Does A Down Market Mean You Need To Downsize Too?
By Gayle Buske, President and CEO, Team Double-Click®
Let’s just say it – the economy stinks! It’s no secret. The question is how to survive during a poorly performing market. What do most companies cut first when things start to slide? If you answered “marketing” or “staff” you nailed it.
Why is that though? It’s human nature to cut the “extras” when business is rough. Marketing is usually out the window first because the bills are typically huge. Followed shortly by staff members that may be dead weight or not as good as they should be. And quite often, especially for small businesses, the owners decide there’s a lot more they can pick up and work on; things that the assistant used to do. There are a couple of great lessons here. There’s downsizing and there’s taking yourself out of the market.
Let’s first explore the idea of cutting off your marketing efforts in this down market. If you chuck your marketing, doesn’t that just cut off your nose to spite your face? A down market is precisely when you need marketing. If not for your marketing efforts, how will those few buyers in the market know about you when they’re ready? Maybe it’s time to look at some old fashioned guerrilla marketing tactics and free marketing. Yes, I said free. Of course we all need to spend some marketing dollars from time to time but what happened to all of the great free opportunities out there? Let’s explore some of them.
- Article submissions. One of the greatest things about the ‘net is that you can almost instantly become the expert in your market/community/area by writing and submitting articles. A quick search on the ‘net will unearth dozens upon dozens of places to post your articles. Of course, that’s what I’m doing right here – writing an article which my cloud-based virtual administrative assistant will post to as many free article submission sites as she can find. What does this do? It positions me as an expert. It sends links back to our company web site (thus increasing search engine rankings). It tells people we exist. It drives traffic (and hopefully customers) to our web site. It keeps our marketing alive and fresh. AND – it doesn’t cost any more than my time to write the article and my cloud-based virtual administrative assistant’s time to post. Cheap!
- Blogging. Wow, what a beautiful thing blogging is. Similarly to article submissions, blogging gives you a voice, makes you an expert, sends links back to your web site, and allows you to engage in conversations with potential customers. Another quick search on the ‘net will unveil a hoard of free blogging sites.
- Partnerships. In a down market, aligning yourself with complementary companies that can funnel business your way becomes paramount. Do me a favor; sit down and think of the products and services that compliment your business. Don’t look for specific companies just yet. Look for the kinds of products and services. Maybe they’re roofers (who may know that someone really needs to sell), maybe plumbers (who may also know who needs to sell or someone looking to buy), lenders, banks, and so on. Once you have this list together, find all of the companies who fit each category. In other words, find all of the plumbers in the area, all of the roofers, etc. Once you’ve got that list together, call them up and see how you can work together. Can they send referrals to you if you send referrals to them? Which of the plumbers can send you the most referrals? Then start setting up partnerships with these folks.
- Co-Advertising. Are there complementary companies (such as the ones you found while seeking partnerships) whom you can work with to create and implement advertising pieces? Advertise both of your services in the same ad and cut advertising costs?
- Teleseminars. Check your contacts both locally and nationally – if you can be creative enough about your presentation topic, you can come up with dozens of things to discuss that others would like to hear about. Solicit your contacts for speaking engagements on teleseminars and plug your wares while you’re there. If you can’t get onto someone else’s teleseminar, do your own. They’re very inexpensive to produce (check out www.freeconferencecall.com) and you can invite your market area to the teleseminar to share some great bit of information. You’ll be the first person they turn to when they’re ready to buy. Try a teleseminar on “improving the curb appeal of your home to get it sold more quickly” and I’ll bet you’ll have local sellers flocking to listen to you talk. Try “getting the biggest bang for your buck in a buyer’s market” and the buyers will be knocking down your doors. Be sure to grab their contact information so you can use them as leads!
- Radio and TV. Any business can position themselves as experts in their field with the local media. Send them your press releases, your articles, your information. Keep working to land a spot or two on the local news and you gain immediate credibility and recognition in your market.
- Podcasts. Podcasts can work similarly to teleseminars in that you can solicit to be a guest on others’ podcasts. However, you can also put up your own podcasts. Again, cheap, easy, and great lead generators. Check out www.talkshoe.com, which is a great, free podcasting site. Share similar information and think about topics similar to those we discussed for teleseminars.
These are just a few ideas for free (or almost) marketing that you can do even during a good market. But especially in times like these, you can focus on free and cheap marketing tactics without spiting your face. Be creative and I’ll bet you can think of dozens of others.
Firing your staff. They’re always the next to go after marketing. Sure, getting rid of dead, useless weight is always a good idea – even when you’re prospering. But during lean times you need to be sure that you’re getting what you pay for from the help. What disturbs me, however, are comments I’ve heard recently like “hired help is a luxury we cannot afford right now” and “well, I’ll just do a little less selling and take over the administrative functions again” and then there’s “I was an assistant once, I can surely do it again and save a few bucks.” Wrong, wrong, all wrong! I’ll tell you why.
The best place for you during lean times is out in front of clients and making money – not setting up drip campaigns in the mailing software and directing phone calls. And how can you set up all of those referral partnerships if you’re preparing post cards for mailings?
So do get rid of those who aren’t helping your business – that’s good advice even in the best of times. But keep those who are producing for you and who are making your job (selling and getting in front of partners) possible.
What about hiring a cloud-based virtual administrative assistant? Bricks and mortar produces huge wastes just by its nature: you pay for time you don’t use, you spend more on gasoline, as does your assistant, you pay rent (or a mortgage), you heat the place, and you electrify it, and so on. Have you considered going virtual? Believe me, it can be done. We were once a bricks and mortar business in a previous enterprise. But after going virtual, we’d never go back. Think about it: you only pay for what you use, you don’t pay rent, you don’t have to heat the office, you don’t have to provide desks and computers. You save tons! One of our virtual staffing clients recently said, “Having cloud-based virtual administrative assistants handle the majority of my administrative paperwork (and me!) has cut over $100,000 from my payroll and given me better skills and talents, better accountability, better organization and better stability in working from two locations, now in Vail, Colorado AND (as of April this year) Naples, Florida!” Check it out – you can downsize without downsizing how much your company accomplishes. If you need to downsize, do it smartly – keep the staff that’s working well and replace the others with cloud-based virtual administrative assistants.
As this down market cycles through and works itself out, please, don’t let your marketing fall to the wayside and don’t downsize what your company accomplishes! Just go about it a little differently.
About the author:
Gayle Buske is the co-founder, president and CEO of Team Double-Click®. As the head of a virtual staffing agency, Ms. Buske is uniquely qualified to aid small business owners in their growth and development through virtual administrative assistant outsourcing. Clients across the country look to Ms. Buske and her organization to supply quality cloud-based virtual administrative assistants.
Team Double-Click®, the country’s foremost staffing agency for trained cloud-based virtual administrative assistants – Matching Top Virtual Workers with Top Companies! Visit www.teamdoubleclick.com or phone 888.827.9129 for a variety of full-service virtual staffing options.
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