Continuing business as usual during the recession may get you through the trying economic times, but a better strategy is playing to your company’s natural strengths to give you an edge over the competition. Value is something that every customer looks for when comparing one product over another, so if you can enhance your goods, product, or service, chances are it will pay off.
After you’ve made hard choices that will keep your business solvent, such as reducing staff or making painful compensatory cuts, you must begin to identify means of growing your business. If you think about what types of advice you dispense to your clients every day, what you often give away for free, you will likely come up with several ideas of how you can expand your business and create even more value for your customers.
A California voice instructor realized that his business was dropping off because clients were concerned about spending money on a hobby in tight economic times. Rather than merely cut prices to compete, this teacher repackaged his offerings and sweetened the pot.
He cultivated a couple smart partnerships, with a recording studio and a local coffeehouse, so his students could have an enriched vocal experience: Their voice training would include a professional recording session and a live performance at the coffeehouse, providing potential customers for the recording studio and the coffeehouse.
Sweetening the offer, such as adding home staging and interior decorating to your repertoire if you are a real estate agent, for instance, can really grow your business. The important point to consider is whether the new strategy will generate additional revenue that won’t cost your company or tax its existing resources. If it’s a natural and smart extension of what your business does, do it, and see how far ahead you outpace your competitors.
Your first step is to think of everyone in your company as a possible source of revenue-generating opportunities. Ask your employees for their best ideas. Encourage them to think outside the box.
That’s what one West Coast alternative newsweekly with anemic advertising sales did. The editor, with the cooperation of the publisher, scheduled a companywide offsite brainstorming session to see what ideas employees might have to generate new revenue. One idea to come out of this session was to create a graphics design division of the company. It was a straightforward idea, but the genius of the move lies in taking what some of the company’s existing employees already do, which is graphics design, and using their talents to create new business. By extending its business beyond creating ads for clients who regularly advertise, the newspaper brings in new clients seeking graphics design services from professional, savvy graphic artists who understand print media from the inside out.
Likewise, when a San Francisco Bay Area publisher of telephone books and magazines found its page counts shrinking for lack of ad sales, the company sought out custom publishing projects. The firm offered design and project management services and emphasized its abilities to navigate the competitive world of printers. The same company also devised a new direct-mail medium for its advertising clients: bundled postcards that resonated immediately with consumers and clients. The postcards weren’t expensive to produce, and they were easy for the company’s graphics and traffic departments to create and manage.
One of the postcard advertisers, an independent shoe store, attributed an uptick in business to the mailing, which offered discounts to customers making a purchase. It was so successful, the storeowner signed up for subsequent postcard promotions.