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Winning new business when business is difficult to win

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A sharp downturn in the economy may not appear the most opportune time to push ahead with plans to attract new business.

It is true that holding on to existing customers is a priority when sales and credit are under threat. Winning a new customer is more expensive than keeping an old one even when the economic skies are bright blue rather than stormy grey. Which is why a business should do all it can to add extra value to the relationships it has with good, dependable customers.


That said, businesses should consider resisting the understandable temptation in periods of recession to cut back on their marketing efforts in the name of cost saving.

By all means assess the effectiveness of your current marketing strategies, perhaps adjusting the allocation of budgets to less expensive forms of advertising. But to reduce your business to invisibility by abandoning all forms of promotion and marketing can be self-defeating and can make the effects of a recession self-fulfilling.

Avoid narrowing the focus of your marketing drive, too. If your budget allows, employ a reasonably wide variety of methods to promote your business. Apart from traditional mainstream media – newspapers, trade publications, radio, all of which may be amenable to negotiations on rate cards now that times are tougher – investigate how you can develop alternative channels to reach your audience.

Online advertising, email campaigns, local PR, networking groups, setting up agreements with complimentary businesses to use their websites for referrals, and posting on trade website forums are all worth exploring and are all relatively inexpensive.

Be stringent and consistent in mapping, measuring and monitoring your campaigns too. Drop those that are failing to deliver many leads, put more effort into those that are producing better results. Then analyse the leads to find out if they are of a good quality.


Simply because potential customers you have targeted or contacted in the past did not convert into new business doesn’t mean they won’t now. They might well have been interested but did not buy as they had no need of your service or product at that specific moment.

So revisit your database, mine it for old leads and re-target them. It might be a good idea to ask your existing customers what it is they value about you, why and how they buy from you, and use that information to hone and refine your marketing message to attract those dormant contacts.

Examine your place in the market

Some effective self-analysis never goes amiss. Isolate the reasons why your customers come to you for their goods or services – is it because you are a specialist in a generalist market, is it because you deliver your service in a way that matches their own specific needs, is it because you fit in with trends in the market, is it because you are competitive on price, is it because you are unstinting on quality – and emphasise these when advertising to similar, new customers.

It is important to remember that the customers you don’t have far outnumber those that you do. Even in a recession.