REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 24, 2008 — As the economic climate gets stormier every day, many small-businesses owners are facing mounting pressures. During such uncertain times, entrepreneurs often choose to cut back, hunker down and ride it out. However, experts warn against exercising too much caution — especially when it comes to marketing.
According to Rieva Lesonsky, former editor of Entrepreneur and blogger for Microsoft Office Live Small Business (http://smallbusiness.officelive.com), entrepreneurs can use this time to cut back in certain areas and strategically invest in other areas, such as marketing. “It may seem counterintuitive, but increased marketing and sales activity can be an effective way to bolster your business and weather economic storms,” Lesonsky said. “In fact, marketing is a key component to your small business’ survival.”
So what should current and aspiring entrepreneurs do during these tough times? Lesonsky offers the following advice:
Keep overhead low. Entrepreneurs should take a hard look at their expenses and scale back on nonessentials. Some big cost-cutting areas include business travel, labor and rent. For example: Entrepreneurs can try videoconferencing instead of traveling to a meeting; consider forgoing pricey office space and work from home instead; and re-examine their staffing plan to ensure they have the right amount of coverage for their current level of business, keeping overtime costs to a minimum.
Make noise. In this economy, competitors are likely cutting back on marketing spending too. This provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get their marketing message out in a potentially less cluttered environment, and possibly at a better rate too. In addition to traditional forms of advertising, entrepreneurs can take advantage of low-cost digital marketing tactics, such as creating a blog, building an audience with Twitter, staying on top of their ratings through online review sites such as Yelp, and creating company pages on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Have a strong online presence. Increasingly, consumers are using the Web to find businesses of all sizes, so it’s really crucial that small businesses be visible online in order to compete. Today, there are a number of low- or no-cost options to help entrepreneurs establish a professional Web presence without the expense of hiring a designer or Web master. Microsoft Office Live Small Business (http://smallbusiness.officelive.com) provides entrepreneurs with a free Web site and hosting, a custom domain name and business e-mail free for the first year, low-cost e-commerce and online marketing tools, and free business management tools.
“Hire” customers. Entrepreneurs can turn satisfied customers into a word-of-mouth referral engine for their business. They can consider offering referral fees or free services to encourage customers to refer new clients. Entrepreneurs can also ask customers to provide testimonials that can be showcased on the company Web site and marketing materials.
Always negotiate. Entrepreneurs should keep in mind that everything is negotiable. When other businesses are cutting back, entrepreneurs are in a better position to negotiate for lower rates, better ad placements, lower telephone rate plans or other discounts such as on office supplies.
These and other small-business tips from Lesonsky can be found on the Office Live Small Business blog at http://www.myofficelivecommunity.com.
Lesonsky is a well-respected entrepreneurial expert and the co-author of several business books, including the best-seller “Start Your Own Business.” As the CEO of SMB Connects, Lesonsky helps corporations, government agencies and other organizations identify, understand and connect with small and medium-sized businesses, providing information, products, services and resources to help build their businesses. Before co-founding SMB Connects, Lesonsky was editorial director of Entrepreneur Magazine. She also blogs about small-business issues and trends for Microsoft Office Live Small Business.
About Microsoft Office Live Small Business
Microsoft Office Live Small Business is the award-winning service that offers a complete, affordable set of easy-to-use Internet-based tools that help small-business owners get online, attract customers and manage their businesses. Office Live Small Business has more than 1 million customers in five countries: U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan. More information is available at http://www.smallbusiness.officelive.com.
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