-determined dates
* E-mails that link them back to different pages on your site
* Serial business “soap opera”. They must come back the next week for the next part in the series and you e-mail them when the answer is available, with the link.

5) Try putting a video on all your key pages. Video gives you an unprecedented opportunity to talk to your website visitors when they’ve never met you. Begin the relationship with the video. Tell them you understand their problems and you’d like to start them on finding a solution by giving them a gift if they opt-in. This is very powerful.

6) Your sales page content: Write customer and benefit focuses sales copy on your web sales pages and include video and strong testimonials. If you are getting traffic to your sales pages but still not generating sales then the problem is one of these:
* the headline needs some changes
* the content doesn’t create perceived value
* the pricing is wrong
* there is a trust issue-which can be improved with great testimonials and a strong, iron-clad guarantee.
Simple changes can increase response.

With a bit of planning and a few weeks of work you can start to get a much better response to your website. I’ve seen small tweaks to the home page of our website increase our opt-in rate by as much as 25% to 30%. Those new subscribers can then be converted into buyers. Your website can dramatically increase your sales if you give it regular attention.

Finally, although your website can generate tons of leads you need to do more to close the sale.