We’re through the first month of 2009 and many folks are getting a true feel for what the year holds for small business. (I know we are here at Strategic Guru). The results of December’s 2nd Annual Small Business Leadership Summit suggested the theme for the year among small business owners is pragmatic optimism. A few highlights from their Outlook 2009 survey:
54% felt the economy would be better or significantly better by the end of 2009.
39% expected revenues to grow, 54% expect revenues to drop and the remainder expect them to go flat.
65% expected staffing levels to either remain the same or grow.
The survey did not address the expected change to small business marketing expenditures in 2009. Although many organizations will need to scale back to stay afloat, it’s important to remember that strategic marketing initiatives can be the light to lead you through what looks to be a difficult 2009. The key is here is strategic – tough times demand targeted efforts that are measurable. Can you reasonably measure the amount of business your current marketing plan is netting you? We always advise our clients to market with sharpened purpose and now it may be more important than ever.
A little additional food for thought: a few big businesses got their start during a downturn!
Yesterday morning on my way to the office, I waited behind an SUV at a red light. A bumper sticker proclaiming “I’d ♥ To Be Your REALTOR®” was affixed to the rear of the car at eye level, immediately below a full sized window cling ad. If I were looking to find a REALTOR® at that moment, it would be easy! Her number, email, cell and address were right there for me to jot down.
On my way home, I saw another SUV with the same bumper sticker (I must live near a lot of REALTORS®). The problem this time? If I wanted to connect with this real estate professional, I’d have no way to find her, short of following her home! It was a call to action with no way for prospects to act. Instead, it’s just noise.
This is important to keep in mind. I’ve visited websites that are informative, beautifully designed and cleverly written. They even prompt the visitor to take action! But then they make it hard to actually do so. Contact phone numbers and emails are buried on inside pages. Or there’s no one-click sign up for the newsletter.
The takeaway? No matter by what medium your message is delivered, make it easy for your prospects to act on your call to action!
Email marketing can be an effective and cost-efficient marketing tactic. It allows you to connect with customers by creating top of mind awareness of a product or service, cultivate an ongoing relationship and compel recipients to take action.
Consider just a few ways you can use email marketing to drive sales:
*Position your business as the leader in your field by sharing breaking news and developments in your industry.
*Drive traffic to your website with embedded links.
*Be eco-friendly and use email instead of snail-mail –this can earn you green cred!
*Respond quickly to market conditions with messages that arrive in recipient’s mailboxes in hours vs. days.
*Offer special discounts or coupons for email recipients.
*Encourage referrals through contests and exclusive offers.
Perhaps best of all – email marketing is trackable. Easily monitor who opens your email, who clicks through and who forwards the message. We marketers love tactics we can measure!
What are you waiting for – start collecting your permission-based email list now!
Almost every business has a website. It’s practically a prerequisite to even starting a business! Forrester Research and Razorfish found that over 90% of purchasing decisions begin online. It’s clear that a website is an important part of corporate identity, but it also should be part of your marketing plan. Be sure you are using your website strategically.
Some businesses see their website as a digital brochure, highlighting their products and services – the old features/benefits approach. It’s one way communication, with little chance for the target to interact with the business or brand. Thus, it’s crucial that your website draw your targets in and act as a lead generation system. Here are a few tips to create a website that engages with targets rather than simply talking at them:
•Make sure you are leading your visitors down a clear cut path. Point them down a road that ends in an opportunity to convert to a warm lead.
•Give your visitors multiple chances to continue the conversation – sign them up for permission-based newsletters, invite them to follow you on Twitter, or connect with you in the social media world at Facebook or MySpace. In other words, make it easy for your visitors to continue the relationship.
•Refresh your website content periodically. Not only does Google reward you for this, but it encourages your visitors to come to your site on a regular basis.
•Add a blog to your site. This is an easy way to refresh content and let your prospects talk back to you.
•Be sure you understand how to make Google find and rank your site. This means making sure your site is search-engine friendly by using keywords and meta-text.
Although this list is not exhaustive, it’s a great place to begin if you are starting from scratch or re-vamping your site. Remember, your site can be one of the best lead generation tools your business has.
Let Strategic Guru guide you to an internet marketing strategy that can help your business grow. Call 919.461.0551 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a complementary consultation.
It’s official. The U.S. economy is in a recession that began in December 2007. That fact can’t be changed – but we can control the way we react and operate in difficult economic conditions. So what to do?
Be sure to check your attitude. Operating from a place of fear is never good. Fear drives us to focus on the here-and-now, sometimes at the expense of preparing for the long term. Don’t cut back on the activities that will sustain you and your business at the end of ‘09 and into ’10.
Focus your energy on what you can control. Sure, customers may be cutting spending or cancelling orders. There’s not much you can do when their budgets are squeezed. Instead, find ways you can meet customer needs more efficiently. Retool your offerings. Focus on delivering excellent customer service. More folks don’t choose to innovate when business is booming – now is the time to reevaluate.
Be ready for the recovery. It’s often said that people are an organization’s greatest asset. If you manage staff, make sure they understand their role in the company’s success. Empower them to bring fresh ideas to the table.
For more thoughts on surviving and thriving during the economic downturn, see here.
In tough economic times, many companies move to cut costs and some of the first expenditures on the chopping block are marketing communications. Instead of cutting marketing communications budgets, it’s time to think strategically and reassess your plan – studies have shown that companies who increase advertising and marketing efforts enjoy a higher return on investment (ROI) than companies who decrease these efforts during difficult times.*
So what do you do?
Make sure your efforts are targeted. Don’t waste time or money producing messages that are not reaching your targets.
1 to 1 communications are a great way to produce targeted, personalized customer messages. 1 to 1 communications use information from your databases to create compelling and coordinated messages across print, email, and web pages. Of course, you want to be able to track effectiveness. 1 to 1 communications programs allows you to see exactly with whom your campaign is resonating.
So what is 1 to 1 communication? A customized direct mail or email is sent personalized with the recipient’s information from your database. It directs the target to visit a personal web landing page – i.e. janesmith.yourwebsite.com. Once the target visits their web landing page, they receive an email response – another opportunity to create a personal connection. Behind the scenes, a dashboard provides live, accurate campaign data and statistics for ROI analysis.
1 to 1 communications help you connect on a personal level with your targets and create warm leads to pass to your sales force.
*”Advertising during a recession,” Direct Marketing. September 9, 1991