Show Customers You Care

Competition is tough in small business. Customers come and go and the need to pour money, effort and time into marketing is always there. Always. But in your quest for new customers, don’t overlook one of the most important keys to small business success: turning new customers into repeat customers and fans. Anything you can do to build loyalty and repeat business is usually welcomed. That said, I present here 8 potential ways to show customers your appreciation, hopefully without too much effort.

Offer a “tips on us” discount. This is only relevant if your business or service is one that regularly brings in tips for your employees like a restaurant, barber shop or salon, or coffee shop, etc. What you’re really doing is giving the customer a 15% discount as that is a reasonable tip in the service industry and you can state it as such, but you tell them to just leave off the tip and you’ll cover it. 

2 question survey. Do a short feedback survey at the time of payment. You can do this verbally or somehow electronically, but take advantage of the feedback and post results on the door or as near the checkout area so your customers can see them – and of course post them on social media. Don’t forget to change around the questions and topics every one to two weeks.

Give away a small free item at service time or at payment time – whichever is relevant to the business. Make it an unadvertised addition and tailor it to the patron if you can. If you are a cleaners and someone is coming in with only shirts, then offer them a free shirt cleaning because a discount on suit dry cleaning won’t do them any good on this current trip.

Implement a punch card type reward. Everyone likes to get the fifth car wash or soda or entree free. I don’t do many coupons that aren’t pizza related, but those punch cards are golden.

Run a weather related discount. If the temp exceeds 75 today everyone gets 20% off. Or your discount this month is whatever 100 minus yesterday’s high temp was. A jewelry store ran a similar sale when I was buying my future wife’s engagement ring many years ago. It worked on me!

“You have to think outside the box to get ahead or stay ahead or maybe just to stay in the game.” Tweet this

Offer free delivery to orders over $100 or a relevant amount if it works for your type of service or industry. Free shipping rocks. What about free local delivery? If what you provide in your small business or service, can it be delivered? Not pizza – that’s an obvious one. But if you’re a small office supply provider and you don’t currently offer delivery, try it for orders over a certain amount. See how it boosts your business.

RELATED: Repeat Business Tips and Advice

Walk patrons out to their car at night after dark. My wife was at an Olive Garden with some girlfriends last night and didn’t make it home till 11:30 pm even though she was tired and wanted to leave earlier. But she wisely didn’t want to traverse the parking lot alone so she waited till a group of her friends were leaving, too. Had a security guard been available and offered she would have gotten the sleep she was looking forward to.

Give away pizza with certain size orders. Seriously. Everyone loves pizza. Well, nearly everyone. But there are 13 of us in my family – my wife and I and our 11 kids – and we all love pizza. Do a tie in with a local pizza place and give away one of their pizzas with all orders over a certain amount. I once was asked to sign up for a tech webinar with the promise of a Domino’s Pizza being provided for sitting in. I was skeptical, but as I sat down for the beginning of the webinar in the comfort of my home office in front of my MacBook, a Domino’s delivery guy was knocking on my door. It was just Domino’s, but for some reason it was one of the best pizzas I had experienced in a while. Try it

Lose a Customer

Landing a new customer is hard—and it’s expensive. Sprint pays $315 to acquire a customer and many of the big financial firms pay close to $200. Hopefully your costs won’t be that high but once you get the customer, the last thing you want to do is lose them. That’s why you have to watch for the signs of an impending breakup and take steps to mend the relationship early.

ComplainingSometimes you hear that a complaining customer is actually a good thing because they’re engaged in your company. While that might be true in academic circles, business owners know that people have better things to do than call you when things aren’t working. They get annoyed if they have to spend part of their day trying to get something working.If you find that one of your customers is calling more frequently and the problems seem to be relatively small, that could be a sign that they’re unhappy with your business. As with any complaint, fix it fast and give them over-the-top service. Don’t make them wait, and for your larger customers, be personally involved in the resolution process.RELATED: Turn Customer Complaints into AssetsNo ResponseA complaining customer is bad but a customer that says nothing is even worse. Maybe you sent an e-mail, texted, or called but got no response. That’s a really bad sign and one that should be rectified right away. If calls and e-mails aren’t working, making a trip to the business or job site is the next step. A customer who is ignoring you is likely in negotiations with somebody else.Of course, you shouldn’t let things get to the point of no response. For larger accounts, communicate with them often and for the smaller customers, find reasons to create touchpoints as well.The Comparison GameHow often do you hear something like, “The other provider does this but you don’t.” Clearly, your customer is looking at other companies to service them. If that’s the case, it’s time to go back to the sales process and listen to what they want, renegotiate your deal, and make them happy again.Be warned—this is not a time for defensiveness. Put yourself in the place of your customer. Somebody is probably charging them with finding the best service for the lowest price. Be a partner in that process.
Unsubscribes from E-mail ListsMarketing e-mails quickly get annoying when a person’s inbox ends up overrun with them but it’s definitely worth looking into if a client unsubscribes from your e-mail communication. First, make sure you’re using a program that allows the person to give a reason why they’re unsubscribing. If they don’t provide a reason, make a call and find out if everything is ok.RELATED: What You Can Learn from Your Email Opt-OutsQuotes the ContractAs soon as your customer starts sounding more like an attorney and less like a customer, there’s a problem. If they’re looking at the contract and quoting line items, they’re clearly unhappy. Instead of getting into a discussion about what the contract does or doesn’t say, ask them more personal questions. Are they unhappy? What is the lack in service that is causing them to look at what they’re entitled to?Once you find the truth, assure them, and remind your employees that you’re a business that surpasses the terms of the contract. They will always get more than the contract states and if there’s a problem, they should bring it up right away rather than figuring out what they’re entitled to.Organizational ChangesIf your customer’s company is bought by another company or your main contact leaves, there’s no reason to believe that you will lose the account but you should be proactive about introducing yourself and taking the new decision makers through your sales process that stresses your value over your price.If you wait for them to contact you, it might be too late. Situations like this should also remind you of the importance of keeping strong relationships with your customers. If you don’t know of a change at a company you do business with, by the time you find out, it could be too late.You’ve Quit Investing in ThemThey say that you should keeping “dating” your spouse even when you’re married. That’s certainly true in business too. You worked hard to get them—and it was expensive, but it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire than to retain. That means that the money you spend to keep a customer is far less, so make the investment. Take them out to lunch, invite them to an event, send them marketing materials, and continually follow up

