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Copyright (c) 2009 Meredith Liepelt
The economy looks tough right now, but marketing is the strongest defender of your business. I have heard business owners consider pulling back on their marketing efforts due to the state of the economy. Well, think again my friend! Now is the time to capture market share while your competitors are cocooning! Here are five questions to ask yourself about your marketing efforts which could lead to big results for your business.
1. Is it time to partner?
Many businesses are looking for ways to continue to increase their visibility without spending a lot more on marketing. Consider creating a partnership with another business. For example, you can create a strategic alliance with a similar business with complementary strengths. In this kind of partnership, you agree to share resources in a certain project. Benefits of such a partnership include access to your partner's distribution channels, products, technology and intellectual property. You also have increased brand awareness through your partner's channels without an expensive ad campaign. Think about who also serves your target market, and find a creative way to offer each other's products and services to each other's customers and clients.
2. Do I have a formal referral program?
Word of mouth advertising is critical at all times, and it can be your saving grace right now. It is simply not enough to hope that referrals will come your way. Design a formal referral program that will inspire your current and former customers and clients to bring business to you. It can be as simple as asking for referrals in conversation or in an email, and offering something special in return for the referral. Examples include a thank you note, a $5 Starbucks gift card, or a bottle of wine or gift certificate at a restaurant for more than a certain number of referrals in a month. Get creative with your referral rewards while keeping in mind what would motivate your clients and customers.
3. Am I continuing to network?
This is truly your moment to stand out in the crowd. While others are cutting back on networking and other forms of marketing, staying in the game will put you far ahead of the crowd. Remember that you have got to be in the game if you want to win! This is the perfect time to get out there and gain market share.
4. What can I do with what I already have?
Get creative! Find new ways of packaging your products and services and you can actually end up making more money! This technique of bundling your products and services can work well to serve your clients even better than before. For example, if you have ten products, try bundling them in 3 or 4 different packages. You can even charge more than the total sum of the individual products if you toss in a bonus site (
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) or two. If you are a consultant or coach, you can even offer one hour of your time for free, which puts you in a direct conversation with a hot lead where you can demonstrate your expertise and upsell them into one of your programs. If you have a gift shop, consider creating a VIP membership program where customers pay a pre-determined monthly fee in order to receive exclusive benefits such as notifications of new arrivals, customer appreciation shopping days or special hours, discounts on certain things, a free gift on their birthday, VIP trunk shows, wine tastings , specials from other stores you partner with in your area, and so on. Think creatively about how to serve your customers and clients. The sky is truly the limit.
5. Am I getting in my own way?
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is think differently about our own businesses. We're so used to doing things one way because we think, "That's how I always do it" or "It can't be done any other way." It's really important for us to "get out of our own way" and see our business from other perspectives. How do we get out of our own way? Ask your advisory group or mastermind for help, talk to a trusted colleague or friend or hire a coach.
I am not one of the alarmists who buys into the idea that the current state of the economy is so dire that we all need to close our doors and hide under our kitchen tables. The truth is that there is a lot of business going on these days. I see it in the malls, at restaurants, with my own business and my clients' businesses. What can you do to stand out and capture market share?
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