Small business owners clamp up during economic crises. It’s understandable. When people run out of money, they don’t think about buying gourmet Fair Trade coffee or Shiatsu massages. They think about bean soup and victory gardens.
Nonetheless, our own economy hasn’t hit soup kitchen status yet. We’re worried, but we’re still moving money around. How can you successfully keep your small business running during hard economic times?
Try hitting up the five opportunities listed below. Most of them, fortunately, are right in front of your nose:
1) The people you know now. What professional communities, networks, and social groups are you part of? Make a list of contacts. If they’re close, talk to them about your business goals. If they’re more distant contacts, send them an email or phone call to remind them of who you are and what you do. Ask around if anyone needs what you have to offer. Your core networks often harbor unexpected opportunities.
2) The people you knew in the past. Dredge up old clients, leads, colleagues, schoolmates, and other contacts you haven’t talked to in a while. Send them a brief hello and blurb about your business. If possible, offer them a service or product discount that they can either use themselves or pass on to other people they know.
3) The strangers you don’t know yet. Do you blog, Twitter, podcast, or use any other form of media to broadcast the contents of your brain into the vast world of the Web? If so, this is a key time to promote yourself. Leave intelligent comments on blogs you admire with a link to your homepage. Create a new or unexpected form of media—a video, for example—to enliven dormant fans. Promote yourself in discussion forums. Update your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Drive organic, quality attention to yourself and your business.
4) The things you need. Are you connected in any way to products that people need, no matter what? For example, household cleaning supplies? Personal hygiene supplies? School and office supplies? These industries will stay steady through a bad economy. If you sell these supplies, think about beefing up your stock of bargain supplies or generics. If you own a website, think about how you could monetize the promotion of recession-proof supplies. If you provide a recession-proof service, such as nannying, think about how you can improve your market position and drive the kind of business you want your way.
5) The things that hurt. What is your client’s “pain,” and how do you address it? Chances are, people will hurt more during a recession. How can you improve your services to address pain even more effectively? For example, if you’re a therapist losing your client base after marking up your prices (by necessity) to $95/hour, think about the alternatives you could offer. Could you facilitate a support group for $40/session/person? Could you offer mini-tune-ups to cash-strapped clients for $25/20 minutes? Could you offer package discounts? What about a cheaper email or IM counseling service?
Recessions don’t have to dictate an end to your fortunes. In fact, if you stay flexible and creative, opportunity abounds.