Create a Press Kit

As a small business owner, hiring an advertising agency to create a press kit that promotes your blossoming company may be outside your budget. But that doesn’t mean you should do without a press kit. With a little bit of effort you can create a media kit that can be used both as a marketing tool to give key customers and also as an information tool that makes it easier for bloggers and journalist to find key facts about your company and products when they’re writing about you.

What should be included in your press kit?

Although there are several standard pieces of information that go into press kits, there are no hard rules about what to include. In fact, you may want to put together different versions of your press kit for different purposes or audiences.

If you’re a software developer who has developed a new app to help landscapers manage their business better, you might have one press kit to use to promote the app. If you want to make a name for your company by having your CEO speak at app developer conferences, you might use a press kit with some different materials to focus on attention on her prowess as a speaker as well as a software developer. If you’re seeking funding, you may want a slightly different version of the press kit for potential investors.

The key is to include whatever marketing and background information that will be of interest to the audience to which you plan to distribute the press kit. Additionally, while the goal is to provide a comprehensive overview of your company, you do not want to drown the recipient with information overload.

Here is a run-down of the most common elements in press kits.

Company Fact Sheet

The fact sheet is your starting point. Its purpose is to provide the press and others with a single place to quickly find important facts about your business, nature of products and services, leadership and contact information.

There are several different formats you can use for a company fact sheet (to get some examples search Google or Bing for “Corporate Fact Sheet” and look at some of the fact sheets from real companies.) Whatever format you choose, try to keep the fact sheet down to a page or two written on your company stationery. A contact person’s name, email address and phone number should be prominent on the top of the sheet, too.

Start the fact sheet off with a very brief description (just a couple of lines) of your company and its focus.

Other information to consider including are facts such as when the business was founded, key markets, key products, locations (if you have more than one), the names of top officers or managing partners, industry memberships and awards, funding sources, revenue and growth statistics, and community service projects. Remember, this should be brief, and you only need to include the information that your intended audience for the press kit will find relevant.

Founder and Executive Biographies

Each bio you include in the media kit should contain background information about the individual as it relates to the business. The individual’s name, photo, professional background and experience and past successes should all be included. You should also include any appropriate stories about why the individual founded the business or became involved in the industry.

Industry Information

Show journalists and potential customers that you value their time by doing some of the research legwork for them. This increases your credibility and can target you as a go-to resource for future projects. Include relevant industry information and statistics, including any white papers that you have developed. Within this document, express how your company contributes to strengthening the industry and include information about your target audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

This all-purpose document is a major time saver for you and anyone interested in learning more about your company. Provide thoughtful, complete answers to the questions you receive most often, particularly focusing on who, what, when, where, how and why. These responses should be longer than a sentence but not ramble on. Be as detailed but succinct as possible.

Press Release

Press kits are frequently distributed to provide background information when a company issues a press release. When that’s how you are using a press kit, the press release should be placed in front of all other materials. You can also include copies of previous press releases to provide a historical perspective on your company’s accomplishments. Additionally, compile a sheet listing any press coverage (with links, if available) you have previously received.

Depending on your business, a brief outline of upcoming events and promotions is key information for the media to have.

High-quality Photos

Photos with released copyrights are one of the most difficult things for journalists to get their hands on. Providing high-resolution photos for general media use greatly increases the chances of your company being featured in an article. The basic press photos should include headshots of key executives, images of products and clips of logos. Action shots, if available, are highly desired. If applicable, you can also create screenshots of your app or online service, high-definition video clips or short audio snippets about the company. You can add these pieces to your website under the Media section or distribute them to the media on a CD.

Customer Testimonials

Journalists are always looking for personal stories and quotes to support their articles. A press package that includes first-person testimonials from customers about how your company’s products or services affected their lives will capture a writer’s attention. These pieces are also powerful incentives for potential investors and future clients.

Collateral Advertising Materials

Add any brochures, flyers, public service announcements, newspaper ads or postcards that you have developed to promote your company. If you have many such documents, choose the most important ones to include. The purpose of your press kit is to inform, not overwhelm recipients.

Where and How to Distribute Your Press Kit

You will probably want to make your press kit available in both digital and print formats. Uploading basic press materials on your website enables the media to quickly find accurate information about your company, increasing your chances of being featured in an article. It also gives investors and customers the information they need to choose your company over others. You may also want to put your press materials on a thumb drive to distribute as needed at trade shows or other events. Finally, you may want to have some printed copies of your press kit available, too.

Don’t mass distribute your press kits. Doing so will be a waste of time and money and will be an annoyance to people who get them and don’t want them.

If publications or individual journalists ask you for a press kit, ask whether they’d prefer to have one physically mailed to them, have a link to download it from your website, or have it sent as an email attachment. For email, have the individual documents compiled into a single PDF. Never send any kind of material as an attachment unless it’s been specifically requested.

If you will be distributing printed copies of a press kit, consider ordering quality pocket folders imprinted with your company name on the cover. In addition to the inside pockets, they should have a slot to hold your business card.

