Looking at the gridlock in Washington, it’s easy to get discouraged about the future of your business. But entrepreneurs have a long history of tunneling under, over and around obstacles—and finding new opportunities on the other side. You can do the same, even if the obstacle is as daunting as the current economic uncertainty we all face. Here are some strategies to grow your business, despite today’s political climate.
1. Seek more business from highly profitable clients
“It takes the same amount of time to get a so-so client as it does to get a really good client,” says Bert Martinez, CEO of sales and marketing consultancy Bert Martinez Communications, based in Phoenix and Houston. Do careful market research, and focus on the small percentage of customers in your niche who can realistically help you double your sales profitably, he advises. “Contact them every two weeks,” he suggests. Alternate your means of communication from phone to mail to e-mail—and then repeat the cycle until you are able to set up an appointment to meet them or talk by phone, he advises.
Remember: An ambitious goal like doubling your sales isn’t achievable in a month. But if you start working on building your relationship with prize clients now, you’ll be in much better shape than you would be if you keep doing the same old, same old.
2. Try education-based marketing
One of the best ways to reach busy prospects is to offer them information that will help them to do their jobs better, says Martinez. That can be as simple as calling them to share some new data you’ve gathered at your business on an industry trend that may be useful to them—without trying to sell them anything. “The benefit here is that you come in as an expert,” he says. “You’re really gaining a high level of trust and rapport.” Sharing your expertise will keep you top of mind if the prospect needs your services in the future.
3. Use your website to capture more leads
Offer a great white paper or something else that’s valuable to potential customers for free or a low cost—and require people to enter their contact information to obtain it, says Kris Cavanaugh, who advises business owners on how to achieve their goals at Shift, an Atlanta firm. This will help you to build a robust contact list. Of course, you’ve eventually got to reach out to folks who share their information to sell them something. “It’s all about follow through,” she says.
4. Find out what matters to your prospects
“It doesn’t matter what the economy does—people will buy what they are connected to,” says Cavanaugh. When talking with current and potential customers, make sure you are able to make a clear connection between the product or service you’re selling and what they are going to get from it, she advises. “Do some extra questioning,” she suggests. “If you ask the right questions, you’re going to get to the deeper reasons someone wants something and close the deal earlier.”
5. Invest in your business
Even if your budget is tight, it’s important to make strategic investments that will keep your company moving forward, such bringing your website up to date, says Cavanaugh. “All day, we, as small business owners, ask our prospects to take a risk and hire us,” she says. “If you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re not standing on a strong enough foundation to get other people to do it for themselves.”
-- By Elaine Pofeldt, Independent journalist and editorial consultant