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How to Market Your Way out of Tough Times
by David Garfinkel 

There's gloom and uncertainty in the air, and most businesses are making a terrible mistake right now in their efforts to ride out the tough times. They're cutting back on marketing and waiting until the economy improves.

In an economy like this, cutting back on marketing is flirting with business suicide. What you should do instead is increase your marketing without increasing the amount of money you spend. This will not only protect you from sales declines, but will also strengthen your business against the threat of deep-pocketed competitors, who may see tough times as a great opportunity to outmaneuver you and grab some of your customers.

How do you get more marketing bang for fewer marketing bucks? By using proven lower-cost, higher-yield methods. Here are five sure cures for marketing woes in tough times:

1. Get back in touch with old customers. It's all too easy to ignore your old customers, but they are often your best source for new business. Sometimes sending a personal note, making a phone call or inviting an old customer to lunch is all it takes to rekindle a business relationship.

If you want to do this through direct mail or email, you can give old customers a special "Welcome Back" offer - a freebie, a discount, or a bonus when they resume doing business with you.

2. Offer prospective customers a free sample. This is an obvious but often overlooked strategy that certainly can work for your business. Everyone from grocery stores (who offer tidbits of food) to high priced consultants (I spoke to one last week who snared a $10,000 personal coaching client by offering a free first hour) can use this strategy effectively. Don't think it will work in the corporate world? Hmmm... ever hear of a company called AOL?

3. Focus your advertising. Many businesses think "keeping your name in front of the public" is a valid advertising strategy. It's questionable at best, but it's way too risky and low-yield in tough times. Instead, make sure your advertising is only in publications that reach your best prospects, and - this is the most important part - make a specific offer and call to action to get readers of the ad to call you.

One of my clients used this strategy and progressed from 10 lukewarm leads that wouldn't turn into customers, into signed contracts with 35 customers representing millions of dollars worth of business.

4. Let your customers help you out. Business is always a two-way street. Some of your customers who you've helped in the past will be glad to return the favor. Often, all you have to do is ask. Two things you can ask for: testimonials and case studies you can use in your sales presentations and advertising.

Another way they can help you: by giving you referrals. And if you have an influential customer who's appreciative of what you've done, ask that customer to write and send an endorsed letter to others recommending your business. Offer to pay for the printing and postage, and help with the writing if necessary.

5. Give extra attention to high-integrity behavior. If you think you're the only one who's a little nervous about a lot of things right now, you're not alone. Recent tragic events have increased feelings of distrust across the board. To set yourself apart in the marketplace, go out of your way to conduct business in an especially trustworthy manner. Bend over backwards to be fair about refunds and exchanges.

Do all you can to act in your customers' best interest, even if it means referring them to a competitor (if you don't think you're the best choice for what they want). High-integrity actions can hurt a little in the short-term, but payback is remarkably quick and well worth any sacrifice you may have had to make. If you get (or strengthen) a reputation for being trustworthy, that can be the most precious marketing asset of all in the times ahead.

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David Garfinkel has been described as "the world's greatest copywriting coach." He's a successful results oriented copywriter and the author of Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich, which shows you exactly how to adapt proven moneymaking headlines to your business. Find out more about David Garfinkel here:

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