Anyone in business knows that there will be inevitable slowdowns: times when customers disappear, sales decline, and overall activity drops off. Whether it is a seasonal slowdown or an overall economic decline, your ability to survive depends on how you react when your business stagnates.
This is not a time to panic, but rather it is an excellent opportunity to take stock of your overall business. It is a time to evaluate what is working and what is not, a chance to formulate new goals and objectives, and an occasion to set new plans in motion.
There are three areas that business owners should concentrate on when business slows:
It is often the first thing that is cut when times are tough, but realistically marketing should receive even greater focus when things are slow. Increasing your visibility while your competition is decreasing theirs makes you poised to capture an even larger market share when things begin to recover. Besides, when customers are disappearing, the last thing you want to do is to stop communicating with them. It may not be possible to allocate large sums to marketing, but there are inexpensive and creative ways to stay in touch with your audience.
For example, you can get free publicity from local news sources by issuing press releases for noteworthy occurrences relating to your business. The hardest part of this is coming up with an angle, but once you do, the attention from local media is invaluable. Also, if you are an expert at something, and most business owners are, why not host a workshop or seminar. It is a great way to educate your audience about what you do, and it also allows you to get face time with potential new customers.
Marketing should always be high up on your to-do list. Not only does it keep your business visible, but it forces you to constantly think about the benefits and positives associated with your business; something that can help any business owner through tough times.
Although networking isn't everyone's cup of tea, and when you are stressed over a business slowdown, these events are the last place you want to be, it is important not to hibernate or isolate yourself. These events are often a good source for sales opportunities and you just never know what kind of collaborative relationships you can form with other like-minded people.
Expanding your contact list and connecting with potential leads is not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. But remember, this is not about collecting a pocketful of business cards and calling it a day, this is about quality over quantity. It is much better to take the time to get to know a few individuals on a deeper level than to have passing contact with the whole room. Also, to be successful at a networking event, you simply have to remember the basics of any relationship.
You need to listen more than talk, you need to be focused and present, and you need to truly be interested in what another person is saying. By doing these things, you become interesting as well, and when it's your turn to talk, make sure you have your elevator pitch prepared. This means that you have to be able to explain a little about yourself and what you do in a clear and concise manner. When the event is finished, don't just toss the business cards you collected in your drawer and forget about them. These are potential new contacts or customers and you need to follow up with a "great to meet you" note, or if there is true business potential there, an invitation to meet over coffee or lunch. Networking is not hard; it's just a matter of putting yourself out there because you just never know who you might meet.
Just like marketing and networking, social media is an excellent area to focus your attention when business is slow. It is an inexpensive way to connect with a much larger audience than would normally be available through traditional media. Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest allow you to up your customer service quotient by giving you the opportunity to listen to your audience, determine what they want, and offer them solutions.
Basically, it is all about engagement and content. Today's consumers want an interactive experience with the brands they support and by giving them unique and informative content; you can turn shoppers into customers. Likewise, writing a blog related to your business also ups your exposure. Again, it allows you to connect with your audience, and it ensures that searching consumers can find you on the internet because it spreads your brand across multiple sites, therefore increasing your search ranking.
Remember, social media really is no longer an option for business owners, but it can be time-consuming. Consequently, what better time to give it some attention than when business is slow and you could truly benefit from the marketing push.
As you can see, there are many things that you can do to productively spend your time while business is slow. Also, all of these activities will ensure that when consumers are once again ready to part with their hard earned dollars your business will be front and center in their minds.