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As long as you eat and breathe you will stay alive. But is that really living? In a crisis that may be enough. If your business is in crisis – deal with it. But the secret to keeping your business alive is growth.
That is the litmus test of keeping your business alive. Look at nature. Everything that is alive continues to grow. Growing your business is the best way of keeping it alive in the long term. How do you continue to grow your business? Feed it, nurture it, invest in it and treat the business as a journey – not a destination. On your journey you must keep one eye immediately on the road in front of you and the other on the horizon.
Invest in your business success with smart marketing. Smart marketing does not entail expensive advertising campaigns. Instead it means managing all the messages you send about yourself and your business. Be aware of the unintended messages as well as your conscious messages. Test for your unintended messages by asking your best clients. Ask those who did not give you the business – why did they chose to go elsewhere.
Marketing is a long term investment. Because of that, many get frustrated, and complain, ‘I tried marketing and nothing happened.’ The credibility you build today will help you gain business months or years later. It may seen tough to justify that. But don’t stop running the day-to-day activities – just invest a little in your future
Marketing is like planting bamboo. In the first six years the seedlings only grow about 12 inches high. It could be very discouraging to the bamboo farmer. Then ‘suddenly’ in the seventh year the bamboo sprouts to 6 feet tall. In marketing – nothing happens suddenly. It takes time for results to appear. Prospects need to see your name many times before they remember you and recognize your value. You may think nothing is happening because you don’t see the growth. You are the bamboo farmer.
Not only is marketing sometimes a slow pay back. It is uncertain. Not everything works all the time. It’s been said that half of your marketing efforts are wasted. The problem is to discover which half. You don’t know – so do it all.
Make your marketing personal. Relate to people because people buy – companies don’t buy. But don’t take rejections – real or imagined – personally.
One of my good clients stopped returning my calls. I continued to call and send information. I felt discouraged. I thought she didn’t like me any more. A year later she called to say, “I had a major operation and I did not feel like talking to anyone.” Boy, did I feel stupid for thinking it was about me. Often when we don’t hear back from our clients and prospects -we think it is us. How can we be so self centered. The world does not revolve around us. Just ask my teenager – it revolves around her.
Fine-tune your database of clients, prospects and contacts. Treat your best clients special. Offer them special services. Airlines do this with their frequent flyer points and special status. Stay close to your best clients, keeping them informed and staying informed about them and their business.
Be unique. Discover the ‘unwritten rules’ of your business then break them to be different. Dell broke the ‘rule’ that computers must be sold through dealers. Dell is now a leader in computer direct sales. Stand out from the crowd. Watch for changes in your industry that may threaten your market. If the crowd goes down you don’t have to go with it. The leaders in any market do well even in downswings.
Network with leaders in other business to learn about changes – threats and opportunities in their industries. These are people who may or may not actually buy your product – but you gain information, prestige and inspiration from them. You might partner with them for a joint promotion. It builds your credibility to be seen with leaders.
Build your credibility as an expert with the help of the media. Develop your media contacts. You will get the best results from appearing in print. Print has the greatest credibility and you can photocopy it for those who did not see it. Build relationships with editors, writers and reporters in the publications your prospects and clients are most likely to read – or respect. Include these media contacts in your database and treat them like your best clients. Keep them informed of changes in your business. Meet them for lunch or coffee. Offer to introduce them to some of your other contacts they may be interested in meeting.
Write articles about your expertise for the publications. Don’t expect to be paid for the articles – you want to get your name out often. The easiest articles to write are tips lists. Editors like them and readers love them – easy to read and use. Once you get published – recycle the articles and offer to other publications. Photocopy the articles and send them to everyone on your database – or at least to your best clients so they receive useful information and see what an expert you are. You must be an expert if your words are in print!
Keep your business alive; invest in future growth through smart marketing.