10 Ways to Win More Business in 2009
Overcome the economic storm by focusing diligently on issues
that will make the greatest difference.
HOW FAST THINGS CHANGE these days! It seems like just yesterday
that Starbucks was pouring it on and opening new stores. Then before
you could down that luscious latte, they’re closing them.
Up until a few minutes ago, boomers were getting ready to retire.
Now they’re trying to hang on to their jobs as their retirement
savings evaporate. Last year, we worried about our competitors, now
we’re concerned about our own company.
All this is enough to make us wonder what the rest of 2009 will be
like. Some businesses are worried about getting through the storm,
while others are considering new possibilities.
The year ahead will be demanding and not always friendly. However,
it can be a good year for those willing to make the right effort.
Here are 10 marketing and sales concepts that can drive success in
the year ahead:
1. Get your customers thinking about possibilities. Disney
got it right with its “Celebrate” promotion. They didn’t attempt to
lure visitors by pouring on the discounts. Their mission was to
capture the imagination with thoughts of celebrations –– Birthdays,
True Love, Triumphs, Reunions and, yes, Your First Visit. Rather
than telling us to buy, buy, buy, the “Celebrate” eBulletin involved
visitors in creating a memorable experience. With excitement driving
interest, it was Disney at its best –– and marketing at its best,
2. Demonstrate strength. The most serious mistake a company
can make in the present economic environment is weakness. It
was a lack of consumer confidence in General Motors, Ford and
Chrysler that drove customers away, not just gas-guzzling trucks and
SUVs. No one wants to do business with a company that they perceive
as weak or shaky –– or about to go out of business.
Don’t let your company be perceived as a bad bet to do business
with. Make sure you’re visible, demonstrate strength and let it be
known that you will be there tomorrow for your customers.
3. Craft a clear and compelling message and stay with it.
General Motors has major problems, but the Cadillac division gets
the message right for its CTS-V 2009 sedan. In fact, it’s truly
memorable: “When you turn on your car, does it return the favor?”
That will pull in the customers, perhaps those who may, for the
first time, begin rethinking their admiration for “the ultimate
4. Think performance. There’s no room for excuses. Good
intentions are gone. It’s results that count. Unfortunately, it
appears that a substantial portion of the work force –– including
top executives –– didn’t read the memo.
Twenty-five percent of employees spend about one-quarter of their
work time doing “personal stuff” online, according to network
security consultant VOCO. At that rate, the cost to American
business is more than $200 billion a year Add in text messaging and
it paints a troublesome workplace picture, one that explains why
productivity continues to drop. Both companies and workers must now
pass the even more demanding performance test.
5. Avoid creating a stream of email “sales pitches.” My 2005
Honda Element is terrific, but why did Honda wait until an economic
turndown to let me know the importance of regular maintenance? They
need the business is the answer, although they attempt to couch the
copy in terms of helping me. Customers recognize such thinly veiled
sales pitches. That’s when they start looking for someone who can
really help them.
6. Stop the happy talk. If there was ever a time to get
serious, it’s now. People are worried, so put away all the
happy-go-lucky, “everything’s great” stuff. No one wants to hear it.
The only time customers are happy today is when they see that we
make their agendas our top priority.
7. Build your database. One of the major weaknesses in most
businesses is contact information that’s sloppy, inaccurate,
incomplete and nonexistent or poorly managed.
No business can dare minimize the value of a contact information
system as a competitive advantage. Yet, most fail to
recognize that building a proper database is the only way to
cultivate prospects and communicate effectively with customers. If
we don’t know who and where they are, we can’t market to them.
8. Stop pushing and start pulling. If you try pushing
customers to buy in this economic situation, you’re dead. They won’t
stand for it. Buying decisions will take longer than they are now ––
many times much longer. Try to change that rhythm and you’re done.
Once you understand the customer’s particular buying process, spend
time figuring out how to fit into it, not change it.
9. Have a plan and stay on it. Most annual business plans are
little more than window dressing and are quickly shelved. Everyone
knows they’re a useless exercise, except those who put employees
through the annual painful exercise.
The annual business plan fails to deal with what’s needed to make it
work: a process to assure follow-through. This is why the
weekly “staff meeting” should be transformed into the weekly
“business meeting” with a focus on one question: “Who’s doing what
to whom and when?” That makes a difference because it’s
accountability with teeth.
10. Plant the seeds of tomorrow. Too many salespeople view
prospecting as nothing more than lining up the next sale. That’s a
fallacy. In reality, prospecting is a process in which customers
make the decision to do business with you. Few buyers move quickly
today. Many won’t make a decision until their backs are against the
wall. This means that no one ever knows when a “no” will become a
“yes.” It happens when it’s least expected. When that happens, the
business goes to whoever is there. It could be you, but it may be
your competitor. If we think longer term and stay close to
prospects, as well as customers, it will be a good tomorrow.
