Marketing Strategies for SME’s in a Slow Economy

10 Ways to Attain, Retain or Maintain Customers

1) Think big and audit your time
No matter the size of your business, place a mental image in your mind as if you are the largest and most successful person in your industry. How much time is consumed by routine office work which someone else should be doing? Spend more time on more important tasks such as marketing strategies, improving relationships with customers, and implementing new strategies to expand your services.

2) Be different and stand out from the competition
To offer, or at least appear to offer, better products and/or services than your competitors, you need to innovate continually. So, keep your approach fresh by finding out what your customers need, and then find solutions to those problems. How do you make this happen? Talk to your existing customers. Conduct a survey of current major issues they face. This will give you a starting point around which to construct new ideas. Do this regularly and you will build up an ever-growing pool of new ideas. You’ll also stay at the cutting edge of your industry because you will be tackling current problems.

3) Build relationships with your customers
As each month goes by, you lose contact with up to 10% of your customers. Create a customer database and keep in contact with them on a regular basis. Send a postcard, a birthday card, a promotional flyer, a newsletter etc. to keep your name, phone number, and service at the top of their mind when they consider purchasing in your category.

4) Collect E-Mail Addresses
As part of your customer relationship process get permission from your customers to use their E-mail address. Periodically send updates and notices to your client list. As long as you have their permission and avoid overuse, e-mail can be a powerful and inexpensive marketing tool. A local pizza delivery service ran an anniversary promotion offering a pizza for the 1980’s price. To get this special price, customers had to go to their website and register their email address. A special anniversary coupon was then emailed to them. They collected 500 email addresses in just two days !

5) Avoid poisonous personalities
Negative and unfriendly employees cost you money by chasing customers away. Spend more time and money interviewing and hiring the right people, especially those who enjoy helping people. Use behaviour based interviewing and screening assessments to improve your chances for hiring success.

6) Put a shopping cart on your website
Online sales are still growing at a dramatic pace. According to IMRG/Capgemini’s e-Retail Sales Index, gross e-retail sales were estimated to be worth £4.5 billion in June 2010, up 22% compared to the same month last year. This increase is coming from people who want to save time, followed closely by avoiding crowded stores, and the ability to shop outside of store hours. Make an audit of what services and products you can offer online.

7) Pay-per-click advertising
Many business owners are cutting back on classified advertising, instead they’re using pay-per-click advertising. Pay-per-click will ensure you receive top visibility on websites driving more customers to your door. Advertisers bid on keywords and the more popular the keyword, the more expensive each click is. Prices vary between a few pence to many pounds. The most popular pay-per-click advertisers are found on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

8) Use customer service commandments to create good habits
The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain invented the use of Customer Service Commandments, outlining specific behaviours employees are to demonstrate when dealing with customers and fellow employees. They print the commandments on a small card and employees carry it with them at work. Furthermore, supervisors reinforce good customer service by quizzing employees on one commandment each day, and reward those that respond correctly.

9) Take your message to the media
Local newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations are always looking for stories and topics of interest. If you’ve got some good news, collaborate with the media and let your customers, suppliers and everyone else know how wonderful your business is. Do you have an event planned, a new service to launch or an interesting story with a regional angle to tell? If so, let the local (or even national) media know about it through a press release.

10) Take advantage of trends
For some the economic downturn is an opportunity in disguise. A recent study by leading management consultancy Bain & Company found that twice as many companies make the leap from laggards to leaders during a recession than during periods of economic calm.

No one can predict the future with any degree of certainty, but you can get a handle on trends, which is one way to take advantage of change and convert risks into opportunities. The ability to spot trends before others is, of course, extremely difficult, however if you want to get ahead of your competition you must try to understand drivers of change to discover new opportunities. For example, you could ask your best customers how to improve their level of satisfaction with your products and/or services.