*My article first appeared at Technorati [dot com]. I did just a bit of updating.
Have you heard the news? Economically speaking it’s tough out there! But we all knew that. The small business sector suffers just the same as Big Business…so what to do? Stick to the Basics and do what you do best.
First things first: be sure you know your business.
- Have a dream and passion for the business that you chose.
- Have determination to make the business work. Show up every day and be the poster child for hope.
- Give great customer service. Even if your business has slowed down, the very fact that you are still in business means that someone is paying for your business’ products and services and these customers and clients deserve your attention.
- Offer added value. Go beyond just being in business…make your business different by giving the customer more than they expect. Instead of merely selling your product or service, engage the consumer in a conversation about his or her needs and wants and how your product or service can meet or fulfill that. In 2010 pure sales won’t be enough. Added value will be key.
To weather the economic storm, you might think about:
- checking and double-checking your current business plan; bring up-to-date your stated vision and mission statement; determine if you are on target.
- checking and double-checking your current business strategies: are you in the correct marketplace for your products or services? Are you actually and effectively reaching your desired customer-base? Are you sure you’ve correctly identified your customer base and know how to communicate with them?
- keeping your products and services clean, polished and ready to deliver…be proud to represent the products and services you have in your current inventory.
- contacting your customers – have you shown your current customers that you appreciate their business? It is not just a cliché saying that ‘happy customers bring referrals,’ it is a truism: satisfied and happy customers will often be a good source for new customers…have you asked your customers for referrals?
This is not to say that you oughtn’t to try anything new during an economic downturn; to the contrary, one thing you could do is experiment with new ways of communicating with your customers, find new ways of finding customers. If you aren’t already, make internet marketing a part of your strategic communication and marketing plan. You don’t have to get complicated to start, begin small:
- build a web page...or do a little web page redesign and clean-up
- tout your business on a few top social media sites like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn
- direct people to your website by writing articles
- anything new or improved you do, write and submit a press release about it
- start a blog, either as a part of your business web page, or independently [and have it point back to your business web page]
- if appropriate for your business: (1) have classified and display ads in your local newspaper and regional magazines; (2) run radio and/or television spots; (3) arrange speaking engagements for yourself at local groups who might be interested in your area of expertise; (4) leave your business card everywhere and with everyone
I read a fantastic article in my local newspaper over the weekend that highlights a solo-preneur in my area who does stick to the basics and has built a successful business. The article is written by David Morrill, the online title: One-stylist hair salon thrives on personal connections. Mr. Morrill wrote about hair stylist Jenny Mui, whose business is Zen Jen Hair Studio, and she has built her business on:
- customer service
- added value
- word of mouth
…which builds her reputation. According to the article Ms. Mui says, “…’How great is it to know that it’s your reputation that has built your business,” she said. ‘For me, it’s always been about making sure the customer comes first, and people appreciate that.’…”
The article describes how she marketed her business through personal service and word-of-mouth: “…When she first started in the profession, she would go to the nearby coffee shops and seek out the baristas. Mui would tell them that she’s going to do their hair for free. The only thing asked in return is if someone asks them about their hair, she refers clients to her. ‘I got many clients that way,’ she said….”
The present economy might not be the rosiest to look at, but you don’t have to let it ruin your day…or your business. Just keep doing what is working and use the present climate as a time for continuous improvement.