So, here they are, 10 ideas for making the most out of 2009. These
are legs that strengthen your sales and marketing stool. They’re
practical and can help us get our arms around the issues that will
make a difference.
John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing
services and sales consulting firm. He writes for a variety of
business and trade publications, and speaks on business, marketing
and sales issues. Contact him at 40 Oval Road, Quincy, MA 02170;
617-328-0069; email@example.com. The company’s website is
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T R E N D S
The new culture of generosity
Generosity is becoming a leading societal and business mindset. As
consumers are disgusted with greed and its current dire consequences
for the economy — and while that same upheaval has them longing more
than ever for institutions that care — the need for more generosity
beautifully coincides with the ongoing (and pre-recession) emergence
of an online-fueled culture of individuals who share, give, engage,
create and collaborate in large numbers.
For many, sharing a passion and receiving recognition have replaced
“taking” as the new status symbol. Businesses should follow this
societal/behavioral shift, however much it may oppose the
decades-old devotion to self-interest.
This trend is demonstrated both in wealthy and average citizens.
Philanthropy has always been a status symbol among the super-rich,
but recently billionaires have been upping the ante by donating huge
chunks of their fortunes. Now being seen as generous is in, while
greed is out. But, an even more important driver of this trend is
the wide variety of citizens taking part in collaborative/sharing
efforts such as Flickr.com (a photo sharing site), Wikipedia.com,
Freecycle.com (for giving away and finding stuff), TripAdvisor.com
and millions of bloggers who share their insights.
This movement has unlocked in entirely new ways the perennial need
of individuals to be appreciated and to feel part of the greater
good. They are finding status and gratification in something other
than consuming the most or the best. Companies need to mirror this
societal shift if they want to regain their relevancy. You don’t
have to give it all away; simply strive to become a caring brand —
one that is generous to customers, employees, social causes and so
Source: TrendWatching.com, February 2009
TV still the most influential media
Television may be down, but it’s far from out. Even with commercial
skipping, TV still has the most influence on purchasing decisions —
even among Internet users.
That’s the results of a study conducted in September and October
2008 by Deloitte LLP. When Internet users were asked what type of
advertising has the most influence on their purchasing decisions,
88% said it was television. The second tier of influence included
the Internet at 48% and traditional media such as magazines (49%),
newspapers (42%) and radio (27%).
TV’s dominance came despite the majority of surveyed consumers
saying their computers were used more for entertainment than their
TVs. Deloitte said the top two Internet ad influences were search
engine results and banner ads.
Source: eMarketer, January 21, 2009
More vendors willing to renegotiate
Small firms are finding that almost everything is renegotiable these
days. The economic downturn is prompting business owners — by
necessity or by opportunity — to re-examine contracts with
suppliers, vendors or landlords and come up with creative deals. And
in many cases, they are saving substantial sums of money.
In a survey of more than 1,000 small-business owners and managers,
about 15% had recently renegotiated long-term, fixed-cost supply
contracts, according to the Small Business Research Board, publisher
of the Small Business Confidence Index, which tracks overall
business confidence and issues of small business owners and
One factor that helps is having the cash to pay your bills on time
because you can negotiate lower rates with your vendors to help them
with their cash position. On the other hand, if you’re an extremely
slow payer, sometimes you can get your obligation lowered because of
your financial position. Vendors will often accept that because
they’re getting paid, as opposed to writing off the entire
Source: Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2009
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N E W S
Great divide separates small biz from consumers
Although 63% of consumers and small business owners turn to the
Internet first for information about local companies and 82% use
search engines to do so, only 44% of small businesses have a
website. Of those, under half spend less than 10% of their marketing
budget online, according to research from Webvisible and Nielsen.
This uncovers a significant disconnect between the way small
business owners act as consumers versus the way they market their
The survey found that search engines, by a large margin, are the
most popular source for finding local information. The top sources
for local information include: 82% use search engines (such as
Google, Yahoo or MSN), 57% use Yellow Pages directories, 53% use
local newspapers and 49% use Internet Yellow Pages (such as
yellowpages.com or superpages.com).
An overwhelming majority of searchers (92%) say they are happy with
the results they get when using search engines, despite the fact
that 39% report frequently not being able to locate a particular
known business. Webvisible said this means that while searchers
don’t always find the specific business (no online advertising/no
website, etc.), they may choose to contact a similar business with a
stronger online presence.
