It's important to scale your offerings to fit the needs and budgets of your target customers. Consider what they need-or think they need-in the current market. Let's say you sell phone systems. Most companies will not invest in a new phone system if they're hurting financially. So why not sell replacement parts and reconditioned systems? You might even consider doing repairs.
If you plan to provide management consulting, offer several types of seminars at varying prices. You can also throw in a few freebies that cost you little but create lasting goodwill among clients. Advertise an introductory offer that will attract customers. Ongoing quality and service will keep them coming back.
"[This strategy] says, 'No matter what your budget is, I'm going to help you, and you're not going to walk away empty-handed,' " says Frankel. "If you have a menu that scales like that, it gives people a lot of choice, and they feel very comfortable. That's something very few businesses are doing. You need to scale offerings."
Market your new business aggressively-contrary to conventional wisdom, which says that marketing and advertising budgets should be tight in tough times. Because returns on those investments are often difficult to measure, many fledgling business owners view them as unnecessary expenditures.
"In tough times, you have to increase your investment in marketing, not decrease it," says Dwight Smith, 44-year-old owner of Sophisticated Systems Inc., a systems integration firm in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the Greater Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. "It's kind of like when you're in a car and you hit ice. Your natural tendency is to turn against the slide. But you've got to turn with the slide."
Put simply, you need to get your company's name in front of prospective clients. That means building a recognizable brand right from the start. Start by placing ads in the local newspaper or other publications read by your target market. Write articles about your industry, get quoted in industry publications or publish a newsletter. The point is to become an expert in your field, someone who will be around for the long haul- recession or no recession.
It's also a good idea to network. Join your local industry group or chamber of commerce, which typically provide excellent-and inexpensive-networking opportunities. You'll meet both prospective customers and business partners.
- Start the business in your home.
- Hire as few employees as possible.
- Offer employees flexible work arrangements or stock options in exchange for a lower salary.
- Buy used office furniture.
- Buy refurbished computers.
- Share office space with another company.
- Barter your products or services with those of another company.
- Check whether your local newspaper provides free business listings.
- Market your business at free networking meetings.
- Offer customers a free gift in return for referrals.