A few weeks ago I received phone call from a local business in San Diego. He told me that he’d been reading me blog and receiving my Local Business Marketing Success newsletter for years and found the information helpful. He then proceeded to tell me that sales at his company had declined steadily over the 4 years and now he was fearful that he may have to shut it down due to a lack of customers.
“I need customers and I need them fast, and I’m willing to try just about anything” he said. “So how can you help me, how fast can you do it and how much will it cost? Oh and by the way, I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend.” Unfortunately, this small business owner has fallen into the abyss of “crisis marketing” mode. But the time to ask for help or try new things is NOT when you are desperate. Why? Because in crisis marketing mode you have 2 opposing forces working against each other…lack of time and funds and the critical need for to generate sales and cash flow.
Let’s face it, no one expected the economic downturn to last as long as it has so many business owners thought they could just “wait it out.” But hoping for the best is not a strategy, waiting it out is no longer possible and ignoring new ideas is not an option. The sad truth is that many business owners continue to market the way they've always done in the past regardless of the mediocre results they are still getting. Why? It’s easy and they just don’t know what else to do.
But I believe that the recession has fundamentally change consumer buying habits forever! So if small business owners plan on staying in business, then they have to change their marketing strategies to adapt to the new consumer. It’s time to stop using old strategies to find new business.
Traditional Advertising Versus Internet Marketing
Traditional advertising methods like the Yellow pages, newspaper, direct mail, TV, radio, etc. are by no means dead, but their effect on the consumer decision making process and their overall effectiveness have without a doubt lessened over the years. In addition, these forms of advertising have no real “residual value. Their “shelf life” is very limited. Two examples illustrate my point.
Most Sunday newspapers get thrown out on Monday. And how many times have you come home to find the yellow pages on your driveway, picked it up and walked it right over to the trash can?
Alternatively, Internet marketing strategies like YouTube and Facebook are more residual in nature – create it once and it’s on the Internet forever ready to be consumed by prospective customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!.
In addition, consumers today are a lot smarter not only in terms of price comparisons, but how and where they research and gather information before they buy. And where do they go to research? Not the yellow pages, a home show or the Sunday paper, they go to the Internet.
Use Internet Marketing to Generate Leads
Some statistics suggest that 70% of U.S. households now use the Internet when shopping locally for products and services. This makes it essential that small business owners create an Internet marketing plan to start generating leads. But according to some studies, 90% of people searching for products and services on the Internet never search beyond page one. That means if your business isn't on page one or at the very least page two of Google, your business doesn't even exist. And if people can't find you, they can't buy from you! It’s that simple!
But don’t think that just having a website is enough…in fact, it's just the beginning. Not having a totally integrated Internet marketing strategy for your business is costing small business owners lost sales and profits day after day, year after year!
7 Critical Steps to Avoid Crisis Marketing
The first thing small business owners need to do is establish an official marketing budget. You don't necessarily need more marketing money to increase sales. Instead, it's your ability to use the marketing money and resources you already have more effectively. Commit to spending a specific amount consistently every month on Internet marketing.
Step 1 - Create a website - It's hard to believe, but yes, some small business owners still don't have a website. If you’re one of those small business owners you better get busy.
Hire a good website designer and you can have a basic site up in less than a week. And please, don't have your nephew or son's high school friend create the site. Hire a professional who knows as much about business as they do about building websites. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so spend a little more and get it done right.
Step 2 - Use On-Site Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - There is no point in building a website unless you can attract visitors. The biggest source of traffic for most sites is search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
On-site search engine optimization helps provide the search engines the information they need to match what your site has to offer to the person conducting an online search. Having a highly optimized website will, over time bring you higher search engine rankings for your chosen keywords
Step 3 - Drive Qualified Traffic to Your Website - There are many ways to drive traffic to your website, some cost you little in terms of actual cash, while others are more sophisticated and complicated and will need to be budgeted.
Step 4 - Convert Website Visitors into Qualified Leads - Everything you do on your website should have one overriding objective – turning visitors into leads and leads into sales! The only way to verifiably do this is to capture their contact information – at minimum first name and e-mail address.
Step 5 - Track Your Results and Adjust as Necessary - Analyzing your web traffic statistics can be an invaluable tool to figure out the keywords visitors used to find you, where visitors go once they get to your site and how much time they actually spend on each page.
Step 6 - Create a Follow Up Marketing System - Once you get website visitors to “opt-in” to your mailing list, they want and expect you to send them information and offerings. One of the fastest, easiest and most effective ways to follow up with your prospects and current clients is through e-mail marketing and newsletters.
Step 7 - Create a Referral and Review Marketing System - As small business owners, we are so conditioned to looking for completely new customers that we all but forget what a great resource our current customer base is! You should be getting at least 30-40% of your sales from referrals. As a small business owner, you need to create a plan to generate referrals and ask for reviews that can be posted on your website or sites like Google Plus, Yelp and City Search.
The Bottom Line? - No matter what brand you sell, how high the price, what time of year or how bad the economy, people are still buying, you just need to be sure they buy from you.
When times are good, almost any type of marketing and advertising works. But in recessionary times, you have to venture out of your comfort zone and try new things. If your current marketing is not producing the results you need today, then stop doing it and challenge yourself and your staff to create new ways of finding more business. Following the 7 steps I’ve listed above should help you avoid crisis marketing.
David Carleton Bio
David Carleton is a Local Business Marketing Success Consultant who specializes in showing small business owners how to spend less and get more from their marketing and advertising using low cost strategies in local business marketing, lead generation and conversion, Internet marketing and social media. http://LocalBusinessMarketingSuccess.com