It can be somewhat time consuming to assemble all the materials you need for a press kit, so don’t wait until the last minute to try to put it together. You’ll need time not only to create the documents, but also time to proofread them, convert them to PDF format, upload the documents to your website, have them copied onto thumb drives, or to have them printed.

But don’t let the time to create a press kit stop you from pulling together the materials. The materials you use in the press kit come in handy for years to come. Keep the original documents on your hard disk (and be sure to have a backup copy!) and update them as needed. That way you’ll always be able to say “Yes” when a reporter or a potential customer or anyone else asks if you have a bio, background information, or other key facts you can send along about your company

Get Sales Appointments

There’s a harsh reality that quickly sets in for every business owner: Making sales is hard. It takes the perfect combination of a great product or service, a solid game plan, a lot of hustle, and a little bit of luck. Step #1—get your foot in the door and get that first meeting set up.

Start with Your Database

You’ve probably heard that it’s easier and less costly to retain a past customer than gain a new one. If you’ve been in a business a while, you probably have plenty of people who haven’t purchased from you in a while. Reach out to those people before looking for new prospects. If you’re just getting started, and not new to the industry, you probably have clients you’ve worked with in another capacity. Go after those prospects if allowable and ethical.

Build a Prospect List

First, find your prospects. One way is to scour the Internet looking for companies/customers that fit your business. But don’t do this yourself. Hire a virtual assistant to do the work. For far less than $100 in most cases, a VA will build a prospect list using the criteria you lay out. Sites like Upwork are a great place to start.

No, Cold Calling Isn’t Dead!

Don’t listen to the “experts” that say cold calling is dead. Ask anybody who does it regularly and you’ll find that it’s alive and well. Sure, it will likely work better for some businesses than others but let’s make one thing clear: You cannot use technology to forsake human contact. Just because we live in the digital age doesn’t mean that your sales process won’t involve human contact. Cold call 100 prospects and e-mail 100 and see which gets the better results. Likely, it will be the cold calls.

But Before You Call…

Do your qualifying before you call or e-mail. Asking the prospect qualifying questions like, “when is your contract up?” is a great way to end any chance of getting their business. Do some research and call with some knowledge of their company. Be able to speak intelligently about their business and from that research have a list of questions you might ask about any potential needs. For example, if you sell cloud-based software you might ask about how their sales staff communicates with the home office.

Genuinely Care

There are plenty of sales people that can act like they care but a better approach is to actually care. You have a product or service that you genuinely believe in and you care enough about the potential customer to tell them about it. Caring means that the sale is the last step in the process. Building the relationship comes first. People know if you care more about them or the sale when you talk to them. Make sure you’re operating from the right state of mind.

Play the Numbers Game

You’re going to be turned down more than you hear the word, “yes” so after you’ve done your research, contacted the company, and potentially heard, “no,” move on. Carve out time every for prospecting and make that your sole focus. Don’t allow any distractions to pull you away from what you’re doing. Don’t forget that no business succeeds without a strong sales funnel.

Name Drop

Want to significantly up your chances for a first meeting? Do some name dropping. Do you know somebody they know? Is there another influencer in the industry using your product or service? Even if it’s one of their competitors, drop a name or two.

Load Them with Facts

You’re going to have a rough time getting time with a prospect if you throw the call to action in front of them right away. Instead, show them that you understand their problem just as well or better than they do. Load them with industry knowledge, case studies, and before and after statistics. Once you gain some credibility, it’s time to ask for the meeting—not the sale.

Change your Communication Strategy

If your method of first contact is e-mail, understand that a lot of e-mail ends up in spam filters or discarded before making it to the intended recipient. Just because they didn’t respond doesn’t mean they’re not interested. If e-mail doesn’t work after multiple attempts, make a phone call or go super old school and send a letter. In other words, don’t give up.

Try “Off Hours”

Many decision makers have assistants that act as gatekeepers. Calling or e-mailing during work hours often means that you’ll get an assistant who may not have the level of knowledge that the decision maker has.

High level leaders don’t have 9 to 5 work hours but many assistants do. Making contact in the evening might mean that the decision sees the e-mail or gets the call before the assistant—eliminating the gatekeeper

Know If Your Advertising Working

Advertising a small business is too expensive to do haphazardly. If you’re going to invest money into either print, radio, TV, or online advertising you need see a return on your investment. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t know how to evaluate the success or failure of their ads. Ask them how well their advertising is working, and the best some owners can say is that they “think” their advertisements are working well, they don’t know which ads are working well, or they don’t know if any are working.

Don’t fall into this trap. To make the money you spend on ads pay off, you need to measure and evaluate your ad spend based on data.

The Problem

Although there’s a lot of science involved in advertising, there’s also a lot of art. Many factors are hard to measure. For example, if somebody sees your ad, comes to your store and doesn’t buy anything, that builds brand awareness. They may come back later when they need what you sell. In that case, your advertising worked—just not immediately. There are plenty of situations where advertising is hard to measure but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. The fact is, most advertising is measurable if you design your campaign correctly.

Before You Advertise…

To measure the effectiveness of your ad you need baseline data. What was your store or website traffic before you ran the ad? How were your sales? Did sales increase for the products or services you advertised? You will only know if you have past data.

If you aren’t the type of person who likes to collect and analyze data, find somebody to help. It will be money well spent.

Use a Coupon

Everybody wants to pay less. If you’re advertising a product or service, include a coupon. If you’re running multiple campaigns, make sure to put a code somewhere on the coupon so you know which campaign the customer responded to. This works for both online and print advertising. For radio and TV, you could give them a coupon code to mention at the store or to type in online. You could also offer an incentive. “Mention this ad and we’ll give you an extra 15% off.”

