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Need customers? Try these timely tips

Have you put a halt to marketing because of the recession? If you have, whenbusiness the recession ends — and it will — you may find your sales pipeline has dried up, and even worse, your competitors may be making inroads into your existing or potential markets.

Although the prospect of throwing precious dollars at marketing during a recession might be perceived as a risky decision, if you are smart about your strategy, you can position yourself for market growth when the recession lifts.

Here are two things you can do now, to position your small business to ride the economic storm and emerge with a plan to grow for the future:

1. Nurture existing customer relationships. Take proactive measures to hold onto your existing customers and nurture the relationships you already have. This is your low hanging fruit; ignore it at your peril. How to do this: Take a cue from a restaurant owner who called known customers and asked for their mailing address. The reason? He said he wanted to send a $25 gift certificate to thank them for their loyalty as a customer. He was able to do this, of course, because he had already captured customer information— possibly by asking for business cards — and then he mined the data to his advantage.

The gesture won more business and more loyalty.

2. Seek out potential future markets and opportunities. Your company probably has some existing customer profiling information, and while mining this data for potential cross- or up-sell opportunities is a good use of time, external customer data — often available for free — can help you identify similar prospects in new geographies, demographics, or industries. These resources can also help you find profit patterns and trends for your small business while using this intelligence strategically can help position your business for new customer opportunities when the economy bounces back.

The good news is that much of the background work needed to identify new market opportunities   needn’t cost much.

Two sources of market data and statistics for small businesses are Business.gov’s Business Data and Statistics Portal and CensusScope.

• Business Data and Statistics Portal. The good news for budget-conscious small businesses is that the federal government, which is currently the largest producer of data in the –the country, has agencies and offices dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and reporting on business, industrial and economic activity.

Get started by bookmarking Business.gov’s Business Data and Statistics page, where you will find a collection of resources providing free access to business and economic statistics collected by the U.S. Government.

Whether your market strategy is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, on this page you’ll find access to demographics from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor, economic indicators, and statistics on everything from income, employment, trade, manufacturing, and more. You can also search for data by industry type.

• CensusScope. Another resource for consumer data is CensusScope. Developed by the University of Michigan, this tool allows you to view demographic census data and apply it to your business or metropolitan area.

Source: Business.gov


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