Marketing your business in an economic downturn
By KAREN SPENCER
Published in the Westchester County Business Journal: November 8, 2008

All the economic signs point to a recession. My business has lived through a few of these cycles and I have come to see them as opportunities. There are ways to grow your business during a recession and come out stronger on the other side.

Reach out
Consider implementing a lead-generation program to find buyers who are in a buying cycle now. Companies that specialize in cold calling to a well-developed list are able to deliver "warm" leads for a relatively low cost.

Does your message strike a chord with customers? Consider promoting long-term value as opposed to "luxury" to make clients feel more secure in spending. Listen to what is going on in the news. Understand what your customers are struggling with and offer them a solution.

Look at current customers, expand relationships and build customer loyalty. Clients remember a business that is willing to work with them on pricing and flexible financial arrangements. When the economy improves, they will be loyal.

Branding
A strong brand helps clients trust a company and will influence them to buy later on. One of the greatest challenges for small companies is to make a name for themselves. A downturn actually provides an opportunity to do that because many of your competitors will curtail their marketing efforts.

Online marketing is less expensive than print and radio and can be easily quantified. Talk to a Web marketing professional to help you develop and place banner ads and e-mail campaigns.

A search engine optimization expert can provide you with analytics in the form of monthly reports to quantify which key words clients are using to find your firm, how many searches are converted to click-throughs and what online advertising people are responding to.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, direct mail is still a larger industry than all online marketing. And it works. Use it to drive the recipient to your Web site.

Link up
By hosting seminars about subjects that are of interest to your client base, you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. These can be small invitation-only gatherings at your office or an interesting venue. You can reach a larger segment of your industry by sponsoring or speaking at an industry event. If you are perceived as the expert in your field, you will attract the respect and budget allocations of potential clients.

LinkedIn has become a mainstream venue for networking. The average user is a 41 year-old professional. Never before has it been possible to reach your potential target so easily. Is there someone you want to connect with? Chances are you have a mutual connection on LinkedIn and can ask for an introduction.

Online directories like Jigsaw allow you to bypass gatekeepers and get directly to decision makers. More than 500 corporations are listed with Jigsaw and there are more than 450,000 members. You can "pay" or "play." Paying members pay a monthly subscription fee to get online business cards of contacts they wish to make, which include titles, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. "Players" contribute a certain number of names and trade those names for names they want.

Karen Spencer is president and creative director of Karen Spencer Design Inc. of Armonk. Reach her at 914 273-9517 or karen@karenspencerdesign.com.

Karen Spencer Design Inc. is a full service, strategic, creative services firm, delivering award winning advertising, graphic design and web design. We are located in Armonk, NY and are currently celebrating our twenty-fifth year.