If you are tired of hearing about the recession or the potential of a double dip recession due to foreign markets crashing now, Listen up. It does not matter. Recession or not you need to run your business well. You need to be an agent of convenience for your best target customer, manage cash flow with military precision and pay attention to the trends in your industry. This is a perfect time for an aggressive small business. No matter what your business does, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. In order to beat the recession, you must get smart about your marketing and business operations.
Here are 10 tips on strategic marketing and cash management to recession proof your small business.
Keep marketing. Do not be tempted to cut or eliminate marketing activities. This is no time to cut back on marketing. If you can’t afford a full-blown marketing campaign, pursue low-cost options such as social media marketing, webinars, news releases, e-mail blasts, blogging, and online newsletters. Be sure to keep your marketing activities going at least six months so that you can track your rate of return.
Develop 30-day sales goals. Do not focus on sales activities beyond 30 days. You should break down how many sales you need to close each month to meet your revenue goals. Determine how many meetings, calls, emails and blog posts you need to have, make, send or write to generate your target sales. You must keep the sales engine rolling in your business. You should be doing at least 60 minutes of sales cultivation activities per day.
Cut expenses and track cash carefully. It is extremely important for you to understand your monthly burn rate and your cash position. Determine where you can cut costs, and make sure on a weekly basis that you understand what money is coming in. As you cut costs use this formula, for every $2 dollars you cut in business expenses, invest $1 into your marketing efforts.
Start collections at 30 days past due. The days of waiting 45-90 days for payments are over. You need your money now. Once a client gets to 30 days past due, get on the phone and track down the accounts payable manager for an update. Be sure you are set up to take credit cards, you may get paid a lot faster.
Improve communications with your customers. Have quarterly face-to-face meetings or lunches with your top customers. Understand their biggest business challenges and look for ways you can help even if that doesn’t involve more direct business for you. Consider keeping your fees the same for long-term customers if they are really having financial difficulty.
Add value, not price. Continuously adding value to your and services is the way to get repeat customers and new business through referrals. Adding price without value is a lose/lose proposition. You may get the reorder, but your client will start looking for a replacement vendor.
Under Promise and Over Deliver. Excellent customer service is the number one way to beat the recession. If you do a great job and your customers love working with you, your customers will become an unpaid sales force for your business. If do great work, are highly responsive if there’s a concern, make follow-up calls, send thank you cards, throw in little extras all that shows you care. It’s also the best way to encourage your customers to refer you more business. Be known for delivering great products and services. Do not treat your customers like you are doing then a favor.
Network, network, network online and offline. People do business with people they like, know and trust. You need to make sure people know who you are, what you do and how to do business with you. You want to be top of mind when an opportunity presents itself. One of the best ways to so this is using social media. You can network online without being considered spam. Use Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages to give out helpful advice. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile regularly with updates on your business and/or any signature content such as blog posts. When you meet a new contact, online or in person think solutions for them first. Successful networking is all about give to get.
Consider adding staff. One good thing about a recession is there are lots good people are on the market looking for a job. You could pick up some quality talent right now that you could not otherwise afford. Consider hiring a salesperson and pay them commission only. Make them kill what they eat. Also be sure you think about exact what target market they will focus on and how success will be measured. If you have never hired an employee here’s a recent blog post that will give you some tips on the interview process.
Call the bank before things great critical. Good relationships are made in hard times. Regardless of your business situation, you need to communicate with your bank sooner rather than later. The bank does not benefit if you go out of business, so stop the denial and negotiate better terms with your bank.
Last week, I spoke with FedEx Office® during a live Tweet Chat #FedExSmallBiz about ways to recession proof a small business. Check out the transcript from part one of their Boost Your Small Business Tweet Chat series.
Do you have any more ideas on how to recession proof a small business? Your idea could be worth $50 bucks.
@SmallBizlady will offer two $50 gift cards for two more great ideas to recession proof your small business. To be considered, post your comment on this blog post until 10pm ET Wed Oct. 12, 2011. Winners will be announced on Twitter on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. FedEx Office has no involvement in the selection of winners. This is sponsored by @SmallBizlady.
Disclosure: FedEx Office compensated me to write this post and participate as a small business expert during the FedEx Office Boost Your Small Business Tweet Chat program. FedEx Office also provided the $50 gift cards. The ideas in this blog post are mine and not ideas or advice from FedEx Office.
About FedEx Office
FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko’s) has the world’s largest retail printing network, providing access to printing and shipping expertise with reliable service. The company’s network of more than 1,900 locations includes 1,800 in the U.S. and features FedEx Office Print & Ship Centers, FedEx Office Ship Centers, FedEx Office Signs & Graphics Centers, and centralized production centers. Services include copying and digital printing, professional finishing, document creation, direct mail, signs and graphics, computer rental, free Wi-Fi access, FedEx Express and FedEx Ground shipping, and more. In addition, the company offers the award-winning FedEx Office® Print Online solution, an online printing application for business and personal printing, at home, at the office or on the go. Products, services and hours vary by location. For more information, please visit www.fedex.com/office.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)