Marketing in Bad Times… and Good

Okay, so we’re in a recession. Now what? Is it time to throw your marketing plan out the window? Cut your prices? Close up shop and look for a job?

Hmm, none of those choices sound too wise if we’re in for a stretch of poor economic conditions. It’s certainly not time to throw away the marketing plan. Cutting prices doesn’t sound like such a good idea if you might be getting less work to begin with. Looking for a job in the current economy doesn’t seem like the best solution, either. So what’s an independent professional to do?

Maybe now is just the right time to get really, really smart about your marketing. Here’s what that might look like:

1. Target, target, target. It’s tempting when business starts looking scarce to throw your net wider and market to all kinds of prospects. But this is exactly the wrong approach. Marketing to multiple audiences diffuses your efforts and stretches your resources too thinly. Instead, focus in on the most likely market to need your services, take action on your offer, and provide you with repeat business.

2. Communicate your unique value. When you’re clear on who your audience is, it’s much easier to craft a message aimed directly at them. Then you can talk specifics when you describe the benefits of working with you. You can also tell prospects how you specialize in their industry, have plenty of experience with projects just like theirs, and possess special tools and techniques to get the job done. Specialization makes you much more valuable than a generic solution.

3. Seek out the low-hanging fruit. Pursuing brand new leads can be labor-intensive, and newborn relationships take time to nurture. Instead, reach out to former clients, networking contacts, prospects who said no in the past, even stale leads if they will recognize your name. A prospect who already knows who you are is many times more likely to take your calls, consider your offer, and agree to meet with you.

4. Ask, don’t wait, for referrals. Even business newbies have an existing network of friends, family, and colleagues who are ready and willing to help you get business. The key is to ask for their help. Instead of simply saying, “I’d appreciate your referrals,” tell them, “I’m looking for new clients in the X industry, or with Y problem. Who do you know in that category that you might be willing to introduce to me?”

5. Don’t stop when you hear no. On those rare occasions when a prospect truly says, “no, thanks,” it may be time to move on. But much more often, they say, “not now,” “not ready,” or “not sure.” These are all opportunities to follow up after more time has elapsed, or with more information, or with more evidence of your value. It’s much more common for prospects to say no than to say yes, so what to do with “no” answers should be part of your game plan.

Long-time marketers may recognize these suggestions for smart marketing as approaches that would be valuable in any economic climate. When times are bad, smart marketing can save the day. When times are good, smart marketing can make them even better.

If this is your first recession in business, consider this your baptism of fire. If you can learn how to get clients in this economy, you can get them any time.

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