I have been posting on allbusiness for about three years now. During that time I have seen business boom and business wane. I’ve interviewed dozens of business owners who have offered a plethora of excellent advice regarding keeping business afloat while times are tougher.
In addition, I’ve learned some lessons (some of them the hard way!) on my own. I am happy to report that even though times are tougher, work for me has remained quite steady – and, if I daresay, is actually picking up right now.
Why the turn for the better? I’m sure the economy is beginning to turn around even a little; or, at least, people are not as afraid to take a chance on a new business right now, as much as they were even a year ago.
I also believe that changes I have made to my marketing and to my business in general has helped. One thing I have learned over the past few years is this: Customers are the most important part of a company; without them, the company will fold.
If times change, so must you. If you don’t, you may just get left behind as your customers reach out to those business owners who have seen the changes being made and, in turn, made changes to their companies in order to keep up with the times.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned and tips I can share with you for keeping your business thriving even when the economy has a ways to go during the recovery phase.
- Keep marketing. I have heard this from those I have interviewed and I have seen this in my own company. I stopped marketing for a while and it affected my business.
- Be aggressive. Just like that old cheer, “Be aggressive, be be aggressive.” You should be thinking more aggressively than you had to when the economy was doing well. If you do not push a little, chances are you will lose the sale. Right now there are plenty of people doing the same thing you are doing – you have to get ahead of those people in order to make a sale or win a client. Being aggressive in this sense means making yourself known: follow up interviews with phone calls, email clients when they have purchased something and make sure everything is okay, check back with customers after a purchase has been made to see if they want something else.
- Consider offering more for the same. Rather than slashing prices, which can be a tough thing to recover from when the economy turns again, consider offering more services than you did before. Throwing in some benefits – an extra piece of jewelry, a new shirt with the purchase of several, a free haircut with the price of a highlight – can make customers choose your company over the others. Think: What can I offer with my regular services that might bring people back, or convince that customer to purchase?
- Take care of current customers. Most of your business will be repeat business and once you win a client you have a great likelihood of retaining that client, particularly if service is good, products hold up, and you continue to follow the customer after the sell has been made. Friendly cards, reminders in the mail or by email, happy birthday postcards, and follow up coupons are a great way to remind customers you are there – and to invite them back again.
- Take this time to learn. If things are slower in your company, take some time off to learn. If you need help making sales, sign up for a conference. Shy? Join a speaking group or take a communications class at the college. Want to improve your technology skills? Sign up for a college course, take a workshop online or check into adult education courses. Keeping your skills sharp is always important, and if you have some added time with slowing business,now is a great time to do this.
- Change with the times. This has been a big one for me. Times are changing, and if you stand still and watch them change without making some changes of your own you just may be left behind. If you see customers are starting to purchase something else – maybe moving more green when your products are not – you need to figure out a way to bring them to you. Start selling green products, at least a few, and see if that improves sales. In my business, clients moved from wanting a site based in xhtml or flash to one based in wordpress – and so I learned how to do this to keep up with the changing social media times. This is a must if you want your business to succeed. Not only do you need to brush up on your skills, but you may need to learn new skills altogether to keep your business afloat.