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The purpose of this short article is to give a few ideas for marketing your business when your pipeline of sales enquiries is drying up, and you need fast and easy ways to start getting new business in before it's too late. Before I get to the ideas, one of the first suggestions I can make from my own experience, is to take a little time away from the business. This can be difficult and when it is getting uncomfortable from a financial point of view, and every part of you is screaming to work as hard as possible, but here's why: The only way you are going to change things for the better, is by making rational decisions and not panicking into spending your time, energy and money on poorly thought out actions.
What am I sitting on already? The first place to start is with what you have already. Don't go chasing shadows when you have a much closer resource at hand, i.e. your existing customers. Now is the time to use your imagination and think of a reason to get in touch with every single existing customer, old customer, lapsed customer, friend of customer and so on. What for? Because you can inform them of other services you could provide to them. You can tell them of how you've speeded up ordering processes. You can ask them if they have any new requirements coming up. You could inform them of a special promotion, or at the very least, simply make contact and ask them how it's going and how you could service their needs better. Make a point of visiting your best existing customers and sit with them a while, talk about their needs, get to know them, you will find that building rapport can be a way to start getting new orders and enquiries happening very quickly. Does this cost money to do? Very little, it is as simple as a letter, an email, a call or a fax. No creative required, and it will get very good results.
What am I coming across like? Now more than ever is when you need to make sure you are not letting yourself down on how your existing and potential customers perceive you. Take a look at how you communicate right across the board, how does it look if you pretend you are the customer? Good, average or actually pretty poor? Now is the time to take action. I am not talking about employing the services of a branding agency or creative design. But just look after the basics from your customers' perspective about the image of your company and all its communications, marketing or other. Make simple improvements and work on improving at least one thing each day, it can be anything! If you incrementally changed just one thing about your company image per day, that would be almost 300 changes a year. So what things? If you have areas clients visit, are they clean and tidy, fresh and modern, smell good, look good, up to date magazines, healthy plants, clean windows? Is all the spelling and punctuation right on everything you put out to customers, again, does it look good, clear photographs. What about you? Are you dressed for business, sending the right message to yourself regarding your own motivation and that of your staff? Work on image and it will contribute quickly to winning more business and you will build a higher self-esteem, both personally and with regard to your business.
Am I putting my financial head in the sand? Get a grip on what you are spending both personally on the domestic front and within the business. The less you spend, the less pressure on the business to cover the expense. This is where you really do need to book time out of the office, get the bills, bank statements, credit cards and personal expenditure and loan info all together and spend time looking at the whole picture. Write it all down and look at it square on. Look for where you spend money in the company. Where is it all going? Look for opportunities to cut your costs and think about what you can live without. Make a list of the savings using a calculator and add it up by the month and divide the savings into business and personal. Next, write down an action plan and start immediately. Start ringing banks, suppliers, cards and make it all happen. Ensure the savings projections you have calculated come to fruition by taking the necessary action. This is why getting out of the office is so essential as you never get the chance to do this stuff when you are stuck in the millions of tasks needed at work, not giving attention to what really matters. Cost savings can reduce pressure as your break-even is lower and therefore you need less income to manage.
Have I been neglecting my pipeline? If you are struggling and enquiries from your existing customers look like they are drying up, then it may be that if you are being honest with yourself, during the busy times, you have possibly neglected to look after your mechanisms for new business and what you do to attract completely new customers. Sales is a very easy habit to get out of when times are good and work seems to come to you effortlessly. So what can you do now? What are the fastest tools you can adopt to kick start your marketing? This will vary by your business and the types of customers you target. Here are some basic marketing tools that apply to most businesses looking to increase new business quickly. Firstly, consider how a brand new customer will find your business; are you out there with the competition? Do you have a prospect database of warm and cold potential customers? Now is the time to use it if you do. If you don't, now is the time to create one. Build up a list of potential customers, mail them, call them, and get working on it. Make appointments, build rapport and convert to enquiries and sales. Use a good letter, have leaflets designed, follow them up with a call. If you have a website, look at it again; ensure it is 100% up to date with latest info. How easy is it for a customer to get in touch, how fast and thoroughly do you respond? With what? Building and nurturing a good list of potential customers will give a good yield of monthly enquiries that you can begin to turn into new business very quickly. It takes some work, courage and persistence, but the action will be very well rewarded.
Am I buying well? Your purchasing is a key factor in how well you are performing. It is essential now that you buy well and make as much profit for every pound you spend. When times are good, it can be that you assume you are buying at a good price and making a reasonable profit. In lean times it is not good enough to assume. You now need to negotiate the best deals, of course this does not mean becoming a complete ogre with suppliers, it does mean shopping around, taking note of extras being charged and ensuring that you can make the maximum amount of profit possible on every transaction. If you can get into this discipline you can again increase turnover and profit, potentially even lowering prices on certain products and services to your customers as you benefit from your negotiating successes. Ensure you get credit control tightened up and that you habitually chase every due invoice several days before it is due for payment from your customer. This can get your cashflow in a healthier state and give you more sleep as you know you can cover your costs.
The most important point is that you address your business matters, decide on the corrective action necessary to survive the period of economic uncertainty, and that you follow through with ongoing consistent action in the areas I have highlighted. If you have a team, then motivate everyone to do the same, multiply the attitude and action through the whole business and you will almost certainly see excellent results. The best part of this is that when you get through the lean times, you will be well placed to accelerate your business all the faster as you maintain the disciplines.