Whether you are a corporation, a limited liability company, a partnership or a sole proprietorship, the pain associated with a tight economy will sting all the same because the size of your business and over-all expense vs. bottom line is relative.  This may be compounded by the fact that you might see business associates in your field closing their doors left and right which is daunting. So what can you do that sets you apart amongst your competitors, maintains your bottom line and most importantly, markets your business in this tight economy?

Marketing defined is: The activities of a company associated with buying and selling a product or service. It includes advertising, selling and delivering products to people. People who work in marketing departments of companies try to get the attention of target audiences by using slogans, packaging design, celebrity endorsements and general media exposure. The four ‘Ps’ of marketing are product, place, price and promotion. {http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/marketing}

An old man once told me: “Try to fit in what you do for a living in every single conversation.” Initially, I thought – how rude….until I became a professional myself and tested his theory.  The old man was my father who was a self-employed doctor all my life until he retired comfortably a few years back with his home paid for and money in the bank to live out his golden years in the style he had grown accustomed to. But his successful practice spanned years that included incredibly lean years – yet he managed to stay afloat. How? Well, he applied the tried and true principles I will discuss below, some of which have been modified to meet the current business trends.

Join a Professional Organization

Regardless of your particular field, there is undoubtedly a professional organization that meets socially and professionally. At the gatherings of your particular social club, group or organization, you will have an opportunity to sit next to and market your business by simply talking and applying the cardinal rule: Mention what you do for a living.  It’s an easier task if the group is more generic, i.e. Business Women of Los Angeles however even if you group is comprised solely of accountants, you should still mention some personal detail about your business: “I specialize in forensic accounting” or “My office is located in the Towne & Country Villa.” What does this do? It sets you apart; It tells the person you’re talking to more about YOU as a person and a professional.

Typically “membership” is nominal when compared to what many spend on advertising annually. If this results in even one lead (in a year), you have made back your investment.

Volunteer

You may be thinking: “I’m trying to keep my business afloat. I don’t have time to volunteer.” You don’t have time NOT to volunteer. The time investment is actually quite minimal in the greater picture. Of the 40 hours that there are to work in a week (and let’s face it, you own your own business so you are probably working closer to 60); So of the 60 hours that there are to work in a week multiplied 50 weeks in a year assuming you have given yourself a vacation, that’s 3000 hours in a week that can and most likely are, devoted to WORK.  Volunteering can provide a much needed respite from the seriousness of work. This is coupled with the idea that people look very positively at the work ethic of those who are willing to work for free.  Lastly, this is yet another opportunity to follow the advice of an old but infinitely wise man: Mention what you do for a living. Whether you volunteer 10% of your available work hours or 1%, you are affording yourself another free opportunity to market your business, your kills and yourself.

Keep & Personalize Your Contacts

I keep a computer based rolodex of every contact I have ever come to do business with on any level. It really does not matter whether this lead earned my business $45.00 or $155,000.00 because it is still a lead capable of referring me to the next lead and so on and the sum I might earn from subsequent leads is infinite.  Periodically, as time allows, I contact these individuals to see if their needs have changed; It costs me absolutely nothing except a few minutes of my time.  For one, it personalizes my customers/clients and there is no doubt in my mind that they are aware of special attention paid to them. Think about how important you would feel if the checker at your local grocery store remembered your name? Same concept.  Let’s assume that they do not have a clear need for you at the time? It keeps your name on the top of their list when they do.

The Internet

Internet Service Provider pricing ranges from $30.00 to $100.00 on average, per month and has become part of standard business practices to have. This resource gives you access to literally millions of people within a few mouse clicks.  In the scope of a marketing budget, $360.00 to $1200.00 annually is minimal, particularly if used correctly. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Research potential employment opportunities through on-line resources;
  • Create a website for your company on your own advertising your services or products and use Search Engine Optimized (SEO) content increasing the likelihood that your site will show up in a search.  You do not have to spend countless sums on design and hosting to have a web presence for your company; It is so commonplace that many companies offer do-it-yourself website programs hosted for as little as $6.00 per month.
  • Create a blog about your business and update it regularly. Blogs are online “diaries” that are made available for others to read on the internet.  This is a wonderful way to keep your business updates fresh but blogs are usually free!! Typically you need nothing more than an email address (also free) to set up a blog and with an investment of a few minutes a day, you can have a web presence for your business that costs you nothing more than your time.

Let’s face it: Most businesses ebb and flow with the economy. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in an industry that is not adversely impacted by the market conditions, you can still utilize creative marketing concepts within your existing business model. But if you are like most of the self-employed individuals in the country, it never hurts to have an arsenal of ideas available to keep your business afloat when the economy is tight.