As economic times become more difficult and uncertainty increases, many business owners have found it tough to sell their products. The ripple effect has hit everyone's wallet, and just as wholesale suppliers are finding sales down, so too are their buyers.
Whether you operate on the business-to-business (B2B) end of the spectrum or on the business-to-consumer (B2C) end, you no doubt find these times to be trying. Keep in mind that although tough, it is not impossible to sell, and those who continue marketing will win out in the end.
While looking to cut expenses in your business, now is not the time to eliminate marketing - that's a sure remedy for disaster. Not eliminating marketing, yet trying to save on expenses, often requires a new plan of approach. Many facts about past recession periods have been recorded indicating that marketing during down times will reward you in the end.
What can you do to recover sales during tough economic times?
Here are six tips that can help you get through the highs and lows of the current economy. In most cases you simply need to be willing to adapt and change a bit, as well as broaden your methods of marketing and exposure for your business.
1) Tap into your current customer list. You should be doing this anyhow, but in down times, this can become a solid resource to generate sales. The 80 / 20 rule says that 20 percent of your current customers provide 80 percent of your margin.
2) Find your main products that drive sales and push them. It has been said that approximately 85 percent of all profits come from just four main products. This may be different for various companies, but the point here is that you need to find those products that always seem to be the best sellers for your business, and bring them to the front. When looking where to invest your marketing dollars, concentrate on these top revenue drivers.
3) Give your customers additional options. During tough economic times, your customers are even more price conscious. They may take more time to make buying decisions and might be looking for additional payment options or perks to get them to commit to the purchase. Let them know you understand their pain and offer them a solution to overcome it. For example, in tough economic times, you might want to consider offering a "Buy now, pay later," option such as Bill Me Later (www.billmelatersolutions.com).
You might also want to visit various installment plan payment options as well. This could be tricky with wholesale suppliers, but may work well from the buyer's side of the equation. Suppliers might also consider temporarily lowering the bulk quantity required to purchase as an option extended to their buyers.
4) Tap into your current networks and social media. Although some of your potential customers may not be completely ready to buy right now, doing some extra leg work and getting yourself in front of them will ensure that when they are ready, they think of you first. Social media provides you with a low overhead expense to a target group of closely-related individuals with a common interest in what you offer.
If you already have a profile with some social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace) then use it. If you don't have one, now is a good time to consider creating one. Make sure you choose those sites which fit your company and objective. A good place to learn more about the various social media sites available is Wikipedia's list of social networking sites at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites.
5) Keep an eye on your competition. Again, something you should be doing anyhow, but during tough times you might be able to take advantage of this even more. Watch the offers your competitors are presenting, and if you can, one-up them by making your offer just a bit sweeter. If they offer Free Shipping on orders over $50, then you could offer free shipping on all orders, no matter the dollar amount. If they require buyers to buy in bulk quantities of 500 or higher, then consider offering the option to buy in bulk of 400 or more. There is no limit to what you can do with the information you uncover during competitor analysis.
6) Tighten up your PPC campaigns with lower CPC bids. Providing you have done your homework in setting up your paid search campaigns, you can instantly save money without losing position by paying attention to your quality scores (named differently for various engines). Higher quality scores reduce your paid search cost without sacrificing position.
Finally, turn off any campaigns or keywords that have only cost you money and have not converted to sales over the past six months or so, at least temporarily. This will provide an immediate savings that reflects directly on your bottom line.
These six strategies can and should be utilized by both B2B and B2C companies, not only during this rough period but throughout the duration of future marketing efforts. Make them a part of your everyday mix and watch your exposure and sales grow.
The most important thing to remember is to plan a strategy during this time and be patient. Don't be afraid to get creative with your approach. You are not the only one seeing lower sales volume, but you can be one of those who survive with the right mix and perseverance.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion expert and author of a leading Ecommerce Optimization blog (www.zencartoptimization.com). He coaches etailers, wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers on how to increase their website sales through skillfully crafted online search advertising, targeted market strategies and website sales strategies. He can be contacted at 1-877-481-2323, or visit www.enhancedconcepts.com for more information.
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