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What to Do When Times Get Tough

Every industry goes through good and bad times.  So, unless you’re able to surf just the industries that are expanding, you ought to know how to attract new customers when things get tough.The good news: the three things I’m about to propose work equally well in bad times AND good.

Every industry goes through good and bad times.  So, unless you’re able to surf just the industries that are expanding, you ought to know how to attract new customers when things get tough.The good news: the three things I’m about to propose work equally well in bad times AND good.The mistake many companies make when things get tough: they stop spending money on marketing.  It isn’t that they should stop marketing; they should 1) stop sending the wrong message or 2) stop marketing to people who aren’t buying or 3) stop marketing the same value proposition.Change Your Message- This is the first place to look when things slow down.  It’s normally the easiest fix, although I’d hesitate to call any of these three particularly easy.  Companies tout one or more reasons why customers should buy from them.  As your customers’ world changes, the reasons they buy change with it.  For example, service might be important (don’t slow us down!) during times of expansion and growth, something customers may be willing to pay a bit more for.  When things slow, price may become important.  You get the idea.  That really swell copy you wrote 18 months ago about service?  It may be falling on deaf ears today and contributing to your slowdown.  Change your message as your customers change.  But you have to ask—your customers, that is—to find out what’s important now.  Remember, customers are a moving target.Change Your Target-  If your current customers aren’t buying, who is?  I know, it isn’t as simple as that; but it’s not complicated either.  Every company has customers different from their target customer, customers that just sort of find it.  You know, that handful of customers you don’t spend any time or money attracting.  Does it make sense to go after them?  Yes, of course, especially when things slow down!  They may become your new best friends.  And yes, you’ll have to change your message and promotional materials.  But compare sitting around wringing your hands while sales slip away to spending a few thousand to get those sales from somewhere else.Change Your Value Proposition- This is something few people really want to do.  That is, somehow change or add to your product to better meet the needs of your customer’s changing needs.  For some, it’s not an option.  But, before you put yourself in that category, know that that group is far smaller than you think.  Bundle services with your product.  Make it easier to buy.  Take some of the risk away.  Find a product that’s twice as good for half the price.  Boost your warranty.  Sell the whole assembly, not just one part.  Include installation.  In short, how would you compete if you were just entering the market and didn’t have all the emotional investment in how you do what you do now?To sum up, when things get tough, don’t stop marketing, start marketing differently.  look to your message first.  Talk to some customers.  Have they changed why they’re buying or are they just not buying for a while?  Who else is buying?  How can you change/expand your product value proposition to appeal to the customers still buying? 

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