Recessionary times and cost-cutting exercises put pressure on many small business owners to work smarter – smarter budgeting, smarter use of existing resources, smarter customer relationships, and smarter marketing.
However, truth be told, many small business owners often retreat from new marketing initiatives during tough times – choosing to manage as many costs within their control as they can, at least for the short term.
Conversely, if you ‘freeze’ your scheduled marketing plans until the economic gloom appears to be lifting then you may find that your sales pipeline has dried up and even worse, your competitors are making inroads into your existing or potential markets.
So while the prospect of throwing precious dollars at marketing during a recession might be perceived as a risky decision, if you are smart about your strategy you can position yourself for market growth when the recession lifts.
Here are two things you can do now, to position your small business to ride the economic storm and emerge with a plan to grow for the future:
1) Nurture Existing Customer Relationships
The most important tactic is to take proactive measures to hold on to your existing customers and nurture the relationships you already have. This is your low hanging fruit; ignore it at your peril. Here’s a very simple, yet effective example I recently encountered:
A few weeks ago, my favorite local restaurant called me to ask for my mailing address so that they could send me a $25 gift certificate to thank me for my loyal custom. This immediately caught my attention, first because they had made the effort to mine their existing customer data – using information captured by their online reservation system – and second, this particular restaurant – the largest restaurant in my county – doesn’t appear to be experiencing a significant loss in custom (yet).
The gesture was a definite statement that they care about retaining loyal customers now and for the future. The result – I made an immediate dinner reservation with them (while spending more), and passed on some positive word of mouth marketing that hopefully will generate referrals for them down the line.
2) Seek Out Potential Future Markets and Opportunities
Your company probably has some existing customer profiling information, and while mining this data for potential cross- or up-sell opportunities is a good use of time, external customer data – often available for free – can help you identify similar prospects in new geographies, demographics, or industries. These resources can also help you find profit patterns and trends for your small business while using this intelligence strategically can help position your business for new customer opportunities when the economy bounces back.
The good news is that much of the background work needed to identify new market opportunities needn’t cost much. Here are two excellent sources of market data and statistics for small businesses:
a) Business.gov’s Business Data and Statistics Portal
The good news for budget conscious small businesses is that the federal government – currently the largest producer of data in the U.S. – has agencies and offices dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and reporting on business, industrial and economic activity.