Top-Ten Marketing & Sales Strategies
for a Slow Economy
How to Attain, Retain and Maintain Customers

by Gregory P. Smith

This economy has created both winners and losers. The quickest road to bankruptcy is to sit on your hands, do nothing, and wait for the economy to improve. No matter what industry you work in a “business as usual” mindset will sink your ship. You have to be innovative, stand out, and market your products and services in a new way.

Now more than ever you have to focus, improve, and possibly even change what you do to attain, retain and maintain customers. Consider the following ten-steps to make your business recession proof.

Strategy 1. Think big and audit your time. No matter the size of your business, place a mental image in your mind as if you are the largest and most successful person in your industry. How much time is consumed by routine office work someone else should be doing? Spend more time with more important tasks such as marketing strategies, improving customer relations, and implementing new strategies to expand your services.

Strategy 2. Be different and stand out from the competition. Jordan Furniture sells more furniture per square foot than any other furniture store in the nation. They transformed their family-owned business into a multi-million dollar corporation by following a principle called “shoppertainment.” To surprise employees and customers, Barry and Eliot Tatleman dressed up like the Lone Ranger and Tonto and rode horses in their parking lot. They built an IMax theater inside one store to entertain children while their parents shopped. When you drive around the back to pick up your furniture they provide you free hotdogs and wash your car windows.

Strategy 3. Build relationships with your customers. For each month that goes by, customers lose 10% of their buying power. Create a customer database and contact them on a regular basis. Mail them a postcard, birthday card, sales flyer, newsletter etc. to keep your name, phone number, and service on their mind.

Strategy 4. Collect E-Mail Addresses. As part of your customer relationship process get permission from your customers to use their E-mail address. Periodically send updates and notices to your client list. As long as you have their permission and avoid overuse, E-mail can be a powerful and inexpensive marketing tool. Consider the Fox’s Pizza Den in Punxsutawney, PA, they ran an anniversary promotion offering a medium cheese pizza for the 1970s price of $1.40. To get this special price, customers had to go to their web site and register their email address to have the special coupon emailed to them. An amazing 500 email addresses were collected in two days.

Strategy 5. Avoid poisonous personalities. Unfriendly and negative employees cost you money by chasing your customers away. Spend more time and money interviewing and hiring people who enjoy helping people. Use behavior based interviewing and screening assessments to improve your chances for hiring success. For more information go to www.behaviorprofile.com.

Strategy 6. Put a shopping cart on your website. Online sales are still growing at a dramatic pace. According to Jupiter Research this past year’s holiday season generated $13.2 billion in online purchases, a 17% growth rate over last year. This increase of sales is coming from people who want to save time, followed closely by avoiding crowded stores, and the ability to shop outside of store hours. Make an audit of what services and products you can offer online.

Strategy 7. Pay-per-click advertising. Many business owners are cutting back on classified advertising in lieu for pay-per-click advertising. Pay-per-click will insure you receive top visibility on websites driving more customers to your door. Advertisers bid on keywords and the more popular the keyword, the more expensive each click is. Prices vary between a few cents to many dollars. For example, you can pay ten cents a click for the keyword, “pool supply store.” The most popular pay-per-click advertisers are found on Google, Yahoo, and Overture.

Strategy 8. Use customer service commandments to create good habits. Bates Ace Hardware store located in Atlanta created “Twenty Customer Service Commandments” modeled after the Ritz-Carlton hotels outlining specific behaviors employees are to demonstrate when dealing with customers and fellow employees. For example, “Accompany a customer to the correct aisle instead of pointing to another area of the store.” They print the commandments on a small card and employees carry it with them at work. Furthermore, supervisors reinforce good customer service by quizzing employees on one commandment each day.

Strategy 9. Take your message to the media. Local newspapers and television are always looking for stories and topics of interest. Learn to write a press release or call your local media outlet about a special aspect of your business. The Varsity restaurant in Atlanta featured an employee who had worked there for 50 years. This resulted in a two-page spread about the employee and the restaurant.

Strategy 10. Take advantage of trends. For some this economic downturn is an opportunity in disguise. Consider one entrepreneur who created a special brand of toilet paper. Printed on each piece of toilet paper is the face Osama Bin Laden followed by this saying, “Do your part to wipe out terrorism.” I am not sure if this person made any money off his product, but he captured a lot of attention.