Whether we are in a new recession or slowly grinding our way to a brighter future, anyone who runs a business knows that they need to focus on two things right now. First they need to make sure they are managing their expenses prudently, ensuring that their costs match the demand they are seeing. Secondly, there has to be a focus on finding new business, or cultivating existing relationships. While there are many tried and proven ways of managing expenses, generating new demand and sales is extremely tough at any time, especially in an uncertain economy. Here are a few ways you can keep generating new business in any environment, without breaking the bank.
1. Every potential buyer of your product or service is most likely on the Internet. You just have to find a way to reach those individuals with the right message. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that you have a program to advertise your business on performance based sites such as google and bing. These programs are usually cost effective, because you only pay if someone clicks on your advertisement. While google and bing are great for business to business, facebook is becoming more popular as a place for advertisers to reach over 500 million consumers. You also want to make sure that you website (hopefully you have one), is designed to be search engine friendly.
2. The greatest sales asset you have are your personal and business relationships. Much too often, I notice that as professionals we are willing to network with friends on tasks such as a job search, but don't use these networks to the fullest for sales purposes. While nobody wants to irritate close friends with their job duties, its a fact that within 2 -3 degrees of separation you can most likely find a potential customer, or a lead to a customer. Find those in your network that want to help you succeed, and network.
3. In good times spending money on events, tradeshows, etc. is easier to justify. In these times, companies have to be smart about which events they attend due to the cost and time events take up. Marketing and sales departments, as well as small business owners, need to be realistic about which events really generate leads and eventual sales. Attending a show just to be seen, that has not brought about business in good times, has a small change of delivering business in tougher times. Go through your event show data and find the events that provide a reasonable number of leads (and sales) and a good cost, and focus your sales and marketing efforts on those events.
4. Everyone knows that an existing customer has a high potential to do new business with you over time. What a lot of people don't realize however, is that many customers will point you to new customers if you let them. While as sales and marketers, we sometimes feel like many of the companies we sell to are tough competitors, the reality is that in many industries, companies will refer a good vendor/partner to others in the industry. Some customers do this because they see the value in operating in a more efficient industry. Others may simply want to do you a favor and recommend that you talk to someone that is not a direct competitor. Its always good to ask your customers for recommendations on other companies your should talk to. Afterall, your customers are the experts in their industry and can give you an insider's perspective on who else could best utilize your product.
5. Lastly, if there are specific companies that you are targeting and need to find a way to reliably reach buyers, there are a new crop of tools that allow you to do this directly on the internet. Sites such as CorpGenome.com allow you to specify the product or service you sell and provide you the names of buyers of that product or service. As more and more data becomes available on the internet, more companies will find innovative ways to harness that data for the benefit of marketers and business owners. Make sure that someone in your company is keeping up on new technology trends that can help your business. Have them give periodic briefings to owners and others responsible for generating business in the company.
These simple tips will help you organize and plan your sales and marketing strategies for any economy, and are very helpful with cash is tight. Focus and discipline will help you manage the bottom line while your business generates demand.