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Marketing strategies can only go so far and methods that have worked in the past do not necessary work today.  One fact remains through time is that people choose to do business with those they know, like and trust, so building strong relationships is the key to finding and keeping loyal clients.

Following through on commitments made is essential to building relationships of trust. Besides finding out and responding to your customers’ needs and wants, aim to become a trusted advisor – a business your customers can depend on time and time again.

Building strong relationships based on trust takes time and effort but the rewards are well worth the investment.  Create different opportunities to connect with your customers, show them that you remember their details and preferences, and genuinely care to make them happy.  Over time, you will build solid and trusting relationships that will not only increase your business but also enrich your personal life.

Never use marketing to solve operational problems! Before spending your tight budget on marketing efforts, you should always ensure that the problem is not with your operations first.  Before you spend your money, ask yourself “What’s the problem with my business?” If you can identify that the problem lies with your operations, it can usually be repaired for far less than a new marketing blitz will cost you.

Ask difficult questions and find honest answers about the operations of your business.  Know that a successful marketing campaign that encourages people to purchase your product or service, only to find that the product or service is faulty or the service delivery is poor, will hurt your business in the long run through negative word of mouth. 

So next time before you consider a new marketing plan aimed at boosting sales or countering a downturn in business, remember that you can’t throw money at an operational problem and hope to fix it that way.  You will first need to make sure that your products and/or services are good, your processes and equipment run smoothly and your staff are knowledgeable and helpful. 

When you become the "first business" that customers think of first when they have a need or serious problem that must be fixed, you would be in a good position to increase sales revenue with very little marketing.

So becoming the "first business" should be your highest business priority.  

To become the "first business", you will need to focus on customer service before a customer becomes a customer.  That means to go above and beyond everyone else from the first initial phone call or meeting to ongoing prompt and professional resolution of issues.  You will need to be willing to sit down and listen to your customers and be able to communicate in simple language that your customers can understand.  To solve your customers' problem, you will need to develop expert knowledge about your product and/or service, your competitors and your customers.  Most importantly, you will need to consistently connect with your customers on a personal and professional level.  

If you implement these strategies, you will soon find out that you are the "first business" that customers will think of and call upon.

Having satisfied customers may not be good enough, especially in tough economic times. You need "loyal” customers. Satisfied customers are still willing to do business with your competitors, but loyal customers will only do business with you. Your loyal customer should be about 50% to 75% of your customer base.

To get loyal customers, you need to keep on asking your satisfied customers if there's anything else you can do for them then ask them to refer you to their friends and colleagues once they become your loyal customers.

To keep your loyal customers, you need to go out of your way for them, under promise and over deliver and offer them benefits. Most importantly, don't oversell, always show them that you have their best interests at heart and connect with them regularly.

A slow market can be tough on small businesses and it's likely that you don’t have a lot of room to cut costs for your business.  So what can you do?  

You may want to consider offering a temporary discount.  This should help to convince those people who are sitting on the fence to pull out their wallets and make the purchase. Some extra sales can bring testimonials, positive word of mouth, and more.  

You can take some time to contact some recent propsect who didn't buy your product and/or service and to find out the reasons why they didn't.  Ask them what the barriers to purchase were for them. Was your price just a bit to high? Did they not believe your testimonials? Did they misunderstand your guarantee? Were there problems with your web site or did they have trouble locating the information/product/service?  If you can find out what some key barriers to purchase are for your business, you can get to work on fixing them. Remember to always thank you for their feedback with a free gift of a nominal value or a discount/special coupon.

This is the best time to review your advertising strategy and investment.  By taking a different approach to promoting your business you may learn something new that can be used to your advantage in the future. Your email campaign might uncover a new target demographic that you hadn’t consideredand your door-to-door sales efforts might teach you more about the composition of your community.  If you’re not seeing results from your current marketing efforts, a change in tactics may produce a more positive result or at the very least, you will usually learn something new about promoting your business through different marketing tactics.

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