Where Are All My Customers – Surviving Tough Times

In any business, there will be those times of the year that are lackluster, when we know that no matter what we do, our customers will most likely stay away and spend their money elsewhere. Businesses brace for these times, as many downturns are cyclical in nature and come the same time every year. Other fluctuations are less predictable, like an unexpected downturn when a competitor opens up nearby, eroding the market. Many business owners are surprised to learn that even a move across town will change their customer’s shopping habits. For whatever reason, if you find that business is slow, and you can’t come up with a plan to turn it around, don’t despair. Here are some creative ways to combat the really dismal days that try our souls.

1. Come up with a plan to make your own business on tough days.

Years ago, when I worked at a well known retail store, my buyer would call me up on the phone on slow days. I’d complain and make excuses for our flash report, and she’d ask me, are you wringing your hands- or are you doing something about it? Sure enough, after I’d hang up, I’d open up my customer book and find somebody to call. No one can afford to be casual about customer service in these times. Follow up! Make every effort to reach out. Don’t be complacent. Shake it up a bit!

With tenacity and effort, you will improve things. Go through those business cards you picked up at the mixer, search your saved contacts and old sales records to scout for someone you forgot to call.

2. Look for ways you can combine forces with your neighboring businesses.

I recently attended an out of town monthly music and art event held in the evening. I was impressed by the turnout, and the vibrant crowd of young and old out listening to music and strolling the streets. I noticed most every shop was open, adding a benefit to coming downtown and shopping in the evening. How often have you noticed in our town, that when a special event is going on, businesses are closed? I wonder if owners are being penny wise and pound foolish. How much does it cost to open your doors for a few extra hours in the evening, and help build the momentum necessary to drive traffic past your doors? Hire a musician, pop a cork and put out some cheese and crackers, and instantly you have ambiance. If you want to get the word out and advertise your event at low cost, get your neighbors to pitch in and share the cost of an ad in any of our publications that seems a good fit with the audience you seek.

3. Plan an event inside your business.

Do you have a unique, expert service that you offer? Do you have knowledge on a subject that would compel people to want to come and learn from you? Do you sell something that is complex in nature, and lends itself to questions and answers ahead of time before the sale is made? Think of having a promotion, open house, seminar, or free class to add new clients to your books. Besides, during your slow times, you can focus more fully on planning your event.

Other suggestions include a pre-season sale, to reach those planning for your services before the need arises. Offer special pricing for a limited time to those who book services during your event, to create urgency. Think of planning a pool or new landscape project in the winter so it’s ready to go by summer. If you are a ski shop, show a Warren Miller film in September to build excitement in the ski crowd, and offer special pricing for that night only.

Finally, in order to promote your event, include it on your website, post it on your social sites, email or call your customers, and use whatever free publicity you have available. Then allow us at SOMG to help you get the word out to our readers, either online, in print, or both, and insure your success!

4. Continue to advertise.

Some believe that during slow times, you shouldn’t spend money on advertising. While it is true that you want to allocate more dollars during your busy times, you still cannot afford to lose momentum completely. Some local tourist related businesses refuse to advertise outside the tourist season. Consider this; if you are a tourist draw, when do you invite local people to come experience your place? When the pace is slower, and you can spend more quality time with the customers that come in, these are the golden opportunities. Reach that thin market; the small group looking for your goods or services today. Remember, advertising turns wants into needs, educates, and helps show benefits and features.

5. Let us help you find advertising money.

If you need help with co-op funds, rely on us. This is what we know, and we can help you at the very least get a percentage of your advertising paid for. Let us do the work, while you to focus on what you do best, running your business. While our advertising does have a cost, our services are completely free, and often we can be very helpful in providing creative ways to get your vendors to help out with your advertising costs. Vendors may be willing to help with an in store promotion, providing signage, samples, or providing an industry expert to speak at your event. Think of it as free money to promote the goods they would like you to be successful selling.

So, to conclude, ask yourself: are you a hand wringer or are you proactive? It takes courage and entrepreneurial spirit to weather the storms, and to ask for help if you need it. Partnering with Southern Oregon Media Group means you have the benefit of a well educated team to lean on, trained in the latest technologies out there and capable of helping you reach your customers in print, online, or through social media sites. We can even build and optimize those websites and social sites, and help you be found on the web. Let us help you retain your current customers and reach new people as well. We understand doing business in our world today. Give us a call and we’ll come and visit and see how we may assist you with your unique business. Let us help your business thrive, even during the tough times.

Marie Conte
Marketing Consultant
mconte@mailtribune.com

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