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Tough Times Call for Tough People

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

According to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Every day the business climate seems to change. Stock Market, gold, the dollar, oil, all seem to be on some demonic roller coaster. Customers and business owners alike are wondering which we are facing. Will “the worst of times” make us stronger in the long run? Or will “the best of times,” on the distant horizon, completely change the way business is done?

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will remember, that in the past, I have reported that we’ve survived nine recessions in the past 60 years. And, in only two of those recessions, did consumers reduce their day-to-day spending. If we assume that customers are not going to drastically alter their lifestyles, then how can you, as a business owner, capitalize on that behavior?

We all need a comfort zone.

Ever been to a party where you didn’t know anyone? Suddenly, over in the corner, is a familiar face. A wave of relief washes over you … at least now you have someone to talk to. Customers feel the same way. When they are in unfamiliar, uncertain conditions, they look for that one island of sanity where they can feel comfortable. That island is your business.

In tough times you need all the customers you can get just to keep the doors open. People have shown over time, that they will cut back, but it’s usually temporary because they don’t like to leave their comfort zone for long. They may reduce the number of times they purchase things, but rarely do they eliminate them completely. Studies have also shown, it takes six times the effort and expense, to get a new customer, as it does to keep an existing one.

Reconnect with your base

Identify your best 100 customers. If you are a retailer, this might be tough, but do the best you can. Almost every business has some “regulars.” Start contacting them during slow times of the day. Pick out five each day and call them; offer them a deal just for them, and just for that day, or that week. It makes them feel special and it brings you income.

Make sure your advertising counts.

You need paying customers during tough times, so every ad needs a “call to action.” A call to action is something in the ad that tells the customer he or she needs to act now. Waiting will result in some kind of loss. It might be a free gift, or some special offer, if they purchase over a set dollar amount.

Remember my two rules of advertising

I have two ironclad rules of advertising. One, never, ever advertise anywhere unless there is at least a 75% expectation that the ad will produce more in income than it costs. Advertising must always be an investment; it can never be an expense.

Second, when logic and emotion come into conflict…emotion always wins. Your ad, or your offer, must evoke a beneficial feeling in the customer. Your products or services have to solve a problem in the customers mind. You save them time, save them money, make them safer, prettier, younger, thinner, etc.

These are the things people continue to buy; even during tough times. One of the questions I always ask in my small business seminars is, “How many of you have ever bought a CD to get one song.” There are always a few sheepish hands and some nodding heads. Paying $12.00, for ten songs so you can get just one, is not logical; it’s emotional. That’s the trigger that will keep your doors open during tough times.

Keep them coming back

My wife and I enjoy a pizza and a movie rental once or twice a month. The nice man brings my pizza, in 30 minutes or less, and the box always has a few coupons attached for future purchases. They go up on the fridge until its movie night again.

Your sales receipts and invoices can be tools to bring customers back over and over again. Most computer-generated receipts have an area for a personal message. Turn that message into a coupon area to keep customers coming back.

The best thing about these tips is, they don’t add anything additional to the expense side of the ledger. Keep on doing what you’re doing, just do it better, and more efficiently. And last but not least, remember the times we are going through now… more than likely they will be repeated a few years from now.

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