MARKETING IN THE BAD TIMES: HOW TO SELL MORE OF YOUR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES EVEN IN A RECESSION!You don't have to be John Maynard Keynes to know the American economy is sickly. Day after day we keep getting hit with a litany of awful news that gives us business owners a sick feeling in our stomachs. Couple this with a war, the new federal taxes and a whopping postal rate increase thrown in for good measure, and it's no surprise Advil has become our drug of choice.
But the truth is, we don't have to roll up and die during bad times like these. There are things we can do. And I'm going to check them off right here and now so that you can continue to sell your products and services and avoid as much of today's pain as possible.
Have A PlanOne of the reasons many business owners are at risk during a recession is because they don't have a plan to get through it. It isn't enough, Oliver Twist-like, to simply want "more", you need to set a precise objective -- and then work towards it daily. Thus, if you want to get through this recession in good shape, write down your overall sales goal for the next six months or a year. Then break this down into sub-objectives for each of your products and services. You can't achieve an objective unless you know what that objective is, so give yourself an overall sales objective and objectives for each thing you're selling. Now post them so you can see them every single day.
Spend Your Time Where There's Money To Be MadeRecessions necessitate focus. You can only spend your time and resources where there is a good likelihood they'll pay off. Thus, you've got to know where you've been making your money... and where you haven't. Thus, divide the receivables into these categories:
- major accounts. These are people who regularly buy substantial amounts of your products/services and who account for disproportionate amounts of business compared to the time you put in tending them.
- potential major accounts. In your professional opinion, these are people who could buy more of your product/service if you made a good case. You've simply got to target them for development.
- smaller accounts. These are people who buy some of your products and services once in a while but are not, in your considered opinion, going to buy much more of what you're selling. Or they are new accounts you've just started working with.
Let's take a look at what you should be doing with each category.
Major AccountsIn good times, people get lazy about their major accounts. They've made the connection way back when, now month in, month out these sales roll in. Because humans almost always prefer sloth over action, these major accounts, no matter how important they are, often get neglected. But in a recession, you just can't neglect them. Thus, target each of your major accounts for attention. Call -- or where appropriate visit -- each account to find out the following:
Confirm anything you've agreed to in writing... and follow up appropriately. Resolve to stay in close touch with this account and to do what you've promised to do quickly.
Note: just recently, I had a meeting with the sales representative of a major printing firm that wanted some of my business. I asked the sales rep to prepare for this meeting by bringing two specific pieces of information to it. Despite the fact that he had over 2 weeks to get them, he came entirely unprepared.
Further, during the meeting I asked him to gather for future reference information about certain kinds of papers, rates for inserting material, etc. I waited two weeks for this information and then called him. When I did so he admitted he hadn't gotten this information either... and had, in fact, completely forgotten about sending it. Yes, he was unprepared again. Yet this man considers himself a professional, considers that he is aptly representing his company and no doubt thinks he's cleverly establishing a relationship with me!
However, I feel nothing but contempt for someone who so obviously doesn't know how to establish a business relationship and feel sorry for the company that's paying him. Not only are they not getting their money's worth but his ludicrous "business" practices are in fact actually jeopardizing the account everyone in that company says they want to foster. This is both stupid and sad, of course, but there is a lesson here for you! Heed it.
Potential Major AccountsThese are people you've decided could buy substantially more of your product or service but for one reason or another, you've never made much of an effort with them before. But this is a recession! And now you've got to hustle. Therefore once you've identified these prospects, here's what you should do:
- draw up a "you get" list for each customer. This is a list of benefits they get from doing business with you. I call it a "you get" list, because each benefit you offer the prospect starts with the words "YOU GET... " The benefit then follows. Now I'd like to point out that while you're working on this list in your office, you should consider it a draft list. That's because after you talk to the prospect either by phone or in person, you may very well alter the list, changing items or their priority, based on what the prospect says. Don't worry about that. The important thing is that you have a preliminary case for the prospect about he gets. Note: if you meet with the prospect and intend to hand this list to him, clearly mark it "draft" and tell him when you'll be sending the amended version based on what he's told you.
- once you've got your list, schedule a visit either by phone or in person. Note I say "schedule." Don't just call up and expect the prospect to drop everything to talk to you. Major account visits -- especially in a recession -- are terrifically important. Remember, they represent the possibility of substantial future orders with minimum maintenance. Therefore, ask for the amount of time you'll need (30 minutes is a good estimate) and schedule this time in advance, even if you have to have the meeting by phone, as I have so many of mine.
- take notes during the meeting. Learn from the example of the disorganized and, yes, disrepectful, sales rep that I cited above. You need to know what the prospect wants, what his plans are and intentions, and you need to know what he needs from you to be able to factor you in to his plans. So be prepared. Personally, when I'm calling my accounts, I use the phone at my computer terminal and simply enter the information into a form I already have in memory. This means I don't have to transfer data from my execrable handwriting into the computer, thus saving time and ensuring that I have complete notes for the meeting.
- follow up appropriate items promptly. This may seem obvious to you, but I assure you that the follow-up skills of most Americans are atrocious, as my example above illustrates. Conclude each meeting, whether by telephone or in person, by ticking off exactly what you've both agreed to do... and when you will be doing your part. If it will take you more than two weeks to get the details you've promised to the potential major account, then send a note reiterating what you've promised to do and when the prospect can expect the information he needs. This note should go out at once. Getting new accounts at any time, and particularly getting them in a recession, is primarily a function of just two things: 1) the benefits you have for the prospect and 2) the systematic way in which you present these benefits and follow up any and all engagements you've made with the client towards securing his business. Thus, Benefit + Systematic Procedure are your watchwords.
