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Marketing and Public Relations: Building Your Small Business During a Recession

By Robert N. Lee and Margaret Anne J. Taylor |

Believe it or not, some of the greatest fortunes have been made during recessions. What does it take to build business in an economic downturn? Regardless of how the economy is doing, it takes ingenuity and perseverance and a solid business foundation to grow a business.

Here are seven steps to help you refocus and answer "Where do I begin?"

Step 1: Think positively. Stop focusing on the negative and look for ways that your company can do business differently. Be creative and resourceful. If your demeanour and attitude are in the dumps, it's no surprise that your business is struggling.

Step 2: Scout out emerging opportunities. As mismanaged competitors fall away, there are opportunities to pick up clients who are already looking for your goods or services. It's also a good time to connect with past clients, as they may want to purchase additional services.

Step 3: Have a look around. When business is good, we tend to keep our heads down. Always keep your eye out for opportunities. Is it possible to sell your product or service via new channels or access new markets? What markets are growing despite tough times? Can you learn anything from what your competitors are doing? Look for an edge in good and in bad times.

Step 4: Make friends. In some cases, finding complementary companies to partner with can be successful. Build an alliance to jointly seek new clients. Before you start working together, however, make sure that your core values and goals are aligned and that you have a written agreement.

Step 5: Seek low cost marketing initiatives. What about improving search engine optimization (SEO), engaging social media communities and/or setting up a Google AdWords account? Examine your website: Does it sell you or sell against you? What about reaching out to journalists? Can you replace some paid advertising with publicity?

Step 6: Keep your current customers happy. It's a lot easier to keep the clients you have than to find new ones. Make sure you are finishing existing projects on time and on budget and remember to thank your clients regularly for doing business with you. Another tip is to educate existing clientele about what else you have to offer and how it could help achieve their goals.

Step 7: Don't overextend yourself. Analysts report that niche businesses doing well in this gloomy climate are not overextending their resources. A recession is a good time to prune away unsuccessful relationships and endeavours. Review your client list and your list of goods and services and determine what's not profitable. If it's not worthwhile or promising, stop doing it.

A recession doesn't mean closing the doors or compromising your marketing. What it does mean is finding what works for your business.

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