Leverage: businesses secret weapon against economic downturns

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You can grown your business by leverage your relationships with colleagues, suppliers, distributors and yes, even your competitors. 

Several years ago I attended a demonstration at a local copier supplier. It was a huge success as a herd of people roamed throughout the building seeing live demos of the latest in office copiers. 

While the local business hosted the event, their supplier provided the factory trained experts on hand to answer people’s questions. 

Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Saks have regular “trunk shows” and make-up events to attract customers, again with the expertise provided by the manufacturers.

Faith Popcorn pointed out in her landmark book “The Popcorn Report” published in 198?, people like entertainment while they shop. 

Could your supplier help you create an event and fill your business with customers? 

By the way, if you want to learn more about a huge untapped market, namely women, read Popcorn’s latest book “Eveolution.”

What about your colleagues? Could a carpet or home cleaning company team up with a caterer and offer a holiday special?

Might a lawyer, accountant and banker put together a free event for their business customers? What could you do to leverage your business? 

Do you have underused equipment sitting around? Many local newspapers whose presses are only used for a few hours a day, will take on outside printing jobs. Your typical weekly paper is most likely being printed on a daily newspaper’s presses.

One smart auto repairperson I knew would rent out his extra repair bay to hobbyists who wanted to do their own work. Do you have additional capacity from your equipment that would be of interest to someone else? 

Opportunities on the internet. 

I’ve saved the best for last. If there is one area that is underutilized by small businesses, it’s your website. Ninety percent or more of local business websites that I’ve visited are nothing more than online brochures. I call them “Tombstones in Cyberspace.” 

Contrast this against the sites used by internet marketers. Internet marketers, people whose business profits entirely or in part online, engage the customer with an array of techniques designed to keep them coming back, refer them to friends and leave them wanting more. 

The typical offline business gets little if any internet traffic, mainly because their sites have not been setup properly or not even optimized for search engines. 

What is even sadder is that if someone does manage to stubble upon their site, they have no way to connect with the visitor and develop an ongoing relationship.

Other than SEO, the easiest thing that you can do is set up some sort of “capture mechanism.” A simple subscription box connected to an auto responder will enable you to begin building a database of your customers and potential customers. 

As my friend Vic Johnson, a highly successful internet marketer of personal development information said, “He who has the biggest list, wins! Or, as every online marketer knows, “the money is in the list.” 

The really good part

Once you have put in place your strategy for developing your customer database, you can communicate with them at virtually no cost. 

Compare this to the costs of direct mail, display advertising, radio, or TV and the advantages to email and other types of online communication are obvious. 

A heating oil company, with a database of 600 prior customers, can blast an offer for a spring special to jump-start sales during their slow season, at practically no cost. 

The restaurant owner who’s experiencing a slow Wednesday lunch business, can test offers for specials early that morning by sending to their database. Chances are, they’ll see an increase in business almost immediately. All at little or out of pocket expense. 

If you can’t go into your business tomorrow morning at 7:30, create a special offer to jump start sales, and have it out to a list of several hundred or thousand customers by 9:00, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Go here if you want to learn how you can grow your offline business with online strategies.

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