Use E-mail Software

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to advertise your products and services to existing customers and to prospects. By getting customers, prospects and casual shoppers to sign up for your mailing list, and then sending mailings on a regular basis, you give yourself repeated opportunities to get their business or their repeat purchases at minimal cost to you. One tactic to build your list: ask people to sign up for your mailing list to get a discount coupon or free information.

Don’t use your gmail or a personal account for email marketing. Individual email accounts don’t give you any way of measuring the results. Instead, use software like Constant Contact, Mailchimp, Aweber or one of the many others that provide metrics like open and click rates. This is the most effective way to track the success of your e-mail campaigns. As you get more familiar with these programs you’ll find plenty of other powerful features that you can use to better target your customers and improve the metrics.

Related Advertisement: Constant Contact Special Offer

Split Test

Advertising is an art because what should work sometimes fails. Every advertising pro knows that they must make multiple versions of an ad and test them against each other. For example, if you have 30,000 people on an e-mail or mailing list, you might send 10% of the list ad #1 and 10% ad #2. Once you see which ad performed better, the other 80% will receive the winner of the split test.

You can split test with more than 2 ads, of course, but make sure you’re only testing one condition at a time until you gain experience with testing ads. If you change the art and copy, for example, you don’t know which of the changes resulted in a better or worse performance.

Once you do understand split testing and do enough volume to warrant it, you may benefit by using multivariate testing (ie, testing several variables in a single ad) to see which combination of elements best achieves the result you want to attain. Google Analytics Content Experiments is free to use, but takes some time to learn how to set up properly. There’s also commercial software such as Optimizely available to do multivariate testing.

Use Social Media Metrics

Social media advertising has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Now you can see performance data in stunning detail, and you can target specific demographics. You can make changes to your ad early in the campaign if you see that it isn’t working, and you can split test different ideas and compare data for each.

But first, you must understand how to read the data. Before starting a social media marketing campaign, understand the platform and understand how to interpret the data. Don’t spend any money until you master those two items. Same is true with search engine advertising.

Set Your Website Up Correctly

Create custom landing pages for your ads. For instance, if you own a florist and sell flowers and plants, instead of making all of your ads go to your home page, have separate ads pointing to individual pages for holidays such as Easter or Mother’s Day. Have other ads featuring sympathy arrangements, or get-well plants and floral arrangements, each pointing to an appropriate page. You accomplish two goals this way: One, accommodating customers by sending them straight to what they were looking for, and two, allowing you to easily measure how well your ad got people to your site.

If you do want to send people to your home page from various ads, use tracking code in the ads so you can tell which ads actually delivered people to your site.

Tracking visitors to your site is an important metric but also tracking how they interact is equally as valuable. If you aren’t already using it, Google Analytics is a free tool that will help you better understand what people are seeing on your site and how they move through it.

Go Old School

Before the days of sophisticated measurement data, business owners would ask the simple question, “how did you hear about us?” Even in the 21st century, that’s a great question to ask. Not only will it give you valuable data, it’s an effective icebreaker that might result in building a relationship with that customer

Some Low Cost Ways to Promote Your Business

What’s the best way to promote your business? How can you advertise your business and get your name in front of potential prospects when money is tight or you’re just starting up? How can you get the word out about your business in the most affordable way?

Promoting a business is an ongoing challenge for small businesses. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, these proven marketing strategies will help your business find new customers without spending a fortune.

Plan your attack. Define who your best prospects are, and then determine the best way to reach them. Be as specific as possible. Is the decision maker the CTO of the company, the director of human resources, or a 37-year-old working mom? Will you find them on Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram? What about in-person networking at local business meetings? Will you find people at those meeting who are likely prospects or who know and could recommend you to likely prospects? Will customers be searching for your type of product on Google or Bing? Do you want to start promoting your business to them at the start of their buying cycle, or when they’re about ready to pull out their credit card and make the purchase. Write your answers down, and refer to them before you start any new marketing tactic. Use this marketing plan worksheet to gather your information.

If you don’t have a website, get one set up. If you can’t afford to have someone custom-design your website, put your site up using one of the companies like Wix, SquareSpace or Godaddy that provide templates and tools that make it easy to create a basic website.

Set up a listing for your business in search engine local directories.
Google and Bing both offer a free listing for local businesses.
To get listed on Google, go to Google My Business.
To get listed on Bing, go to Bing Places for Business
Yahoo charges for local listings, but you get listed on a lot more than Yahoo if you buy their service. The service, called Yahoo Localworks, costs $29.99 a month and lists you in 50 directories including Yahoo Local, Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, Mapquest and more. The benefit of paying: You have a single location to enter your data to make it consistent and available on multiple online directories that your customers might search to find what you sell.

