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Open Letter to Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, you have probably been feeling the effects of the recession. You don”t need Wall Street or Washington to tell you things have changed. And, like many people in business, you may wonder what to do about marketing. Should you cut back? Keep things as they are? Or pump more money in? Is marketing an unnecessary expense or an investment?

The natural reaction is to be extra conservative with resources because no one knows how long a downturn will last. During my 25+ years in business, I have been through several cycles like this ย– some worse or longer than others ย– and I would like to share with you some thoughts about surviving the slow times.

When slow times hit, we don”t know if we should spend money on marketing because we don’t know how long the recession will last. Is this a 6-month cycle that we can wait out? Or, is this a matter of a year, two years or even longer? How long can our business survive without doing any business development?

Here is the thing- because we don”t know how long the slow down will last it is not a good choice to stop marketing. We can be 6, 12 or 18 months down the road and still be waiting for the tide to shift. Meanwhile, our current customers may cut back or drop out. New customers will be harder to find or to sign up. Meanwhile, our competition may have been busy marketing.

The better choice is to prepare for the long haul and plan accordingly. This slow down will reach at least until the election in November and maybe beyond that. I don’t think all the shoes have finished dropping.

Looking at the long haul gives us a different perspective. Hard times will winnow out the weak businesses and no matter how slow things get there are still companies that survive and even prosper. How can you be one of the survivors? Deal with the present.

Don”t look back and wish that things were the way they were two years ago when everyone was flush. Don’t bury your head in the sand hoping things will get better tomorrow.

Deal with the present and make plan ย– even if it is on one sheet of paper. This plan will outline how to keep the customers you already have ย– and make their happier; how you can find a few more customers and what it would take to sign them up; and how you can work with other people (including your employees) to create strong, referral relationships. And, lastly, focus on the positive. See the best in every day ย– and in every person.

The economy is cyclic by nature. It is always changing. Use challenging times to become keener, faster and leaner ย– so that when the cycle swings up you’ll be on top of the wave.

Marie Taylor is a marketing consultant and writer.