Bad news: We’re officially in a recession.
Worse news: It’s not likely that things will get much better any time soon.
Good news: If you’re running a small business and are passionate about persevering and succeeding in this tough economy it is absolutely positively possible to do.
It’s definitely not easy. Believe me, I’ve seen how hard it is for small companies to survive during a down economic cycle when I was a venture investor and even more so as an entrepreneur myself as the founder of Work It, Mom!. Your customers start spending less money and there are less of them. Your suppliers want to get paid sooner. The free barter deals you might have struck with other partners – say, getting some free web design work in return for some of your own services or products – might not be so free any more, as other small businesses you’re working with need to charge for their services to make ends meet. It’s tough.
But it’s not impossible and I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned along the way to help your keep your small business going and perhaps even growing during this difficult time:
Focus, focus, focus. This is good advice at all times but particularly when things are tough. If you’re selling several products, focus on just those which are selling well and are profitable for you. If you’re trying to reach a broad audience with your website see if you can make your audience target much more specific .
Spend less money. The less money you spend the longer runway your business has to make it through the tough times. Take a really hard look at all of your expenses and evaluate whether there are some you can cut. Anything that is not essential should go, but be careful to not cut things that are key to your business. For example, be careful when cutting your marketing expenses during this time – sure, you want to save money, but you also need to continue to bring in new business. Look at office, travel, supplies expenses first.
Negotiate reduced rates. If you use suppliers for your business this is the time to re-negotiate what you pay them. Most would rather keep you as a client who is paying them less than lose you entirely. You might not find this easy to do but do it anyway.
Get creative with free marketing. Marketing is the key to your business, to finding new clients. But when you don’t have a ton of money to spend on marketing, you have to get creative. You know those barter deals that might be tough to keep? Seek out new partners for them. For example, if you sell things on your website find another site with a similar audience and offer to exchange free advertising. Find sites and online communities, like Work It, Mom! for example, where you could contribute tips and articles that contain a link to your site or product. Find blogs which target your audience and get involved by commenting – although never ever just leave a comment to promote your business.