  1. Set up your business profile or page on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus,Twitter and Pinterest. Be sure your business profile includes a good description, keywords and a link to your website. Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don’t spam them with constant promos for what you sell.
  2. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts you create. Include your main social media profile link, too, if possible.
  3. Sign up for an email service, and send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your business. Be sure you ask for permission to send email before putting any person’s email name on your list. One good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away. It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip-sheet on how to do something related to your business. If you’re a health coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free newsletter a tip sheet with “10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet.” If you don’t have anything to give away, try offering a signup discount on products or services as an incentive.  An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.
  4. Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
  5. Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
  6. Attend meetings of professional groups, and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, other local business groups, local chapters of national groups such as NAWBO, or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
  7. Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers. If the group has a website and publishes a list members on the site, make sure your name and website link get added. Once it is added double check to be sure your contact information is correct and your website link isn’t broken.
  8. Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business. While you won’t want to become involved in many organizations that require a lot of your time in, you can –and should– make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and helping with projects when possible.
  9. Post Interesting information and pictures regularly to your social media accounts. The information or photos should be interesting to your audience. Tips on how they can improve their life or business or special offers are likely to get the most likes and shares.
  10. Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations, and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Post the press releases on one or more online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
  11. Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.
  12. Publicize your publicity. Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.
  13. Ask for work or leads. Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.
  14. Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But don’t try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your business reputation.)
  15. Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You’ll benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity you gain from being a speaker at these events.
  16. If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
  17. Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites.
  18. Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free business counseling, and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small and woman-owned businesses
  19. If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned business look into getting certified by private, state or federal organizations. Many purchasing agents have quotas or guide for the amount of goods and services they need to buy from minority- and woman-owned businesses.
  20. Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out. Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
  21. If you use a car or truck in your business have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle. That way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business. If you don’t want the business name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
  22. Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” These are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
  23. Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
  24. Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas–and before you leave ask for an “order” to implement the ideas.
  25. Learn to ask for referrals. Ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances. When you get them, follow up on the leads.
  26. Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales. Be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.
  27. Get together with businesses who serve the same market, but sell different products and services. Make arrangements to pass leads back and forth, or share mailings.
  28. Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: “Would you like me to send information?” Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says, “Here is the information you asked me to send
  29. Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable and related to your business — it could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.
  30. Test buying Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on the search engines. If you are not yet advertising on search engines search for offers that give you $50 or $75 in free advertising to start. Read the directions for the service you plan to use, and very carefully watch what you spend on a daily or more frequent basis until you are comfortable using PPC ads and see you are getting a return on your investment.
  31. Promote your posts to targeted audiences on Facebook. This is an expensive way of getting your business in front of potential customers in very targeted locations or who have interests that match what you sell

 

 

  1. Set up your business profile or page on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus,Twitter and Pinterest. Be sure your business profile includes a good description, keywords and a link to your website. Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don’t spam them with constant promos for what you sell.
  2. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts you create. Include your main social media profile link, too, if possible.
  3. Sign up for an email service, and send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your business. Be sure you ask for permission to send email before putting any person’s email name on your list. One good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away. It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip-sheet on how to do something related to your business. If you’re a health coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free newsletter a tip sheet with “10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet.” If you don’t have anything to give away, try offering a signup discount on products or services as an incentive.  An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.
  4. Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
  5. Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
  6. Attend meetings of professional groups, and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, other local business groups, local chapters of national groups such as NAWBO, or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
  7. Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers. If the group has a website and publishes a list members on the site, make sure your name and website link get added. Once it is added double check to be sure your contact information is correct and your website link isn’t broken.
  8. Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business. While you won’t want to become involved in many organizations that require a lot of your time in, you can –and should– make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and helping with projects when possible.
  9. Post Interesting information and pictures regularly to your social media accounts. The information or photos should be interesting to your audience. Tips on how they can improve their life or business or special offers are likely to get the most likes and shares.
  10. Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations, and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Post the press releases on one or more online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
  11. Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.
  12. Publicize your publicity. Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.
  13. Ask for work or leads. Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.
  14. Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But don’t try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your business reputation.)
  15. Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You’ll benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity you gain from being a speaker at these events.
  16. If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
  17. Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites.
  18. Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free business counseling, and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small and woman-owned businesses
  19. If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned business look into getting certified by private, state or federal organizations. Many purchasing agents have quotas or guide for the amount of goods and services they need to buy from minority- and woman-owned businesses.
  20. Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out. Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
  21. If you use a car or truck in your business have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle. That way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business. If you don’t want the business name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
  22. Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” These are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
  23. Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
  24. Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas–and before you leave ask for an “order” to implement the ideas.
  25. Learn to ask for referrals. Ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances. When you get them, follow up on the leads.
  26. Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales. Be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.
  27. Get together with businesses who serve the same market, but sell different products and services. Make arrangements to pass leads back and forth, or share mailings.
  28. Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: “Would you like me to send information?” Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says, “Here is the information you asked me to send
  29. Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable and related to your business — it could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.

Test buying Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on the search engines. If you are not yet advertising on search engines search for offers that give you $50 or $75 in free advertising to start. Read the directions for the service you plan to use, and very carefully watch what you spend on a daily or more frequent basis until you are comfortable using PPC ads and see you are getting a return on your investment.

  1. Promote your posts to targeted audiences on Facebook. This is an expensive way of getting your business in front of potential customers in very targeted locations or who have interests that match what you sell

Get Consulting Prospects to Buy

You want to expand your consulting practice by expanding your current client base. You may be stretching yourself thin but unless your consulting gigs are the type that take up 110% of your time every time out, then you usually want to make sure you have several streams of income going at once, and that you’re constantly marketing to draw new prospects into your sales funnel. You need to cover yourself because no matter how good of a consultant you are, you’ll still have the occasional cash-strapped client who waits till the 11th hour to bail on you. When they do, that leaves a big void that you can’t possibly fill in time for your next month’s planned income – unless you already have some sales prospects in your funnel who you may be able to convince to retain you now.

It happened to me this past month so it is certainly fresh in my mind… Here are three of my top hacks for converting those prospects to new business quickly:

Consulting 101 Series:

  • Starting a Consulting Business
  • How to Avoid Working for Free
  • How to Handle Unethical Client Requests
  • Pushing the Project Forward
  • Hired to Fire
  • 5 Suggestions for Managing Client Emergencies
  • Working Around an Unreasonable Deadline
  • How to Turn Weaknesses into Strengths
  • 4 Ways to Get Consulting Prospects to Buy
  • How to Handle Client Misunderstandings and Miscommunication

Change your payment terms. If you are always asking for payment in advance, mix it up and offer a hesitant new client or a past client that you want to re-engage to signup for a 50/50 payment plan. By this I mean 50% up front and 50% at the end of the gig. It’s highly likely that someone will bite. Especially when you’re working with smaller organizations, you will find that paying in advance for the custom services you provide may be something they desire, but can’t often afford. Meet them somewhere – meet them in the middle with this 50/50 plan. It will probably get you over the hump and get the deal closed.