Many consumers report that they have struggled to recall the name of
a business in their area or wish to quickly check the website for
store hours, directions or a phone number. However, when using a
search engine to find a business they know exists, only 19% of
survey respondents report never or rarely encountering trouble
locating that business online and 39% say they routinely have
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T I P S
- Beat the recession by getting closer to customers. It’s no
secret that customers are hesitant to spend right now. Reach out to them
and let them know you’re in it with them. Some ideas: 1) Call five
customers each day. Thank them for their business and ask what more you
can do. 2) Segment your customers so that your most profitable,
referring customers get VIP treatment. 3) Bring them together. Often
customers are peers and might enjoy the opportunity to commiserate, or
at least network, over lunch. 4) Create an informal marketing board of
your most involved customers and ask for their input in the development
of your marketing strategies and tactics.
- Some bosses aren’t very good at communicating — and that
is leading to a breakdown in employee morale in a time of economic
uncertainty and fear, according to a recent survey by AccountTemps.
A lack of open, honest communications was cited as having the most
negative impact on employee morale, even above failure to recognize
employee achievements and micromanaging. Regular, open communication
is always important, but it becomes especially critical during
- Use your time wisely by taking advantage of Biological Prime
Time (BPT). People function at maximum effectiveness only about
six hours out of a 24-hour day. It is important to determine
precisely when your personal time prime time occurs, and then use
that time period wisely. Six hours each day is not much, so it is
best you perform the tasks that contribute most to your success
during your BPT hours. Protect those hours from interruption.
Source: Work the System by Sam Carpenter, North Sister
- Capitalize on today’s frugal mindset. In every industry,
customers are being more cautious in decision-making and demanding
more when they do buy. Consider these tips for appealing to frugal
customers: 1) Prepare your front line with training
to offer more “hand holding” and empathy as they help customers
through decisions. 2) Help customers evaluate alternatives —
including doing nothing. Provide tools and information to help
calculate costs and benefits and make choices. Stress the cost of
not acting and show them what they lose if they don’t act now. 3)
Help them justify the purchase. Even in difficult times, people will
act if they believe the benefits outweigh the costs. 4) Plug into
values. When people are making tradeoffs, it’s especially critical
to know which values are most important to their decisions.
Source: Barbara Sullivan, www.fuelnet.com
- As unemployment rates rise, you may be tempted to play
hardball with job applicants. Think again. Employees who say they
were mistreated during hiring feel less committed — for years. When
researchers surveyed MBA graduates about how they were hired by
their employers, those who felt they had been treated unfairly were
twice as likely to be looking for opportunities outside their
company, even after five years. The most common “interactional
injustices” during hiring were slow responses from employers, offers
that are withdrawn if not accepted immediately and a company whose
attitude is, “You need us.”
- Using premiums in direct mail is one of the best ways to
boost response rates. Think you can’t afford to include these gifts?
Luckily, editorial premiums work best. They are inexpensive to
create and ship, are strongly identified with the product and can be
a powerful incentive to an information-hungry audience. Choose very
specific content. For example, people want the pressure point that
instantly stops tension headaches much more urgently than they want
the booklet on natural pain relievers. Also, don’t hide the premium
offer in your message — promote it on the outer envelope.
- Want prospects to take action on a sales letter, survey or
invitation? Include a handwritten note. Recipients will recognize that
you applied some personal effort and will be more likely to reciprocate
with some effort of their own. For example, in a direct mail test, a
survey was mailed with three different cover letter configurations, and
each had dramatically different results. A printed letter generated a
36% response; a printed letter with a handwritten message boosted
response to 48%; and a printed letter with a handwritten message on a
Post-it Note pushed response to 75%! And, in another test, adding a
“Thank you!” and the sender’s initials to the note further lifted the
- Increase word-of-mouth marketing by giving speeches at
conferences or other meetings. The following tactics will get you
new business from each speaking engagement: 1) Provide a handout — a
useful, one-page summary or tip sheet. Arrive early to place one on
every chair. 2) Ask for everyone’s business card — promise to send
them something of value and then pass around an envelope to collect
cards. 3) Never push what you do. 4) Give a good reason to go to
your website, e.g., a downloadable document or useful spreadsheet.
Once there, invite them to sign up for your e-newsletter.
- Some industries are set to have a banner year. But rather
than get jealous about it, figure out if there’s any way you can
sell something to these companies. Here’s a short list of industries
to consider: bankruptcy lawyers, equipment repair and maintenance
companies, alternative energy companies, infrastructure and major
building companies (and their suppliers), Internet infrastructure,
Web services and cloud computing companies, website development,
home entertainment, discount retailers and, of course, debt
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