Once-thriving businesses are struggling to survive in todays slow economy. Many are making spending decisions based on What can I afford? rather than Where can I invest my money to make my business grow?
When payroll and other expenses take priority, the advertising and marketing budget is the first to go. Lacking the resources of large corporations, small- and mid-sized businesses find it particularly challenging to keep their heads above water. In addition, theyre struggling with lower-than-average sales, difficulty getting loans, rising interest rates, and the ever-present threat of increased taxes and government regulation.
Self-storage operators know that the key to success in any economy, good or bad, is the ability to connect with customers. Operators who are firmly established in the community will be in a good position to weather economic storms and will excel when the economy recovers. To be among the leaders, you have to get your name out there.
So how do you attract attention, get new customers and maintain customer loyalty with a limited advertising and marketing budget?
Take stock of what you have to offer your customers and come up with a plan to stand out from the crowd. Customers are expecting more from their hard-earned cash and will find it easier to spend money where theyre getting the best customer service. For example, the owner of a coffeehouse has set up a system that helps her and her employees remember their regular customers' names. Customers appreciate the exceptional service and feel welcome and at home in the coffee shop.
An art gallery and frame shop attracts customers by hosting art shows featuring local artists. It gets the word out for the show through local advertising and e-mail newsletters. The kickoff for each show is a party open to the public and includes live music and hors d'oeuvres. There are many ways you can amplify your connection with your community.
Offering coupons as incentives is a tried-and-true way to get people in your door and spending money. The coupon industry is exploding because consumers are actively looking for ways to save. A survey conduced by Harris Interactive in 2009 found that a growing number of consumers will not make a purchase without a coupon. However, many small businesses simply dont have the budget for the printing and distribution of coupons.
Instead of going the traditional route, use companies that specialize in doing the hard work for you. These coupon companies specialize in creating and managing coupon campaigns for other businesses, at little or no cost, and with surprisingly fast results. By providing your information and the details of your special offer, these organizations will generate a coupon campaign for you, and allow users online to search via ZIP code, product, company or service to find your deal.
Establish Your Online Presence
Operators who don't already have a website need to get one. It's a sign of credibility todayeven if your site doesn't attract much attention, you'll lose business if you don't have one. Many if not most people will choose a business with a website over one without.
Websites don't cost thousands of dollars anymore, and there are many tools available to people who want to create one themselves. Yet many small businesses are still daunted by the perceived costs and difficulties associated with having a website. Using a free open-source content management system like Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal, it's easy to create excellent sites, and there are many free templates and online support for these systems.
Professional website templates, including sites that support flash and other advanced features, are available for as little as $60 and can be hosted for around $5 month. Companies like HostGator.com and GoDaddy.com have competitive hosting prices and offer good products that will get you up and running quickly. You can check online for other companies and packages to make website creation simple even if you have little or no experience.
Savvy self-storage operators are also taking advantage of online social-media marketing. Accounts on sites such as FaceBook and Twitter are free and easy to set up, and can yield big dividends through increased exposure.
Organize a Fundraiser
Its difficult for many people to give to charity in this slumping economy. When the community sees businesses participating in fundraising events and helping the needy, it leaves a lasting positive impression. Even simple things like putting a sign in front of your facility telling the community you collect canned goods for the local food bank can positively impact your company.
Or join with other businesses in your community to organize something bigger. Local newspapers and media outlets may be willing to publicize worthy events, which will add more exposure for your business. Be sure to publicize the event with your current and past tenants through fliers and your newsletter.
These are just a few ideas for surviving and even thriving in a slow economy. Be creative. Offer exceptional customer service. Give your customers incentives. Actively post content on social-media sites such as FaceBook and Twitter. Be involved in the community. Get your name out there and youll be in a great position when the economy recovers.
CherryPlanet.com was founded to help local businesses attract customers by providing a platform for businesses to create coupon campaigns for free. The site offers businesses a way to save money on advertising and marketing while helping customers save money while shopping and doing business locally. Cherry Planet is committed to donating 10 percent of its profit to worthy charities. For more information, visit