Connect with Customers in a Slow Economy
Once-thriving businesses are struggling to
survive in today's slow economy. Many are making spending decisions based on
"What can I afford?" rather than "Where can I invest my money to make my
business grow?" When payroll and other expenses take priority, the
advertising and marketing budget is the first to go. Lacking the resources
of large corporations, small and medium-sized businesses find it
particularly challenging to keep their heads above water. In addition, they
are struggling with lower-than-average sales, difficulty getting loans,
rising interest rates, and the ever-present threat of increased taxes and
Most business owners know that the key to success in any economy, good or
bad, is the ability to connect with customers. Businesses that are firmly
established in the community will be in a good position to weather economic
storms and will excel when the economy recovers. To be among the leaders,
you have to get your name out there.
So how do you attract attention, get new customers and maintain customer
loyalty with a limited advertising and marketing budget?
Take stock of what you have to offer your customers and come up with a plan
to stand out from the crowd. Customers are expecting more from their
hard-earned cash and will find it easier to spend money where they are
getting the best customer service. The owner of Hotwire Online Coffeehouse
has set up a system that helps her and her employees remember their regular
customers' names. Customers appreciate the exceptional service and feel
welcome and at home in the coffee shop. The GONE Art Gallery and Frame Shop
attracts customers by hosting art shows featuring local artists. They get
the word out for the show through local advertising and through their email
newsletters. The kick-off for each show is parties open to the public and
includes live music and hors d'oeuvres.
Offering coupons as incentives is a tried-and-true way to get people in your
door and spending money. The coupon industry is exploding because consumers
are actively looking for ways to save money. A recent survey conduced by
Harris Interactive (2009) found that a growing number of consumers will not
make a purchase without a coupon.
However, many small businesses simply do not have the budget for the
printing and distribution of coupons.
Instead of going the traditional route, use companies that specialize in
doing the hard work for you. These "coupon" companies specialize in creating
and managing coupon campaigns for other businesses, at little or no cost,
and with surprisingly fast results. By providing your information and the
details of your special offer, these organizations will generate a "coupon
campaign" for you, and allow users online to search via zip code, product,
company or service to find your deal.
Establish Your Online Presence
Businesses that don't already have a Web site, need to get one. It's a sign
of credibility today—even if your site doesn't attract much attention,
you'll lose business if you don't have one. Many, if not most people will
choose a business with a Web site over one without. Web sites don't cost
thousands of dollars anymore and there are many tools available to people
who want to create a website themselves. Yet, many small businesses are
still daunted by the perceived costs and difficulties associated with having
a Web site. Using a free open-source Content Management System (CMS) like
Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal, it's easy to create excellent sites and there
are many free templates and online support for these systems. Professional
Web site templates, including sites that support flash and other advanced
features, are available for as little as $60 and can be hosted for around $5
month, sometimes even less. Companies like HostGator.com and GoDaddy.com
have very competitive hosting prices and offer good products that will get
you up and running very quickly. You can check online for other companies
and packages to make Web site creation simple – even if you have little or
Savvy business owners take advantage of online social media marketing.
Accounts on sites such as FaceBook and Twitter are free and easy to set up,
and can yield big dividends through increased exposure. The New England
Dance Conservatory in Massachusetts bartered with one of their students:
free dance lessons in exchange for a Web site, and the establishment and
maintenance of profiles on FaceBook and Twitter. The owner and artistic
director, Shelley Ziebel, said she has already seen an increase in the
number of students who have enrolled as a direct result of their online
presence. They also put a blog on their site, which encourages users to
upload videos and pictures of the dancers. This is helping to create a
community of loyal customers.
Organize a Fund Raiser
It is difficult for many people to give to charity in this slumping economy.
When the community sees businesses participating in fundraising events and
helping the needy, it leaves a lasting positive impression. Even simple
things like putting a sign in front of your store telling the community that
you are collecting canned goods for the local food bank can positively
impact your organization. Or join with other businesses in your community to
organize something bigger. Local newspapers and media outlets may be willing
to publicize worthy events in the community. The Noah's Arc Animal Hospital
has organized an event where people can bring their pets to be
professionally photographed. They put fliers all over town, and because all
proceeds are being donated to a local children's hospital, they are getting
a lot of attention.
These are just a few ideas on how to survive and even thrive in a slow
economy. Be creative. Offer exceptional customer service. Give your
customers incentives. Actively post content on social media sites such as
FaceBook.com and Twitter.com. Be involved in the community. Get your name
out there and you will be in a great position when the economy recovers.
About the Author:
CherryPlanet.com was founded to help local businesses attract customers by
providing a platform for businesses to create coupon campaigns for free. The
site offers a way for businesses to save money on advertising and marketing
while helping customers save money while shopping and doing business
locally. In addition, Cherry Planet is committed to donating 10% of their
profits to worthy charities. Visit
for more information.