By Michael Dotson
Worksmart Media Group
We are facing challenges in our economy the likes of which most of us have never before experienced. The news seems to bounce from bad to worse and from frustrating to despairing, leaving relatively rare moments of optimism and huge holes of uncertainty. This assault has rendered many businesses paralyzed by fear - for the present and the future.
Such paralysis has slowed the progress of even the most dynamic companies to a crawl. Economists are scratching their heads, and marketing departments in many companies appear to be more concerned with job preservation than re-establishment of momentum. As professionals, how do we fend off this stagnation and find opportunities to grow our businesses?
Following are 10 tips to help you navigate successfully despite today's frigid business conditions.
Wikipedia defines trench warfare as "a form of warfare where both combatants have fortified positions, and fighting lines are static." The key word here is static. By recognizing and accepting that businesses have hunkered down, and the stagnancy in our economy is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, you can begin to develop a path that will enable your business to move forward.
In World War I, forward tactical advancement was often measured in feet or sometime inches - so it is in the economic "trenches" of today. Given our current situation, it may seem that everything is happening in slow motion. Your business plan must take into consideration a reduced pace of progress. Sustainable success can best be achieved through a series of small victories.
A good salesperson knows fear can be a strong motivator. He or she also understands that fear needs to be brought under control, or it will lead to distress and high anxiety. This does not mean caution should be abandoned, but it does mean your success will be determined not only by how you deal with your fears, but also how you address the fears of your customers, clients and competitors. Also, your sense of fear will begin to diminish as you focus your attention on your immediate plan of action.
A common adage goes something like this: Performing the same action repeatedly and expecting a different outcome is a definition of insanity. It is also true that what may have worked well last year, last week or even yesterday may not work in today's economic climate. Take deliberate steps to change your approach. Breaking from the routine will cause you to look at your business with a fresher perspective.
Treating your business as a puzzle to be solved much like you would approach a crossword puzzle can add a new dimension to your efforts. Writing down specific problems to be solved and then writing down your solutions can often lead to unexpected and creative results.
Whether they are about your or your customers' businesses, stories need to be told. One effective way to get stories out is through the creative use of public relations. PR does not have to be expensive. PR companies are feeling the slowdown like everyone else and are looking for new clients like never before.
Using their professional services on a per-event basis could give your business greater exposure with minimal expense. And remember that a well-crafted, timely press release can reward you with huge dividends.
Nearly every business has a database of e-mail addresses - including yours. These may consist of customers, clients, friends or others whom you connect with regularly. E-mail marketing is a proven, cost-effective way to get your business message in front of your target audience. There are many ways to do this, including e-mail blasts or even the newest form of e-mail marketing: e-mail video (video brochures).
To reach a larger audience, many companies employ opt-in e-mail lists to reach specific types of businesses or customers. Avoid bulk e-mail lists, which are often associated with spam (very different than opt-in, prequalified lists). The creative use of e-mail could become the most cost-effective method for you to promote your business.
Even with rising postal costs, direct mail can be a very efficient way to get your message out to a wide audience. A number of companies offer quality mailing lists at relatively low cost. Keep in mind that when you decide to do a bulk mail, your response will nearly always be a very small percentage of the number of pieces mailed out. Sometimes it can be a fraction of a percent, but that is often enough to justify the expense.
Staying on top of your competition is especially important today. Rest assured that your competitors are experiencing the same economic anxiety as you and may be dealing with it in ways that you should be aware of. There is much you can learn by simply observing how your competitors are adapting their practices to the current business climate.
The Internet is the greatest research tool ever developed. A certain part of every business day needs to be devoted to conducting research online. By using the resources of the Internet daily, you will be able to stay informed of the many subtleties pertaining to your business.
You will also learn about new products, technology and gain other pertinent information that can help give you a competitive edge. The Internet can also provide extensive historical information regarding all aspects of your business niche and those of your prospective customers (and your competitors).
There is no single magic way out of our current economic mess. However, doing nothing will produce nothing, and doing little will produce little. Practice your business like a magician practices his craft, and people will soon be asking, How did you do that?
Michael Dotson is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of WorkSmart Media Group. With an extensive executive background in consumer electronics sales and marketing, commercial video production, and electronics retailing, Michael believed there were smarter ways for businesses to grow by utilizing outsourced marketing services and taking advantage of Internet advancements. He formed Worksmart Media Group (www.worksmartmediagroup.com) to provide such marketing assistance to small to mid-sized companies. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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