Written By AmyAdd comments
What’s the biggest killer of creativity? STRESS. Whether it’s a difficult boss or a tanking economy, we typically cope with stressful situations by retreating into our shells, sticking to what is safe and familiar, not taking any risks. When you are afraid to get your head chopped off, you’re sure not going to stick your neck out!
Fear of failure is paralyzing, and it kills creativity. But creativity is exactly what we need the most to help us out of stressful situations.
Okay, so the economy is collapsing. Nobody wants to go out of business, so to save what we’ve got left, we’re chopping budgets and jobs, dropping advertising, cutting back on printing, forgoing those web projects, and doing less rather than more. When times are tough, marketing—the head of creativity—is often the first to go. And that’s a HUGE mistake. Now is the time to market yourself more, not less! This horrid economy won’t last for ever, and if you stop marketing yourself, then you won’t either.
Marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are a innovative things you can do on a budget, as well as creative ways you can encourage your customers to come out of their shells. Here are some low-cost and no-cost things you can do to help your business grow:
Become active in social media.
Join Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn and Twitter and start actively communicating with your customers, colleagues and prospects. These sites are free to join. You can do searches on each of these sites to see if people are talking about your business already. Jump in the discussion! The more visible, accessible and helpful you are, the more people will want to do business with you over someone else who is harder to reach.
Myspace is a popular forum for musicians. If you are in the music business, you should sign up for Myspace. But Twitter is by far the most useful tool to me as a designer. It’s the place I meet the most interesting people in my field, find the best resources, and get the best advice and information. (Follow me @astewart and I’ll show you around!)
Position yourself as an expert.
Start sharing your expertise through blog posts, Twitter, speaking engagements, seminars, webcasts, and podcasts. Talk about things that matter to you and your customers. The more you share your knowledge, the more people will see you as an expert in your field, and the more likely they are to choose you over someone else when it comes time to buy your products or services.
Writing valuable content on a regular basis is a great way to drive traffic to your site and hopefully turn some visitors into customers. I’ve set up blogs for all kinds of different clients—restaurateurs, consultants, music companies, and real estate companies. You can either redesign your own site as a blog, install a blog as a subdirectory on your existing website, create a brand new URL for your blog, or if you are OK with some compromises, sign up for a free blog at wordpress.com. Check out the “blogging” posts on this site, and read this excellent book on how to blog for your business.
Pay special attention to your existing customers.
It’s much easier and less expensive to keep an existing customer than it is to create a new one. They already have a relationship with you and trust you. These are the customers who deserve most of your attention, and who are most likely to buy from you again. Offer them upgrades, improvements, or add-ons to what you’ve already sold them. Keep in touch with them, even when they’re not buying from you. Give them lots of value through top-notch service, great advice, and special incentives. Your customers will respond.
Negotiate with your vendors.
Nobody wants to lose the business of a good client. Talk to your vendors and ask what they can do for you. Take advantage of any incentives they offer such as discounts for early payment, longer payment terms, closeout discounts, consignment deals, etc. If you produce a catalog or sell products on your website, ask your vendors about giving you an advertising allowance or a discount on product if you promote them in your advertising materials.
Minimize your customers’ buying pain.
Make it less painful for your clients to buy from you. Neurosciencemarketing – has some excellent tips on how to sell to “tightwads” (which is, I’ve found, nearly everyone right now). Here’s what they recommend:
- Make the price a bargain. Whether it’s offering an actual discount, or simply rephrasing the price in a more palatable way (such as “only $10 per month”) try to show the buyer how fair the price is.
- Avoid repeated pain points. Don’t ask a customer to dig in their wallet more often than necessary, because it causes buying stress each time, regardless of how small the cost may be. An all-inclusive price is easier for a conservative buyer to handle than an a-la-carte one.
- Create product bundles. Even though the package may cost as much as, or even more than, the individual components priced separately, there’s less buying pain involved.
- Appeal to important needs. When customers are feeling the pinch, they are much less likely to buy something that seems like a luxury rather than a necessity. Rephrase your sales pitch to convince them why they need your services or product– for their health, their well being, their future, etc.
- Rephrase things. One rather startling finding in the CMU research was that changing the description of an overnight shipping charge on a free DVD offer from a “$5 fee” to a “small $5 fee” increased the response rate by 20%! This is hardly inventive copywriting, but the mere reminder that $5 was a small amount of money had an important effect on cash-conscious buyers.
A bad economy shouldn’t ground your creative marketing efforts. We’re lucky to live in an era with such sophisticated and inexpensive ways to reach our customers. Take advantage of them!