Our company has been in business for seven years.  We just had my best month ever.  That tells us that despite the economy, we can be successful.  It just takes a little persistence and creativity. If this economy has you wondering how to stretch your marketing dollars, read on.  We’ve been using some of these same tactics, ourselves – for some nice gains.

Internet – Your website is one of the most inexpensive ways to promote your business.  By the way, even if you don’t sell online ROI Research showed that 20-30% of offline purchases were influenced by online searches.  And that number is growing. Try doing a search like a prospect would.  Does your website come up on the first page, second page?  If not, now may be the time to pay attention to optimizing your site.  I could spend lots of time focused on this topic alone. And, I’m still working on optimizing my own site!  But, remember there are really TWO types of search engine optimization.  The first involves the meta tags (title, keywords, description), content, site map, etc. of your site.  As my “web guy” likes to say, it’s internal optimization. It focuses purely on your site.  But the other, more elusive optimization is what we refer to as external optimization.  That involves increasing your site’s search engine popularity by increasing traffic to it.  The most effective way to do that is to strategically create more links coming into your site.  How?  The methods keep growing every day!  The most common ways are to post articles, press releases, blogs, videos, social networking websites, etc.  Most website marketing companies will charge a monthly recurring fee for this type of service.  Believe me, it takes a lot of effort.

Here’s a great way to get started. You can list your business for FREE in local online directories.  The major search engines such as MSN, Google and Yahoo all have methods to add your business listing.  Another one that I like is MerchantCircle.com.  Your action item is to list your companies on these sites!

Barter – If you’re in the not-for-profit sector, you just smiled.   That’s because barter (a.k.a. in-kind) is probably the lifeblood of your organization.  But it’s applicable to the for-profit sector, as well.  Basically, you trade good or services.  I can remember back to my old AT&T days.  We had a joint venture with Phillips Corporation (they’re the Dutch company that makes light bulbs, electronics, etc).  They had an entire division dedicated to handling barter situations.  For example, they would sell their products to the Soviet Union, who would, in exchange, ship them Russian vodka.  The Phillips team would then find buyers for the vodka in order to convert the deal to cash.  It’s a great example of a 3-way exchange.  And we can do the same thing.  (Well, maybe not with vodka!) But, all sorts of arrangements are possible.  So if you’re strapped for cash think about how you might facilitate a transaction with no cash.  By the way, I negotiated hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising for a client – all using barter.

Promotions and Terms – I opened this three-part series of articles with a story about the layaway desk at Kmart.  I’m still hearing commercials for Kmart’s layaway program.  It’s a reminder that buyers’ attitudes and behaviors change in tough economic times.  Like Kmart, you may want to determine if there are ways you can modify your payment terms.  Granted, you don’t want to go broke.  But if you can extend more favorable terms to your best customers, it might help you keep them.

Coupons, which were out of favor for a while, are coming back with a rage. These promotions should be just that – short-term incentives to purchase.  The challenge is to balance that against permanent price reductions.  After a while, if you continue to keep the price low, you “condition” your customers so they begin to expect the lower price is the permanent price. 

 Safe Bet – Prospects aren’t taking chances now.  In my last ezine I mentioned that they want a safe bet, a company they can trust.  In addition to some of the concepts previously mentioned, such as offering a guarantee, trial or demo, and creating more credibility through testimonials and case studies, consider using advertorials. The term advertorial comes from the combination of the words advertising and editorial.  You pay for the space, but you place an article that’s written in editorial format.  I know our local newspaper periodically runs special sections for advertorials.  They help to create a “bond” with the prospect, since you can communicate more about who you are, and can more quickly build that trust, credibility, and a relationship with a prospect. As a matter of fact, I just finished writing an article for DuPage Woman.  If you’re in DuPage County and your target prospects are women, click here for more information on their publication.

Pick up the Phone – I used to be in the telecom industry.  But even I have to remind myself the power of picking up the phone to make sales happen.  It’s too easy in this day and age of the Internet to work behind the desk all day.  You still need to get out there, connect, and make calls.  Write down the names of 5 people you need to connect with today – customers, prospects, or referral partners.  Give them a call and see how much value you get out of it!