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Keeping Your Small Business Afloat in Tough Times
By Linda Smith, freelance writer

Have you heard the news? Economically speaking, it’s tough out there! But we all knew that. The small business sector suffers just the same as Big Business, so what to do? Stick to the basics and do what you do best.

First things first: be sure you know your business:

• Have a dream and passion for the business that you chose.
• Have determination to make the business work. Show up every day and be the poster child for hope.
• Give great customer service. Even if your business has slowed down, the very fact that you are still in business means that someone is paying for your business’ products and services, and these customers and clients deserve your attention.
• Offer added value. Go beyond just being in business, make your business different by giving the customer more than they expect. Instead of merely selling your product or service, engage the consumer in a conversation about his or her needs and wants, and how your product or service can meet or fulfill that. In 2010, pure sales won’t be enough. Added value will be key.
To weather the economic storm, you might think about:
• Checking and double-checking your current business plan. Bring up-to-date your stated vision and mission statement; determine if you are on target.
• Checking and double-checking your current business strategies: Are you in the correct marketplace for your products or services? Are you actively and effectively reaching your desired customer-base? Are you sure you’ve correctly identified your customer base and know how to communicate with them?
• Keeping your products and services clean, polished, and ready to deliver. Be proud to represent the products and services you have in your current inventory. • Contacting your customers: Have you shown your current customers that you appreciate their business? It is not just a cliché that "happy customers bring referrals," it is a truism; satisfied and happy customers will often be a good source for new customers. Have you asked your customers for referrals?
This is not to say that you oughtn’t try anything new during an economic downturn; to the contrary, one thing you could do is experiment with new ways of communicating with your customers, and find new ways of finding customers. If you aren’t already, make Internet marketing a part of your strategic communication and marketing plan. You don’t have to get complicated to start, begin small:
• Build a Web page or do a little Web page redesign and clean-up.
• Tout your business on a few top social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
• Direct people to your website by writing articles.
• Anything new or improved you do, write and submit a press release about it.
• Start a blog, either as a part of your business Web page, or independently (and point it back to your business Web page).
• If appropriate for your business: (1) have classified and display ads in your local newspaper and regional magazines; (2) run radio and/or television spots; (3) arrange speaking engagements for yourself at local groups who might be interested in your area of expertise; and (4) leave your business card everywhere and with everyone.
It might be rocky sailing right now and difficult to stay afloat, but just keep doing what is working and use the present climate as a time for continuous improvement..

---Source: DMA Marketing Brief B2C Edition Jan. 27, 2010 (www.dma@multibriefs.com). Linda Smith is a home-based business owner, artist, and writer. Visit her blog at http://www.intlnat.com.
 

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