Throw in two freebies. Add not one, but at least two free items or services of value that you can give them but won’t kill you on cost or time. It will mean a lot to them and they won’t know that it isn’t that big of a sacrifice to you…they are only going to look at it from their perspective. It’s likely that as you have been talking to this potential client you’ve heard some needs or some pain points that you could probably easily help them out on by just giving away a couple of add-on services or freebies that will really make your offer golden.

Give them more of the same, but for the same price. If you are giving them some kind of service for, say, a four week period…give them an extra week for the same four week price. That extra service period may very well seal the deal for them. Don’t make it something that is going to push you over the edge and make it impossible for you to deliver quality service to them or to other clients, but if you can an extra week or five or ten extra hours of service in the contract without wearing yourself out or making the whole gig much less profitable, then to the right potential client that will mean more than % discount. It’s all in the presentation.

Offer to “look at” something that is a need for them but may be outside of your normal services. You do ‘x’ and they need your services for ‘x.’ But they also need ‘y’. If ‘y’ is something you know you can do but is not usually in your normal service offering, offer it and see if that seals the deal. Again, don’t offer something you can’t handle – the last thing you ever want to do is fail. But much of what I offer as a consultant has developed out of new client requests and I rely on those new client innovations to help expand my service offering…and it has worked well for me

Some Problems with Your Marketing

The biggest problem most businesses have is marketing.

In fact, the top fear of small business owners is the inability to market effectively and their top pain point is poor sales. 66% say finding new customers is a major concern.

That’s no surprise considering 47% of small business owners handle marketing efforts on their own. When it comes to marketing, it’s easy to get bogged down with various techniques and strategies.

But what do you do when your marketing initiatives aren’t working as well as expected?

Instead of continuing to waste time and money on campaigns that aren’t paying off, it may be time to figure out how you can develop a sensible plan for making your marketing efforts work out right.

Want to know how?

Why Most Marketing Campaigns Fail Miserably

Before I jump into the details, let’s set the record straight.

Why do most marketing campaigns fail? Because promoting and selling products or services only works when people know, like, and trust you.

Far too many business owners are looking for the latest bright shiny object that will do the marketing for them. But if you want to improve your marketing and sales, you need people to know, like, and trust you to be successful.

The problem is…

  1. Obscurity–Your potential customers may not know who you are. Even if they do, they’re thinking about their hopes, dreams, and problems–not whatever you’re trying to sell. As long as you are unknown or unimportant in their eyes, your chances of making a sale are slim to none.
  2. Credibility– The second reason marketing efforts fall flat is credibility, or rather, your lack of it. People have heard it all when it comes to marketing claims. The result? Most of us are skeptical when it comes to advertising. That’s a problem since nobody buys without belief.
So, how can you overcome these two marketing campaign killers? Now that you know the two reasons marketing efforts fail, you can adapt.

Rethink Your Approach to Marketing

How then should you approach your marketing? Here are some recommendations for tackling both problems.

Offer a guarantee–If you want to establish credibility and lower buyer resistance, reduce your customer’s risk. For example, offer a money back guarantee or a 30-day trial. A strong guarantee shows you stand behind your product or service. You can guarantee your product, your service, or your customer’s results.

Deliver social proof–Skeptical prospects will rarely accept your claims at face value. But they will listen to other people. So include proof elements in your marketing. Case studies, customer testimonials, study data from respected sources and statements that support your point from a major periodical can all be effective. After all, the best way to be credible is to prove that your product or service really works.

Use specific details–Another credibility booster is specificity. When people consider buying something, they want to learn as much as they can. The more detailed the information you provide, the more credible it is to your prospects.

Partner with a like-minded business–To get attention for your small business, consider working with a complementary business to market to your common prospects. The strategic partnership could give your marketing efforts more reach without more cost.

Content marketing–This is one of the most cost effective ways to solve both marketing problems. Effective content marketing can position you as a trusted resource for your ideal customer. It also helps you gain visibility. A win all the way around.

Hold a photo contest–You could give away a $50 Amazon.com gift card to one lucky winner. To enter, you’d have users take a picture using your product or service and share on social media. This way your customers become part of your marketing team and help get the word out about your business.

Key Takeaway

When you tackle obscurity and lack of credibility, your prospects will be more receptive to your marketing efforts.

It will take time and effort to adjust your marketing to achieve your business objectives. But when you do, positive results will soon follow

Sell Yourself

The smaller your business, the more you and your business are synonymous. People may not know the name of your business at all; they might just know you and for that reason, you have to know how to sell, “you.” As you grow, your business will hopefully gain an identity outside of you but for now, you’re everything.

You know how it works—some people are really good at talking. They’re the people at the events who have a story for any situation. They’re the ones who bounce from group to group seemingly knowing everybody—or can drop a name that they and the group have in common. They’re smooth—sometimes cheesy and annoying—but somehow, they seem to have an endless pipeline of business. As much as you don’t want to hear it, you might need to become a little more like those people. Don’t worry, we’re not advocating turning you into somebody you’re not but there are some skills to learn when selling yourself.

Confidence!

Let’s just call it what it is. Those schmoozers are exuding confidence. They may struggle with confidence just as much as the next person but they know that confidence is what gets them in the door. They know that confidence is professionally attractive so they play the part even if they don’t feel the part. “Fake it until you make it” is a big part of selling yourself. Of course, there’s a fine line between confident and cocky.

