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Jewish World Review March 20, 2001 / 25 Adar, 5761

Small Business Advisor by Paul Tulenko

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Consumer Reports

Take advantage of the economic downturn -- THERE'S talk about a business slump in the market. A few so-called gurus are waving the bankruptcy flag, and scaring everyone with their half-baked predictions. They're saying we should all be gathering under the banner of 'pulling-in' to protect our assets. I say, "Baloney!"

Business slumps are a part of doing business, and if you don't know how to weather one, you're probably in the wrong business. The answer to a slump is to begin an aggressive marketing plan to promote your business to both old and new customers.

I know that sounds like I'm offering a simple solution that won't work for everyone; but put simply, if you wish to remain in business, and if your business is at risk, you have no choice but to get busy and aggressively market your product or service.

Here are several techniques that could save your business and start a growth spurt:

- Tell them again:

Chances are you haven't told your old-time customers what you do for a living for quite some time. Most have forgotten the depth and breadth of your product line or your service capabilities, and many never knew them from the start.

Begin with the assumption that no one, not even your old-time customers, knows what you do. So tell them. Mail them a letter or flyer outlining all your services. Don't give them the chance to say, "You know, in all the years I've known you, I didn't know you did that." Add a coupon to your mailing with a mail-back postcard that outlines a three step discount program for the names of one, two or three referrals. You'd be surprised what a current or past customer will do for a really great discount, so offer one.

- Circulate:

Get out of your office, store, warehouse or whatever. Visit your customers and clients. Ask them what you can do for them, find out their wants and needs and discover how you can better serve them. This will probably shock them, but it will also alert them to you and your business. Let them see you as a real person and help them understand that you are there to aid them through the downturn. Remember, you can't play ball unless you're out there in the field with a glove and a bat and an attitude.

- Talk:

Call your local service clubs (all of them, including the flower arrangers, pipe fitters, and accountants) and offer to give a talk on a business subject you know well that could be of interest to them. Couple your talk with a discount coupon and some real live advice that your listener can use tomorrow. Hold a free seminar on some topic and give away information for which your listeners would normally expect to pay, and use your coupons again to stimulate new business.

- Create excitement:

Dramatize your business with color, visual or other exciting moves. Redecorate or repaint. Maybe it is time to develop a new image for your company. Have a Grand Re-Opening with prizes, new business discounts and anything else that would generate some excitement. Remember, excitement sells.

- Join with a charity:

An absolutely fabulous way to increase sales is to team with a charity and put on a fund raising event where you donate a percentage of sales during one month to the charity. You can get some free advertising from media, lots of talk on local radio, TV and cable, an article or two in the newspaper, and who knows what else.

- Expand:

Your competitors are going to pull in their horns and hope the downturn goes away. Do the opposite: increase your market presence. This is a wonderful time to take the industry leadership away from your competitors. Design an inexpensive but comprehensive marketing program that includes advertising, direct mail and public relations ... especially public relations.


Sell what your customers need, but don't stop there. When the economy turns down for you, it probably turns down for your customers as well. You know what they need for their business, so find a better, lower-cost method of providing that need. But at the same time sell their 'wants' as well. A 'want' could be a new machine or a service your customer could use to do things faster, better or cheaper, but that isn't critical. Couple a 'want' with a 'need' to make a package your customer will find enticing.

- Guarantee:

No one wants to take wild chances unless the market is going up and up. In a downturn, your customer wants stability and low prices. You can help by changing your warranty / guarantee policy to reflect this new caution. Increasing your guarantee will mean less reluctance to buy new products and to request new services. Give your customers and prospect a no-holds-barred guarantee that none of your competitors can or will provide.

Paul Tulenko is the coordinator of the Small Business Development Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Comment by clicking here.


03/14/01: Tips on making a presentation
03/07/01: Never too late to start a business?
03/02/01: Choosing a company name
02/20/01: Tax tips for small business owners
02/13/01: Don't get the small-biz blues: You're not alone
02/06/01: How to communicate at the office
01/30/01: Before advertising, do your homework
01/23/01: Before you start selling a service online

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