As the news from Wall Street continues to send negative messages to jittery consumers, many business owners are seeing more browsers and fewer buyers.
While there is no ways of knowing when economic trends will reverse themselves, there are steps business owners can take to get customers to spend. Here are seven suggestions to help you sell during slow times:
- 1. Package products and/or services to create added value: Almost any product or service can have a value added “accessory” or something that may not bring you much additional profit but will help sell your primary products or services. Consumers always like to feel they are getting something extra but especially when they are cutting back on spending. If they feel they are getting more for their money, they are likely to loosen the purse strings. If you can package a smaller product with a larger purchase, you can increase the perceived value of your major selling items.
- 2. Soften your return policies: This is not the time for customers to worry that if their purchase does not work out they are stuck. There is a small art gallery in Cross River, New York, that offers patrons the option to leave a deposit and try a painting out for a week in their home to see if it suits their taste before purchasing. A liberal return policy will make it easier for people to pull out the credit card. The point is, you need to assure customers that they are not stuck with products should they need to make returns.
- 3. Build lasting relationships: When times are bad, people are more likely to buy products from someone they know and trust. Building relationships with your regular customers through follow-ups, whether by e-mail or postcards, and greeting frequent customers on a first-name basis is more important than ever when business is slow. Your core customers are the ones that will help you sustain business until spending loosens up.
- 4. Emphasize needs and solutions over “luxury”: For a store owner selling staples such as food and reasonably priced clothing, this is easy to do. But there are a lot of products and services that people will put off buying if money is tight. However, if you can sell your product as something that can solve a problem or even save someone money, it will be easier for them to justify the purchase.
- 5. Personalize it: Whether you are customizing a car, configuring a computer to suit your customer’s needs, or changing the doors on a kitchen cabinet, the more you can give people what they want, the more you can sell. Find a way of making the product fit the customer rather than providing one-size-fits-all solutions.
- 6. Provide low-cost gift-giving options: The economy notwithstanding, people like to give presents. Positioning some of your products and/or services as affordable gift options can provide an incentive for buyers to make purchases. Free shipping or low shipping costs can help you stay competitive.
- 7. Consider buyer incentive programs: There are numerous ways to encourage buyers to keep coming back to buy products. An auto mechanic can offer a punch card for oil changes: Buy five oil changes, get one free. The bookseller can offer a group discount to a book club that might need to buy eight copies of the same book. Small business owners agree that incentives such as discounts for referring a friend work very well in a slowing economy, as people are more than happy to help do a little marketing in exchange for saving money.