The morning paper spins stories of doom and gloom. Customers and financing are much harder to come by. These are the realities of tougher economic times.
Some would say, pull back and be more conservative during the downswing. For other small business owners, though, tough times represent an opportunity to become stronger, to capture market share and to be poised for dominance when things turn around.
Just take the recent growth (yes, growth) of Two Men and a Truck. The Lansing, MI moving company, with nearly two hundred franchisees around the U.S., has actually grown its revenue in spite of the fact that moving among Americans in general has decreased 12%.
I talked with Brig Sorber, the President of Two Men and a Truck to capture his keys to taking advantage of tough times.
Add more punch to what you sell by linking up with a company that offers something complementary to what you sell. Bundle your products or services with theirs and offer them at a combined discount. Two Men and a Truck does this with apartment complexes. “Free Moving” is a great incentive for renters, and the landlords get deep discounts in exchange for the volume of business they provide to Brig’s franchisees.
Tighten communications with customers
With fewer customers calling in, Two Men and a Truck decided to start calling back. Whereas in very busy times, they gave quotes over the phone but typically didn’t place a follow up call, in slower times, they used the extra available minutes to call back people who’d inquired previously. The result? A game-changing 25% of the call backs become paying customers. In addition, they made a point to send out franchise owners to visit homes where Two Men and a Truck was underway with a move. This made their customers feel like VIPs and caused extremely positive word of mouth in the neighborhood.
Become more flexible
To maximize the availability and convenience of Two Men and a Truck for customers, they extend their operations to 24 hours/day. This is a huge differentiator from the competition, which in many cases is actually reducing operational hours. For further flexibility, Sorber’s company has also added a menu approach to break down its service options into smaller, more specialized components, rather than the standard $100/hour offer.
Network with the community
When a new franchisee signs on, Two Men and a Truck pays for that person’s first year membership in the local chamber of commerce. Over time, they encourage the franchisees to work their way onto the boards of chambers to hobnob with the fellow influencers also on the board. From that insiders’ clique comes awareness of trends in the community, credibility among other businesses, and extraordinary relationship-building. This has allowed Brig’s company to expand its clientele from solely home owners to commercial customers as well. Interior decorators, for example, become regular, repeat customers.