A lot of my marketing advice is a product of my education, training and extensive work with various small businesses. However, a good chunk of my expertise can be relegated to my firsthand experience in running a small business. One of the things that I had to face early on (and even now) is what I call the "brick wall." It’s when the majority of your business activity inexplicably evaporates.
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If you’re like me, your initial response to such an occurrence would be to try harder, right? Most of you will hustle to hand out a few extra fliers, make a few more phone calls or pump more dollars into your marketing budget. Despite doing all of these things, you can still find yourself staring at this brick wall of inactivity. The most frustrating part is, not knowing what the causes are. It could be a function of the economy, the cyclical nature of your industry, competitive forces or something else. Whatever the case, you’re not ready to give up.
Let’s see if we can find a path around this wall.
Co-OpYou can often spur things along by getting in front of an entirely new swath of customers. Joining forces with a complementary, noncompeting small business may prove to be a great way to go. The goal is to attract new buyers by offering a more comprehensive service/product line. A cooperative relationship will allow you to do this without becoming a specialist in an area outside the scope of your existing platform. This model also allows you to retain your individual brand. For instance, if you’re a candy maker, you’d seek out partnership with a florist, or anything that would prove to be a natural fit.
Events and ConventionsBooth or sponsorship opportunities at key events may be a way for you to locate a high concentration of prime customers. When exploring this route, take the road least traveled. For instance, if you sell uniforms, showing up at an apparel convention may not be the wisest move. Instead, attend something like a plumbing, housekeeping, or doorman convention. Look for places where your services and products would fit in, but at the same time, stand out.
Take Your Show on the RoadIf you’re finding that you cannot uncover any new local customers, consider expanding into other cities or even countries, for that matter. After landing some lucrative deals earlier in my career, I realized that local inquiries for my services were dropping fast. It was at that point I got out a map and started to make sales calls to neighboring cities – anywhere within driving distance. From there, I decided that an online presence would take my business even further. In fact, I was fortunate enough to acquire accounts throughout the US, then Canada, the UK and Africa due to an online push. If locals are not responding fast enough, be bold enough to explore other places. This suggestion doesn’t necessarily mean closing up shop, locally. It simply means go with a multi-pronged strategy.
Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker and proven creative strategist. He’s the lead consultant and executive producer for Dailey Sound Vector Media, a creative services organization that specializes in jingles, radio ads and marketing campaign development for small businesses throughout the US. Ask Walter your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org