Persistence

We’re not done with the clichés’. How about “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” For every opportunity (unless it’s some equivalent to a root canal) there are loads of people going for it. Every customer you’re trying to land is being courted by others just like you. Your job is to be persistent—even kind of annoying. Keep sending the e-mails; keep sending the texts; let them know when something changes that is valuable to them. Just keep in contact with them. Even if they’re not ready to buy now, they’ll think of you later.

Don’t Be Boring

For real—even if you’re not great in social situations, you have to find a way to be unique. Be proud of your introvertness—there’s nothing wrong with you but that doesn’t give you license to not stand out. People who don’t stand out can’t sell themselves because they never get noticed. The cheese-machine at the party is getting noticed.

And of course, your product has to be unique too. That’s great that you design websites but what makes you unique? If you’re not unique, you’re boring. Don’t be boring.

Offer a Solution

Your customers are plenty-smart enough to identify the problems. What they need is for somebody to dig in to the details and offer a solution. Not something that MIGHT work; something that WILL work.

Offer more of a solution than your competition. Create a detailed report, show that you were super thoughtful about their problem, offer some top level advice free of charge. Become part of their solution before selling your product. Talk is cheap. Your customer certainly wants to know about you but they’re more interested in how you will solve the problem.

Stop with the Resume Speak

Seriously—nobody wants to hear you describe yourself as a problem-solver, a go-getter, or as having great attention to detail. Your customer wants specifics. Who have you worked with that had problems like theirs and how did you solve them? And by the way, attention to detail is probably something to stay away from because you risk talking to somebody who has greater attention to detail than you. Are your handouts stapled in the exact same place? Are your clothes 100% wrinkle-free? Might want to stay away from that kind of language.

Non-Verbals

You know that what we say is only a tiny piece of what really communicates, right? It’s actually your non-verbal communication that tells the person more about you than anything. Sit up straight, make eye contact, don’t cross your arms, walk at a leisurely yet intentional pace, avoid talking with your hands excessively, have a firm handshake. Your non-verbals will probably sell you more than anything else.

Be Positive

We all live in the same world. Everybody likes to complain about something, don’t they? Social media is a cesspool of complaining and we all know at least a few people that can find the negative in anything.

But all of us are looking for positive people to place in our lives. We’re looking for that breath of fresh air that we have trouble even being to ourselves. Find ways to find the positive. Smile a lot, be thankful for what you have, talk about things you enjoy, tell your customer that everything is going to be alright. Positivity equals confidence. Don’t look or sound miserable. Nobody needs any more of that in their life. Positive people will always land more opportunities

Some Small Business Survival Strategies

Has your business fallen on hard times? Running a business is never a sure bet, but sometimes it can feel like you’re caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. Thanks to the Internet, you can reach customers outside of your local area. But at the same time, your customers find it easy to go online and compare prices, find product information and make purchases from companies across the country, or across the world. As a result, you may have customers calling to cancel orders or asking you to cut prices. And big companies who bought services from you in the past may be outsourcing them overseas.

Whether you target businesses or consumers, there’s a good chance your customers have less time, and less patience for sales pitches than they did in the past, too. They may find that researching and shopping online is preferable to talking with a salesperson or traveling to your retail location.

And then there are other problems. Even if you can compete on price, your company may not be found online. Labor costs and other expenses may be rising, and changing customer needs and preferences may be putting a big crimp in your sales and profits. How many bookshelves can you sell to people who read books on their e-readers or tablets?

How to Recover from a Business Downturn

What can you do when your small business falls on hard times? How can boost sales and profits? The answer is to be proactive. Here are 21 strategies to consider:

1. Reinvent Your Business

You don’t have to be a big, high-tech company to reinvent your business. In fact, the smaller and leaner your business already is, the faster you can shift gears and zoom back into action.

Sit back and take a cold, hard look at your strengths and weaknesses and possible markets. Ask yourself the hard questions first: Do customers still want and buy the same type of products or services you sell? Have industries and styles changed since you started business? Have you kept up with the changes? If not, what changes should you implement now to make your business competitive again?

Do you need to develop new products or services? Don’t guess at what customers want and will pay for. Analyze your existing sales and talk to actual customers and prospects. What do they need? What can you provide? What’s the best way to deliver solutions to them? What’s going to bring in the most profit?

Is there any particular niche that buys regularly from you now? If so, consider how you can bring in more of the same types of customers, and what other merchandise they’d be likely to buy.

2. Sell on the Internet

Are you selling your products and services online? If not, why not? If your sales are declining and you aren’t selling online or capturing leads online, it’s time to get your head out of the sand. Even when people buy in-person or on the basis of personal relationships, they are likely to research the products, company or consultant online before making a decision on what to buy and from whom to buy it. If you have a business, you need a website. The type of website, and what should be on it depends on what you sell.

3. Get Involved in Social Media

Do you have a social media presence? Social media may not be your cup of tea, but the Pew Internet Social Media Update 2016 found that 68% of all U.S. adults (i.e., Internet users and non-Internet users) are Facebook users, while 28% use Instagram, 26% use Pinterest, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter.

Find out which of the social media sites attracts the types of customers you want to reach and then get active in those channels. Post comments, answer questions, start discussions related to your products and industry. If you don’t have time, consider having a trusted staff member handle social media tasks. Consider advertising on social media sites, too.

4. Be Mobile Friendly

An ever-growing percentage of business people and consumers are reachable electronically via computer, smart phone or tablet for a majority of the day. These people include everyone from teenagers to retirees. The Internet – thus their ability to search for vendors, products and prices and be notified of deals (as well find the nearest restaurant or gas station) – is no longer limited to their desktop computer. It’s on their tablets and smartphones. You need to be accessible by the devices and methods the customers you want to reach prefer.

