Weakening economies often mean higher rates of litigation. Recessions typically make it difficult to retain customers and volume of sales. It’s not enough to just recognize these issues; business owners and executives need to have a plan to survive, and thrive, through increasingly difficult times.
Lately Americans are spending time and resources reacting to large economic and social problems: the economy tanks due to foreclosures and a seizing credit market, so the government allocates $700 billion to address bad debt; a train conductor wrecks a train while text messaging, now all conductors are banned from using cell phones while on duty; breast cancer rates continue to rise while government funding falls short, so private sources are pursued more than ever.
It’s time to take break the pattern of let’s-wait-and-see-what-happens. Small business owners need to implement proactive measures that will help their businesses remain fiscally sound. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Payment terms, communication methods, timelines, billing procedures, blah, blah, blah. What may seem mundane now can be hypercritical when potential clients walk through the door this afternoon. Is there a clause regarding disputes? What about litigation from end users? Reselling? These topics may not be pertinent for every company and client. The point is to address nearly every potential issue before they can become problems.
New clients are not usually aware of each providers’ methods and preferences, and are not likely to ask until problems are developing. Verbally prepare clients up front, have them read and sign company policies, and give them a copy signed by an account executive and client representative. It may also behoove many businesses to shore up all client files with a signed copy of updated policies.
Whether it is a survey rating customer satisfaction or a monthly email promotion, customers need to know they are important to a business. The best way to accomplish this feeling is to provide frequent communication.
Email communication can also be a point of contention for some clients. Businesses must gain explicit permission to add email addresses to their mailing lists. Otherwise it is spam. Spam creates mistrust. Using a contact management service, such as Constant Contact, is the best way to prevent unwanted emails from being delivered. Not a fan of emails Try sending thank you cards with a personal message. These days there are even companies that specialize in sending personal cards.
Revise business plans
As markets change so should business development strategies and operations. Americans are readily aware the nation is experiencing a credit crunch. This extends to large and small businesses. Applying for a business loan through a bank will take strenuous hours and is not likely, unless the business has near perfect credit and an owner has a stellar credit rating, but still not a guarantee. Consider the number of employees, marketing methods, stock on hand and other costly portions of a business. Low to no cost effective marketing may be key to saving many businesses bottom lines. Think outside of typical advertising methods.
- Consider cross business promotions. Capitalize on building a group of related businesses’ contact lists that have similar clientele.
- Blog about the benefits of unique services and products to improve website content and search engine rankings. Employees can contribute content during slow moments.
- Join a local group of business owners to make connections and possibly increase sales locally.
- Attend trade shows to develop relationships with industry professionals who can turn relationships into referrals.
- Business practices can also be taken outside the box. Adjust hours to work fewer days in the office to save on energy costs. Offer paid mileage to employees who make deliveries on the way to or from work. Most of all, assure that goals and methods align.
Every penny counts.