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Growing Your Business: How To Keep Looking Up When Things Are Looking Down

Aug 14, 2008
Dollar's down. Gas is up. Market's all over the place. House prices have fallen. People are keeping their wallets in their pockets.

Companies large and small are feeling the effects. Skittish investors notwithstanding, big companies can usually ride out a downturn in the economy.

It's a lot harder for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Most of us don't have rainy day funds. We can't sell off tiny pieces in return for some working capital.

We are what drives most of the growth in the U.S. But we are also the hardest hit when things go south.

For us, "riding it out" could mean running our business into the ground.

However, a sluggish economy can be an opportunity. It's not easy. It's not pretty. But if you use these tough times to find your voice, hone your pitch, and identify your customer, when things turn around, you're not only better prepared, but your business is out in front of the competition.

It's tempting to pull back during times like these, but if you press on while others retreat, you might find yourself picking up the clients and customers others leave behind.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking creatively on how you, your employees, your virtual assistants can generate some upside during a downturn:


Most people hate to make "sales" calls. I know. I feel your pain. I don't think I've ever made a successful sales call in my entire life. I'm not kidding. However, once someone has shown even the smallest amount of interest, I am certainly able to explain why they should become very interested.

When companies are busy, they tend to answer the phone or email, give the basic pitch and that's it (sometimes they don't even ANSWER the emails). If the prospect doesn't become a customer, well, there's plenty of other business coming in.

But here's something people forget--and it's true in good times and bad--people don't like to be "sold," but they do like to be pursued. It works in dating. It works in business. Whether you have a service or a product.

Make the call. Send a personalized email. Do it yourself. Or have a virtual assistant do it.

Don't sell. Simply make contact.

After reconnecting, continue the dialogue.

Send a newsletter. A sample. Early info on a new product.

Depending on your business, keep yourself up to date on developments a client might be interested in. I have my assistants on the look out for things that might be of interest to my clients. Then send an personalized note via email. If it's really interesting jot note on a post-it, "Thought you'd find this interesting." Drop it in the mail. Attach it as a PDF, do something that shows you took some care. The impact of a piece of personalized mail in a world of all-too-easy email blasts should not be underestimated.

As in dating, you don't want to stalk your customer. Just be there for them, so that when they need you, they know where to find you. It's a delicate balance. Desperation vs. Dedication. You'll get the hang of it. It just takes a bit of practice.


One thing that happens when businesses tighten up during rough times is that smaller clients get even less attention. I've been on both sides of this. And when I'm being neglected, it doesn't take much for someone to come along and turn me into their customer. My business isn't big. But it's big to somebody.

Use this to your advantage. Seek out those clients and customers that in might be looking for what I call "a little extra love."

Create an easy way for them to make a painless switch to your product or service. Given them what a bigger company can't give. You. Which leads to this:


I make it a point to speak to my clients. This seems like a such a ridiculously obvious thing. Of course you talk to your clients. That is until you realize that my clients are all over North America, most of them have never met me and I don't personally provide service to them, others do that.

And it's scary. Sometimes we don't make the call because we're afraid we're going to hear criticism. I feel your pain. But learn to fight through it. Relish it.

The more I talk to my clients, the better things are. Even the tough conversations. When things get busy, when I don't check in for long periods, that's when little things can become big trouble.

This is something that constantly has to be monitored. It's easy to let this slip. Put a reminder on your calendar: "Am I checking in with my clients?" Prioritize. But get to every good client, no matter how small.

For your current clients and customers, creating a personal relationship is important. Never more so than in a tough economy. Personal connection means something.

At least once a month, I go to a local diner here in San Francisco, even though I don't love the food at all.

The reason?

The head waitress greets me and my family as if we were royalty every time we walk in the door. She fawns over my kids, makes all of us feel special, knows my boys are always starving and brings crackers before she even asks what we want to drink.

Sometimes you just want to be treated like a King or Queen. Like you matter.

Now, I want you to imagine--what would happen if you and your business treated people this way AND delivered a great product?
About the Author
Edward Savio has written for Disney, Touchstone, Sony Pictures and others. He is the author of the business program "Cloning Yourself For Fun & Profit" and the novel, "Idiots in the Machine." He is co-founder of PersonalFriday. To get more done in less time visit: www.cloningyourself.com
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