5. Contact Former Customers

Don’t assume that a former customer who stopped buying from you in the past will never buy from you again. Customers’ needs and circumstances change, just as yours do. The megacorporation that didn’t renew your contract a couple of years ago because of changing business priorities may have changed their direction once again and be a good prospect now. The customer who went with a lower-priced competitor may be dissatisfied with the quality or service and be receptive to a call from you today. Or, the manager who had given the work to his best friend may no longer be with the company.

6. Contact Competitors of Present or Former Customers

If a company needs what you sell, there’s a good chance their competitors do too. Industry groups you belong to, trade shows, seminars, and friends in the industry can all help you identify likely prospects. If the people you meet don’t need your services, ask if they can put you in touch with someone at their company who could.

7. Call Former Prospects

The bigger a business, the slower they are to move. The project that was put on indefinite hold last summer may become urgent this spring. Or, some other project the company is working on may be right up your alley. So touch base periodically. The more recently you’ve contacted a prospect, the more likely they’ll be to remember your name – and your phone number – when they are ready to buy.

8. Sell Additional Products and Services to Existing Customers

Often the easiest way to bring in new business is to sell more to your existing customers. You may be able to sell more of the same product to the same contact, or sell the same product to a different division of the company. Or, you may be able to sell related products and services to the customer. Keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities and be sure your customers are aware of all of your capabilities.

9. Work the Neighborhood

If you provide services to homeowners, market to homeowners near your customers. When a homeowner needs to hire a contractor, they often ask neighbors who they use to do similar jobs. Keep your name in their minds with mailings and local online advertising. Leave extra business cards with your existing customers (so they can give them out if anyone asks for your number).

10. Work Your Contact List

Labor statistics show people entering the workforce today are likely to change jobs seven to 10 times in their careers. You can position yourself for new sales just by keeping in touch with people as they change jobs. The human resources manager who hired you to do a harassment awareness training program for Company A, may need to find someone to put on the same kind of seminar at Company B. Thus, if a contact at a client company tells you they are leaving the company, ask them for new contact information.

11. Team Up with Other Vendors for Joint Sales

Recommendations and referrals are among the leading sources of new business for small businesses. An easy way to get more referrals is to team up with other businesses who sell to the same market but don’t directly compete with you. Agree to refer business to one another and link to each other’s web sites. Look at possibilities for joint sales, as well. Doing so may allow you to bid on and win bigger projects than either of you could on your own.

12. Develop Multiple Revenue Streams

That’s corporate speak for a concept that’s as old as the hills: find more ways to make money. For instance, could you add landscaping services to your lawn care business, or add coffee rolls and muffins as choices at your bagel shop? What about adding a delivery service or catering to your restaurant business? If you are a writer whose market is drying up, hone your skills to write how-to articles, blog posts and social media content for businesses. Or, learn to do social media marketing for businesses, and add that service to the writing services you offer.

Cost-Cutting Strategies

13. Ask Existing Vendors for Discounts

If you buy a substantial amount of goods or services from any company, ask them to give you a discount. Remind them of your long-standing account and frequent purchases. If their competitors charge less, ask them if they can match the competitor’s pricing.

14. Switch Vendors

If your current vendor won’t lower their price, or won’t lower it enough, consider switching vendors. Give the new vendor smaller orders at first, and then increase them in size if their quality, on-time delivery and service satisfies your needs.

15. Seek Lower Credit Card Transaction Rates

The fees charge to process credit card transactions can be significant. If your sales are higher now than when you first got your merchant account you may be able to get your existing merchant account provider to lower your fees. If they won’t, contact their competitors and ask for their best rates based on your sales volume, type of business and years in business.

16. Ask Your Landlord To Lower the Rent

If you are a good tenant and your business is located in an area where there’s a lot of commercial retail space for rent, your landlord may be willing to lower your rent a bit to keep you from leaving or defaulting on your lease. Even if they won’t lower the rate permanently, they may be willing to reduce it for a few months to help you get through the tough times. The only way to know: Ask. All they can do is say no, and they might say yes.

17. Be Alert for Employee Theft

No business owner wants to think their employees would steal from them, but employee theft and fraud is a very real problem for small businesses. Losses from internal theft can be enough to cause a company to fail. Often the perpetrator is a trusted employee, or sometimes a partner.

Related: Are Employees Stealing from You?

18. Layoff Unproductive Workers

If you are like most business owners, you dislike firing employees, and may put off doing so far longer than you should. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable confronting employees who aren’t living up to expectations, or you may worry about how being fired will affect their family or self-esteem. If your business is starting to falter, however, you need to weed out the employees don’t measure up.

19. Reduce Employee Hours

If business is slowing down, you may not need your employees to work as many hours every week. If possible, try cutting the hours for some or all of your staff a little each week. Your employees won’t be happy with the reduced hours (and income), and some may leave, but if you can reduce your payroll costs, it could save your business.

20. Eliminate Advertising That Isn’t Working

Take a careful look at your advertising and marketing expenses. Are you tracking results? Do you know what campaigns bring you business, and which don’t? What advertising and marketing strategies produce customers with the highest lifetime value? Focus on the strategies that bring in the most business, and consider eliminating, or at least temporarily suspending the rest.

21. Look For Low Cost Marketing Techniques

There are dozens of ways you can promote your business and reach a very targeted audience without spending a fortune. Review strategies that work for other businesses, and put them to work for your company. Pay particular attention to email marketing. It is one of the most cost-effective strategies for getting prospect and customers to remember and buy from you