Just because we are in the middle of a recession, it doesn’t mean your business has to be in one. In fact, I have never been more optimistic than I am about 2009 and the prospects of growing my business and that of our clients.
At PRMG, we continue to grow our business. Like many businesses, we’ve had a few losses and a few gains, but our clients realize that we provide them with value for our services and continue to provide them with the opportunity to grow in good times and in bad.
First, it is important to take an historical perspective which tells me that things are never as good or as bad as they seem. Yes, retail sales reports for November and December showed a 2% decline, but that means that sales were 98% of what they were the year before and higher than what they were in 2006. A number of retailers had their best years yet. Nationally, unemployment is up about 2% from its average during the past decade of about 5% (economists consider employment full at about a 4% unemployment rate to account for persons leaving jobs for non-economic reasons). In other words, 93% of Americans are employed and our unemployment rate remains 3 percentage points better than what many Western European countries see during good economic times. Locally (Suffolk/Nassau, New York), for November, unemployment stood at 5.2%. With lower costs, including the cost of advertising, labor and greater availability of qualified personnel, recessions are often the best time for businesses to expand. In recessions, new industries and opportunities are created. Effective marketing can help you tap into these new opportunities and expand your business, despite the poor economy.
Here are PRMG’s tips for marketing in a recession:
Focus on your Current Clients. Hold on to your current clients with an iron fist. Increase your client contact and continue to provide value. Put in any extra time you may have into nurturing your client base. Make sure that you are on the bottom of their list to cut back on. Now that you’ve put up a client firewall, you can take advantage of market conditions and expand your business.
Expand Business from Current Clients. Increase the amount of business that you are getting from your current clients. For retailers and restaurants, market to your client database. If you don’t have a client database, it’s never too late to start. Restaurants can use comment cards. Leave e-mail lists at the register. Ask customers to drop off business cards to participate in a raffle. Increase the number of e-newsletters you send them. Provide coupons and value to increase traffic, especially during slow times of the week. Get them in and sell them more. Send printed newsletters to your customers and clients.
Grow by Concentrating on Prospects. To expand your business, concentrate your direct mail and e-mail marketing to current and past prospects. Follow up with phone calls. These are the lowest hanging fruit and provide the best potential return on investment.
Solicit New Business using Low-Cost Methods. Use e-marketing. Develop databases to include e-mails. Send out regular customized e-mails to solicit new business. Track and place follow-up phone calls to prospects.
Gain Earned Media. Write press releases and contact television, radio, print and Internet media regarding your products and services. Submit press releases to web sites. If you can interest the media to write a story about your business, it won’t cost you anything. Especially if you advertise, many weekly newspapers will run editorial stories for you.
Build your Web Traffic. Use search engine optimization techniques to increase web traffic. Start a blog. Post content and links to your site on web sites. Increase one-way links to your site.
Pay for Results. Use pay-per-click and pay-per-phone calls to increase traffic to landing pages on your site. Once on your site, capture contact information by providing a call to action download. With these campaigns, you are ensured that you are only paying for increased traffic and phone calls, and can control your budget to minimize advertising costs.
Get out of the Office or Store. Professionals and service businesses should go door to door. Drop off marketing materials and samples. This is especially good for restaurants. Attend networking events and pay at the door. No need to increase your marketing costs by joining a multitude of groups and associations. Attend what you can and pay the extra amount for non-members.
Create Events to Increase Traffic. Professionals can develop lectures and market them to prospects and others using the techniques above. Restaurants and retailers can hold product demonstrations and again market to current clients and promote to the public using press releases and advertising.
Advertise, Advertise, Advertise! I left this one last, only because it involves the greatest outlay of funds, not because it is the least effective. The opposite is true. There is no better time than during a recession to advertise. Advertising space and inventories are up, leading to rate and production discounts. On television and radio, use broad rotations rather than fixed positions. With greater inventory, you’ll get the times/programs you want anyway, as well as more bonuses and auto-fill as inventory is unsold. Take advantage of gift certificate programs on radio to advertise for free and increase traffic, especially during slow periods. Use specialty publications to hit targets. (See our upcoming report on Advertising in a Recession for more information.)