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Market Your Way Out of a Stuck-at-the-Bottom Economy

by Roberta Guise, M.B.A.

Roberta Guise, MBA, works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A marketing consultant and speaker, she owns San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. For more information, please visit her website www.guisemarketing.com . Ms. Guise can be reached 415-979-0611or .

As I look around me these days, I find that some small businesses are thriving and others are struggling for prospects that are harder to find than a sunny summerís day in San Francisco.

This isnít fair, right? My close colleagues in real estate and the mortgage business are having the time of their lives. For a number of consultants and other professionals itís their best year yet. Then there are those who have watched in horror as their client and prospect pipelines have shriveled, the very survival of their business hanging like the Sword of Damocles over their head.

I get asked how we should market in a down economy. My answer: no differently than when the economy is booming, with two exceptions. Keep your eyes open for prospective markets or individual clients that in the past you might have shunned or ignored, and who are willing to spend money. The first two ideas given below explain this.

1. Revisit your strategy. Take on clients you might normally turn down. Think carefully before rejecting a prospect or project ó think of what it could lead to when the economy looks brighter (which could be soon).

2. Go after winners. Target industries that are fairing well and are willing to spend money. Donít chase sectors that a couple of years ago were big spenders but now are in trouble. If youíre not sure, subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and read it daily and carefully.

The next five ideas can help you to further expand your client_base.

3. Ask for referrals. Your current happy clients and customers are your cheerleaders, or evangelists. But they donít automatically assume youíre interested in finding new assignments or new clients. Remember also to ask current clients for new assignments. Nicely, of course.

4. Network. Go to trade and professional association meetings where youíre likely to meet and rub shoulders with prospects. Look for the influential people and buyers. Join and get involved in organization leadership for maximum exposure and goodwill. Bonus point: Be on a mission and go to meetings regardless of the program.


5. Follow industry trends. Focus on changes in your current clientsí industry. What are their new concerns and needs you can adapt to and address? Donít guess or make assumptions! Ask your clients to tell you whatís shaking them to the core, and what they would most value right now. If you serve consumers, stay on the bleeding edge of trends that your type of customer identifies with.

6. Make #5 part of your selling and marketing strategy. Show prospects and clients you understand what theyíre going through and the challenges theyíre grappling with, by what you say to them in conversation and how you word your marketing materials. Clients buy value, so sell them value.

7. Promote your expertise. Position yourself as an expert to be more visible. Contact targeted publications for their editorial calendar. When you find a topic for which you can be an expert source, let the editor know how you can contribute.

The next four ideas deal with giving away big chunks of your brain reserves and knowledge. Give generously. Itís the most honest form of marketing you can engage in.

8. Be a speaker. Speak to target audiences on topics in your field of expertise. Think both in terms of pro-bono presentations and speaking for fees. Speaking skills not up to snuff? Join Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org) and National Speakers Association (www.nsaspeaker.org). The resources in both these organizations are endless.

9. Write articles. Publish them on your Web site and give them away. Identify publications in target industries and inquire whether they accept "by-lined" articles (ones you write). Get the guidelines for writers. Ask what topics theyíre looking to fill. Customize your articles to target markets and get them published in on-line publications, with links back to your Web site.

10. Be a Web resource. Tweak your Web site to provide maximum value. That is, offer articles, tips and resources that visitors can use. If your Web site is merely an electronic brochure, youíre missing the vast interactive capabilities of the Internet and the opportunity to build trust with visitors.

11. Keep in touch. Create an e-mail newsletter ("e-zine") thatís loaded with valuable content. Get permission (opt in) from recipients prior to sending on a regular basis, although itís OK to send a sample first issue, with the place to opt out or off your list clearly labeled. Make sure the newsletter points people back to your Web site where thereís more valuable content.

This last idea will help you to stay on_message and keep you headed in the right direction.

12. Be intentional. Whatever you do, do it consistently, intentionally and purposefully. Some tactics, such as asking for referrals, can bring in new projects fast. Other activities such as a sending an e-zine and getting media publicity are long term, and are recognition and credibility builders that keep your name in front of prospects for when theyíre ready to buy. You need to carry out both short and long-term activities for best results.

Above all, be patient. Youíre in this for the long haul, right? Marketing is a long-term investment, so make it an integral part of your business, whether the economy is down, up, or sideways.


Visit www.guisemarketing.com/articles for more articles and tips to help you with your marketing challenges and increase your visibility.

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