10 Simple Ideas to Help Your Business

“How is the job hunting going?” I asked my friend Jane.

“Well, nobody EVER hires during the holidays, so there’s no point in looking. Actually, I’m kind of hoping I can get my unemployment benefits extended.”

If my dad had heard that, he would have had a fit. He strongly believed that having a job was a moral obligation. “Nobody has a ‘right to work,'” he often said to my brother, my sister, and me, “and nobody owes you a job. So get out there and sell yourself!” (And this was a pretty surprising attitude considering the tough working-class area in Northern England he came from, where the right to work was woven into the fabric of society.)

Throughout their lives, my parents felt that it was entirely up to them to make their own way in the world – even when that world seemed to be crumbling down around them.

I remember the year my dad had a devastating stroke that left him seriously incapacitated. My mum’s part-time, seasonal hotel cleaning job had finished for the year, and times were tough. But I also remember my parents’ sense of optimism and their determination to succeed, no matter what. The tougher things seemed to get, the more my parents “went out there” and doubled their efforts to find work.

My mum posted handwritten cards offering her cleaning services in the local newspaper office and in “7-11” type corner shops in our neighborhood. She took an evening job working in a cafe.

My dad started on his dual road to recovery and employment by advising on building and plumbing jobs. He also helped out at his doctor’s surgery, local churches, and businesses – and wasn’t shy about making sure people knew he had 40-plus years of experience as a plumber and builder.

Somehow, together, they made ends meet.

How This Can Help You and Your Business

In tough economic times – like right now – you may have fewer new customers or your existing customers may be more cautious about spending. Worse, you may feel that there’s nothing you can do.

As unfair as it may seem, you’re on your own. Nobody is going to give you a bailout, nobody owes you a thing, and you have no right to anything except that which you create.

That sounds tough but it’s actually quite liberating – because you have full control over the direction you take with your business. What you decide to do is entirely up to you.

So my suggestion is to follow my dad’s advice and make this one of your New Year’s resolutions: “Get out there and sell yourself!” Use every means and every channel at your disposal to market your business and create new sales opportunities.

Here are 10 things you can do – starting today…

1. If you are marketing only online, start using offline channels. That includes sending postcards, printed letters, flyers, newsletters, and catalogs by regular “snail mail.”

2. If you don’t have an Internet presence, it’s time to get one. You can start by placing an ad on Google – so when people search for keywords related to your product or service, your ad will be displayed.

3. Start thinking of “online” and “offline” as two different yet complementary marketing channels. Realize that both should be part of your overall marketing strategy. We know from experience that marketing through multiple channels is the most effective way to build a business.

For example, you could send a postcard or letter informing prospects to watch for a special e-mail you will send on a specific date. Or you could send an e-mail telling them to watch for a special letter you will mail to them in the next week. This kind of multi-channel approach is what Michael Masterson and MaryEllen Tribby outline in their groundbreaking book Changing the Channel. If you haven’t yet read it, order it today.

4. Pick up the phone. It’s easy to sit behind a computer and fire off e-mails. But in an ever-more-disconnected world, people appreciate personal touches. Call your best customers to thank them. Check to make sure that they are getting the most out of their product or subscription, and take that opportunity to inform them about other products or services on offer.

5. Upsell. The moment someone places an order… that’s when they are most likely to make another purchase. You can take advantage of this by offering items related to what they just bought.

For example, offer a notebook to everyone who buys a pen from you, a multi-vitamin to everyone who buys an herbal supplement from you, an e-book to everyone who subscribes to your investment service. (You get the idea.) Doing this can greatly increase your average sale or transaction value.

6. Start e-mail marketing. Create a free report with useful information that will attract potential customers. For example, if you sell bathroom fixtures, offer a free report about planning a bathroom renovation or how to give a bathroom a Victorian look. Anything to give you a reason to start a new sales dialog with people.

Then place an ad for this free report on your website. You can use an autoreply service – such as aweber.com or getresponse.com  – to send out the report automatically.

7. Buy remnant advertising space. If you want to increase your marketing activities without increasing your advertising spending, you need to start buying remnant space. Most newspapers and magazines have unsold space that they have to sell before they can go to print. You can get a 20 percent, 50 percent, even a 95 percent discount on this “last-minute” space and save yourself a fortune.

8. Turn every transaction into a marketing opportunity. When the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) started allowing companies to advertise on the plastic bins at airport security checkpoints, they turned what had been purely a transactional activity (sending people through the screener) into a marketing opportunity.

How could you do that in your business? Could you print product info on your invoices – or include a flyer about a special offer in the envelope?

9. Test your prices. When sales are slow, business owners often think that offering discounts is the best strategy. But it may not be. The only way to know for sure is to test the price of your wares. You may even find that by bundling products and services together – and throwing in a few free reports – you could end up selling the entire package for more than you got by selling those items individually.

10. Offer free workshops and classes. There’s nothing quite like meeting customers and prospects in person. It helps you forge strong relationships and increase your chances of future sales. One way to do this is to offer free workshops and classes. Going back to one of my earlier examples… if you sell bathroom fixtures, you could have free tiling workshops or classes on how to do simple plumbing repairs. And you would not only provide attendees with practical information, you would also give advice and refer to the products and services you sell.

The New Year is full of opportunity. What you do with that opportunity is up to you. There’s never been a better time to test and try new ideas and new angles – never a better time to “Get out there and sell yourself!”

My best wishes for a Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

[Ed. Note: For a step-by-step blueprint to starting your own business – from setting up a website to creating products to writing sales copy and more – sign up for ETR’s Internet Money Club. You’ll have weekly contact with ETR’s team of marketing and business-building experts – including David Cross, MaryEllen Tribby, and Brian Edmondson. And if you don’t have a fully functioning business by the end of 2009, ETR will build one for you. Space is limited for this exclusive club.]