Ask SCORE: Small Business, Media Advertising, Marketing and More

Small Business, Media Advertising, Marketing and More

Question-How can a small business owner/manager remain viable in an economic downturn when marketing budgets are being cut, and customers seem to be motivated solely by the lowest price for their purchases.
Answer-Businesses remain viable to their clients by providing constantly increasing value, not lower price. Value is measured not by cost but by the problems it solves for customers. What is required is to develop close relationship marketing with your clients by which you learn of the issues they face, and then you provide solutions for those issues.
Question-We can't afford media advertising and other high cost promotional efforts. What else can we do to promote our business in the recession?
Answer-There are many low cost and high impact strategies that can be utilized in the recession. Social Networking Marketing is one, using such sites as Linkedin and Facebook. Blog Marketing can create buzz for your products at little or no cost. Experiential Marketing is another tool, in which the company provides a venue for customer experience with products in a favorable setting. Low cost tools such as Constant Contact can provide the means for staying in close touch with customers. Website marketing should be used also, and can be made more effective with tools such as SEO (search engine optimization).
Question-What are some of the ways that an organization with a large client list, including current customers, prospects, and past customers can develop an ongoing contact relationship with each group aimed at maintaining current clients, converting prospects into paying customers, and re establishing lost business with former customers.
Answer-Each group must be treated differently. The most important group is the current customers, and the main effort with this group is regular contact to ascertain satisfaction or problems and fix what needs to be fixed while maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship. The next group to concentrate upon is the prospects. Converting a prospect to a customer is a time consuming job with a large payoff potential. Prospects must be shown the value of the product or service being offered by the firm and how it compares with competitive offerings. The firm must be in constant contact with this group during the process. The last group is the former customer. Here the process should focus on the improvements and other changes the firm has made to make its products more valuable to the user, and it should be communicated to the former customer on a regular basis.
Question-How can I use a Marketing/Sales Plan to help guide my efforts in recession marketing and sales?
Answer-A Marketing/Sales Plan is essential at all times, and in a recession it is more important than ever. A good plan will clearly show the firm's efforts, as measured in costs that will be incurred during the life of the plan, and must also show the results that are anticipated from the efforts. Every area of expense must have a target result, and result outcomes must be measured on a regular basis. The plan should have a variety of outcome measures, not just sales, but also inquires, quotes (whether won or lost), customer retention statistics and, of course, profitability both by customer and product. Another area, often overlooked, is the need to maintain accurate contact records. This may be provided through contact software packages such as ACT!, or Free Marketing Counseling is also provided by such organizations as SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)

Richard Walton, Counselor for SCORE, and President, Enterprise Resource Management Associates, Inc., of Hagerstown, Maryland. Cell phone: 301-462-9850, email: