If your organization is drifting into these bad practices, you need to make changes right now.
Delivery of new products and new services to existing customers.
Creation of the perception of increased value and worth.
Strong public and community image.
Strategic initiative to plan for inevitable upturn, no matter when it occurs.
Daily efforts to build trust, confidence, and interaction with CUSTOMERS.
Development of new markets for existing products and services, including global markets, even for smaller businesses.
Paying local and smaller suppliers first, to help keep them in business and become their priority customer.
Creation of banking relationships, credit lines, and financial reserves.
Industry/professional leadership, assuming a visible and assertive role and becoming leaders in discussing conditions and solutions.
Constant presence in the customers’ eyes through all available media which are relevant.
Yes, local businesses are up against tough odds this year. The good news is that Wall Street and the government seem to be committed to getting the economy back on track. In the meantime, stay positive! Here are a few quick ideas for making the best of tough times.
Increase your personal presence in the community. Personal contact and prompt follow-ups are key to winning your customers’ hearts – and business. Follow-up that holiday card with a phone call, a simple email or an e-newsletter. Get active in your local Chamber of Commerce, area franchise association or civic organizations.
Almost every major employer invites people from the community in to speak at staff meetings, “learning lunches,” or benefits fairs. Call to find out when these events take place and ask to be included. There is generally a fee or donation-in-kind required to participate, but the face time you receive with potential clients is invaluable. To find likely organizations, scour local chamber websites and member listings.
Toot your own horn. Did your staff attend a seminar or convention to further their education? Did you become certified in a new field of expertise? Send a short press release to your local newspaper with a photo. Worst case, they will ignore you or hit you up for an ad. Best case, they’ll do an article on you and your business.
You know local search is important. But research just released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows how essential Internet marketing is – particularly for attracting young adults.
This rising group of shoppers – Millennials now aged 17-24 – was born with keyboards in their hands. Over 90% use the Internet and 86% rate mobile phones and the Internet as their preferred way to get information and communicate. They hardly use local phones and cable and satellite TV rank as “preferred” among less than 5% of those surveyed.
What’s great for local businesses is that their constant desire to be in touch and openly share experiences has dramatically changed how they shop: Millennials start by “pre-shopping” on the Internet, but actual shopping is done locally as a social activity. That’s because this group needs constant validation from peers and is always in touch with friends!
Price increase >>>> “Buy now” incentive. If you need to charge more, let customers know in advance. Be honest and specific about the reason. And sweeten the increase by offering core customers an early-bird deal. Sample messaging: “Out of necessity, our rates have increased slightly this year. However, if you (come in, contact us, call me) by January 10th, we can still honor 2008 prices. We are also happy to extend this offer to anyone you might refer to us …”
Downsizing >>>> Better service. Cutting staff, hours, or services can help you keep your business healthy unless it sends the wrong signal to customers. That’s why you need to nip negative perceptions in the bud. To do it, bring your downsizing out into the light. Be honest about what you’re doing and why, but keep it positive. Example: “… this has given us the opportunity to get back to our roots, to what we have always loved the most and done the best. So yes, our (services, staff, offices, etc.) may be a little smaller, but our quality, value and commitment to customers is bigger than ever.”