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Marketing / Business marketing

Marketing your small business during tough times

When the economy is shaky, people change their buying behaviour. They buy different things in different ways and need a bigger why before spending.

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If you are a regular at networking events, you know that something is wrong with small business at the moment. Under the forced jollity, backslapping and “business is going well” type comments, if you get the owners alone over a long black coffee there are far too many quietly admitting things are not rosy. In fact, many traditional bricks and mortar businesses have been having their worst trading periods on record.

Things are tight … damn tight for many small businesses. We are not in recession, but consumer and business confidence is lower than James Earl Jones’s voice.

People are still spending, but they are spending on ways to beautify their home and build their family, and any financial windfalls they receive they use to pay down debt. Impulse buys on consumer items, like TVs the size of the Opera House, are way down the list of purchase priorities.

Whatever the reason behind it, tough times call for different marketing strategies. People and businesses still buy during tough times. They just need a bigger ‘why’ before opening their wallets.

Here are five ways you can deliver a bigger ‘why’:

1. Build your trustworthiness

Tough times are when you need to focus on getting glowing testimonials and reviews as your number one marketing strategy.

"People and businesses still buy during tough times. They just need a bigger ‘why’ before opening their wallets."

Yes, I know asking for testimonials and reviews is about as thrilling as volunteering for root canal treatment done by first-year dental students, but it is the single most positive thing you can do for your business. And the best bit? It doesn’t cost a cent to do!

2. Demonstrate massive value for money

People want to know they are getting a good return on their investment. They need a huge emotional “why’ backed up by fabulously logical reasons they can trot back to their partners when justifying the expenditure.

Every small business owner has heard the features vs benefits lecture repeated more frequently than Kim Kardashian takes a selfie. During tough times, you need to put the lecture into action.

Ask your clients (as part of your testimonial gathering process … see why that bit is important?), what value you add to their business. Find out what they particularly like about your service offering, what parts of your service were flawless and what other features they might like to see added.

Use the words and ideas your clients have so graciously gifted to you in your marketing to new clients. This is called ‘letting your clients do your market research for you’ and doesn’t cost a brass razoo to do.

3. Revisit your guarantee

Risk reversal is a very powerful marketing strategy. You want to remove any friction between your offer and their acceptance, so that any fears or concerns melt away like teenagers at bin emptying time.

While all products and services are legally covered for returns, try doubling your current guarantee during tough economic times. If you currently offer a 30-day money back guarantee, make it 60 days or even 365 days.

Contrary to most small business owners’ fears, most people won’t happily use your product or service for 364 days and then line up for a refund. Yes, you will get one or two cherubs that do that, but generally the increased sales you make outweigh the few cherubs who have your guarantee end date pencilled in red in their diary.

Remember, the longer the guarantee – the stronger the guarantee.

4. Enhance your design and marketing professionalism

People buy with their eyes. No matter how proficient you are at using Microsoft Publisher, it will never look as good as a design done by a graphic designer. A4 paper from Coles just doesn’t compare to gloss heavy weight paper from a quality printer, and words that you have sweated blood over generally won’t have the same result as having a copywriter weave their wordy magic.

If you invest in professional marketing, it gives your clients mental justification for your fees, and helps deliver them the bigger reason why they should choose you.

5. Crank up your communication

If people can’t see you, they can’t buy from you. During tough times, many businesses cut back on their marketing and social media presence when they should step forward and become even more visible.

The good news is that during tough times, you get greater cut through with your marketing efforts simply because everyone else is stepping back.

Find ways to leverage your presence across a range of social media. Increase the communication with your email list and up the frequency of your blogging (as long as you write good, solid, useful content). Be everywhere that your potential client turns!

By becoming a thought leader with a strong online presence, your name will naturally pop up in conversation more often, and convert into more sales … even during tough times.

What is your experience of the economy? Do you feel customers are still spending or have they been holding back in your business?

Ingrid Moyle

from Heart Harmony Communications is a psychology-based copywriter and web designer who works with small business owners to help them convert lookers into buyers online. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while playing Pokémon Go (Yes, it is still a thing).

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