Smaller AccountsAll accounts are not going to turn into major accounts. Each business derives a certain amount of its income from smaller, intermittent sales. That's life. However, you can help yourself here, too, by:
- making sure all your marketing communications concentrate on the "you get" benefits;
- creating offers that get these smaller accounts to buy faster and buy more;
- targeting these accounts at regular intervals so they never forget who you are;
- remembering to ask people who have just bought to buy again immediately. Let's take a look at each of these points. "You Get..." -- Again!
Here we are again back at "You Get..." It you expect people to buy from you, especially in a recession when everyone's money is tight, you've got to spend some time on developing your "you get" case. The most important things to keep in mind about the "you gets" is that they must be:
- as specific as possible
- in priority order... the most important for this particular prospect coming first
- plainly delivered and believable.
Keep in mind that the "you gets" are like a sledge hammer. You're pounding the prospect on the head, saying "You get this benefit you want," and "you get this other benefit you want," and "you get this other benefit you want". Finally it dawns on the prospect YOU CAN HELP HIM!
Adding The OfferAll these benefits that you've presented clearly will tempt the prospect. They may, indeed, actually persuade him to take immediate action. But probably not. He may well reason that, though desirable, these are your standard benefits and that they are available to him whenever he decides to take action. But in a recession, later is fatal; in a recession you need the money and the business NOW! This is where the offer comes in.
The offer is a prod designed to motivate the prospect to take immediate action and so acquire the benefits he wants. There are many different kinds of offers -- free freight, two for one, extra product, free premium, etc -- but what's important is that the offer be a real benefit to the prospect and that the offer be limited. That is, unlike the benefits (which may seem eternal), the offer most definitely is temporal, available only for a certain amount of time. It is the coupling of benefit plus limited time that induces the prospect to respond.
Targeting The Prospects At Regular IntervalsPeople get business, we know, because of the benefits they offer, because of the offers they make... and, let me stress, because they are persistent. Over the course of the last 12 years in business, I can't tell you how often people have told me that they wouldn't buy my products or services, that I shouldn't darken their door steps ever again, etc., etc., etc. But Selective Hearing is a necessity in the sales business and if I were certain that I had a substantial and meaningful benefit for the prospect, I continued to bring that benefit -- and the motivational offer -- to the prospect's attention whatever he said. Because I knew in the final analysis my package and my persistence would triumph. Using this method, I became a millionaire. Without it, I've watched literally thousands of my fellow entrepreneurs falter and fail.
Thus, you must create a process not merely for getting in touch once with your prospect but for staying in touch with him. How you'll stay in touch directly depends on how valuable his potential business is. Major accounts necessitate regular personal and telephone follow-up. Smaller accounts can be handled through:
Getting Buyers To Buy Again -- ImmediatelyA recession, remember, is a tightening of the economy. People have less money to spend and so fewer dollars end up chasing more goods and services. The game, of course, is for you to catch a disproportionate share of the available dollars. One way you can do this is to induce your buyers to buy again immediately after they've bought something. It makes a lot of sense from a marketing view to target people who have just bought from you. 1) They already know you and have already trusted you with an order. 2) They may already have achieved some benefits with your product and service thus increasing their trust. 3) You can bring your marketing message (your benefits) to their attention for less money than you can target prospects who haven't yet bought.
Thus, you should create a vigorous recession marketing plan designed solely for people who have just bought from you. Here are some ideas how to do this:
- Insert Program. What astonishes me is just how few of the packages, I receive come with any further offers. The company acts like what I've bought is the only thing they want to sell me and like it doesn't matter to them if I ever buy anything else. That's just plain stupid. One of the key objectives of marketing is to get your prospect to read your marketing message; if I've ordered a product and service, you can be sure I'm going to look at that package... and that there's a fairly high likelihood I'll look at other things that come in the package. Thus, use this situation to get another ACT NOW marketing message to your buyer. As above, design a "you get" marketing communication targeted to this prospect. And make sure it rides along with every one of your products and services. More, make sure you put such a flyer in every one of your outgoing pieces of mail. The flyer I'm currently using is headed "Get Yourself A Check For Up To $3,000 -- For Just A Few Minutes' Work" and provides details about how the person can get a fast check from me just by networking me into a speaking assignment (by the way if you'd like to participate in this recession-proof bonanza call me at (617) 547-6372 and I'll send you the details). This flyer goes out with ALL my mail and packages and is a regular money-maker.
- Upgrade Program. The upgrade program is particularly useful when you sell on the phone, when you take catalog orders, etc. After you've taken the customer's order (and so discerned what he is trying to accomplish now), propose other items that the customer may want to achieve his objective. Thus, when someone calls to order one of my books, I helpfully suggest other complementary titles. Positioning yourself as helpful, not just a product/service, seller will result in at least 10% of those calling you placing larger orders -- and thus giving you a larger income at the time you need it most.
Last WordsToo often good times mean people slack off. They don't have to work very hard... so they don't! These same slack habits in a recession, however, kill you. Marketing in a recession must be pro-active; while before you may have waited complacently for people to come to you, in a recession, you must take full responsibility not only for identifying the proper prospects, but working hard to refine the benefits you have for them and bringing these benefits to their attention in a thorough-going and focused marketing process. In this way, you will not only survive the recession, but prosper during it. And if it feels good to be prosperous during good times, there's nothing more soul satisfying than continuing to make money while all around you the world is literally going to pieces. Follow these suggestions and enjoy this enviable situation yourself!