Every day, I hear self-employed professionals blaming the economy for their business woes. “People aren’t buying right now,” they say. Or, “With the economy this bad, I can’t…” Or, “When the economy improves, I’ll…”
But what if the economy doesn’t improve any time soon? What if the conditions we are experiencing now are the new conditions for the foreseeable future? What might that suggest about how you should be marketing your business?
At the close of 2007, the U.S. and many other countries began experiencing recessionary conditions. According to the economists, the U.S. recession ended in 2009. But it seems that no one has noticed. And why should they? Unemployment is high, consumer confidence is low, home values have not recovered, and national debt now exceeds GDP in numerous countries, the U.S. included.
If a set of conditions persists for years, at what point do you simply accept them as the way things are? Perhaps that point should be right now. Instead of waiting for an economic recovery to turn your business around, you could begin to turn it around yourself. Here are some thoughts on how to get started.
1. Set sales goals and make a plan to reach them. This sounds simple, but I’m always surprised by how many professionals set a goal without making a plan, make a plan without setting a goal, or neglect both.
Establishing a goal is the only way to know what sort of plan you need. When you don’t declare the level of sales you want to reach, your marketing can stray off track. Spending time online to sell a $29 ebook, for example, instead of pursuing leads for a $10,000 contract, because you keep hearing that “companies aren’t buying.”
When you err in the other direction, and set a goal without building a realistic plan, it’s too easy to be deterred from going after what you want by thoughts like “I’ll work toward that after the economy picks up.” A slower economy indicates you should plan smarter and sooner, not later.
2. Sell got-to-haves instead of nice-to-haves. In lean times, people and organizations spend only to get what they need, rather than on what they want. To make sales, you have to sell what people are buying.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change what you sell, but you may need to change how you sell it. Get specific about the results you produce or value you provide. Help your prospects see how what you offer can help them earn more, spend less, or overcome their current challenges more readily.
An unemployed manager will hire a coach to improve interview skills when she wouldn’t pay for coaching to build confidence. A downsized company will bring in an expert to increase efficiency when they wouldn’t consider hiring someone to improve job satisfaction. In both these examples, the person being hired ‒ and the work being done ‒ may be exactly the same, but the client believes interview skills or efficiency are needs, while confidence or satisfaction are merely wants.
3. Take action on facts, not on fear. The next time someone tells you “no one is paying for marketing help right now,” ask them how they know that. (A survey released by Doremus last month indicates global corporate spending on marketing was up 10% in 2011, and 29% of companies plan to increase their spending on marketing in 2012.)
Or if you hear that “people don’t have money for alternative medicine these days,” request to know the source for this claim. (A recent Deloitte study shows that U.S. families spent $28 billion on alternative medicine practitioners in 2009, in the middle of the recession.)
If 9% of the workforce is unemployed, then 91% of workers still have jobs. Corporate spending may be lower than before, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. Do your own research on who is hiring and spending, and take your guidance from data, not doomsayers. Then target the people and organizations who can pay.
4. Eliminate blame from your vocabulary. The state of the economy may indeed be someone else’s fault, but spending time blaming politicians or bankers or real estate speculators can stop you from taking responsibility for your own success. It doesn’t matter to your business who else may be at fault for the way things are. What matters is what you plan to do about the situation at hand.
In Nov 2008, I wrote: In the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared in his inaugural speech, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He described that fear as the “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” FDR’s message was that the real danger was not the economic conditions themselves, but the prospect that we would become immobilized by our fear of them.
Is it possible that your own fear of failure or rejection, or blame of conditions you can’t control, or resentment of the people responsible for this mess, has in some ways immobilized you?
It’s time to let all of that go. Take charge of your marketing, find out who is buying, determine what they need, set a clear goal, and make a plan to get there. The sooner you do this, the sooner your own economy will improve.
Copyright © 2012, C.J. Hayden. All rights reserved.
This article was first published in the January 2012 issue of the Get Clients Now! E-Letter, and has not appeared in any print publication. If you would like to reprint it, please contact me for permission.