Late last year I reconnected with an old business contact of mine, a financial planner. This man has been in business for 20+ years and has always been successful because he is a stand-up guy with a unique niche in his business. He is the financial adviser who takes the time to get to know his clients and to really learn what makes them tick before helping them design a financial plan. He is happier if he has helped a businessman or a family get closer to their long-term goals than if he gets a big fat commission check.
Unfortunately, the economy has hit his business hard, and he isn't seeing many of those checks. People are either afraid to invest or don't have the assets left to do so, so his business has dropped significantly. He came to me to help ramp up his marketing efforts, something he's been able to avoid doing for a long time.
I thought I'd pass along some of my suggestions to those of you who might find some of yourselves in a similar position:
1) It is tempting to cut marketing expenses in a recession, but according to an SBA expert in Seattle, marketing is the last expense you should cut when the economy is down. In fact, if your year-round marketing efforts are consistent, you may only have to increase things a little bit (greater advertising frequency, for example) or maintain the status quo until the economy evens out. Bottom line: do not cut your marketing now.
2) Take advantage of the social media surge. Leverage sites like Stumple Upon, Digg, Facebook, Twitter and Squidoo to get your message out there. There is no "hard cost" to using these sites, but be cognizant of how much time you spend on them and be sure your message is consistent across the board.
3) Remember that the "hard sell" turns off many of today's consumers. Instead, take your time by offering them tidbits for free with a blog or posting tips on Twitter.
4) Position yourself as an expert in your field through article marketing, blogging, tweeting or commenting on others' blogs.
5) Interact with others online and through face-to-face networking without the expectation of a sale and, while doing so, remember to be yourself. If they need you down the line, they'll remember you or perhaps refer you to someone who might.
6) Keep your marketing efforts consistent. We all know that it takes 7+ times for a prospect to see our name, brand, product or service before it sticks or becomes top-of-mind. So make sure you get in front of your target audience on a regular basis (e.g., advertising 1x/week in local paper, 4 radio spots/day during rush hour, weekly blog posts, daily Twitter & Facebook updates, etc.)
7) Try "new" marketing tools. When finances are scarce, people are afraid to spend money so "doing what you've always done" may no longer work. If that's the case, try new (or new-to-you marketing tools - advertise in a different publication, try a TV ad, join an online network, join your local Chamber or downtown organization, investigate PPC or CPA advertising, place an ad on Facebook - whatever will put you in front of prospective customers.
8) Keep the customers you have. It costs less to keep a customer than it does to acquire a new one, so make sure your existing customers continue to have the great selection and service they are used to. Continue to woo them with special offers, free newsletters, thank you events, etc. to make sure they feel appreciated.
9) Be flexible. I know it is hard to be open-minded when business is slow, but you have to be flexible in order to adjust your marketing mix to what will work for you during a recession.
10) Perhaps most importantly, make sure you can measure whatever marketing tools you are using. That's the only way to see if what you are doing is working. If you are using online marketing tools, make sure you check your website or blog stats frequently to see what keywords, referral sources, days, times, etc. are bringing you traffic. For advertising, be sure to include a specific Coupon or Offer code so you can track the origin of the promotion and, if all else fails, ask your new customers, "How did you hear about us?" or "Who can I thank for your business?" You'll need this information when determining the success of your efforts.
Still not sure where to begin? Contact me to discuss your situation. My initial phone consultation is complimentary.
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