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Get Better Results in a Bad Economy

Stay focused on 3 business basics to withstand trouble times.

When rough economic times persist beyond just a temporary “blip,” it’s often enough to make embattled online sellers cry out, “BLEEP!”

Don’t lose your cool—bad times have come and gone many times before, and you and your business can survive. Rather than resign yourself to the notion that you have no choice but to shut down your online shop, discover instead the nuances of successfully selling amid a brutal economic storm.

When times get tough, tough sellers get creative. To help you adjust your perspective and redirect your course through the rocky waters, start with these tips to keep your business chugging along. You’ll likely emerge wiser and with potential to become even more successful in the long run.

Learn from other businesses around you

When times are tough, the sad news is that many businesses—especially small businesses—close down. According to recent statistics from the U.S. Small Business Association, up to 50 percent of new businesses close within their first year and, more concerning, up to 95 percent won’t last through their fifth year.

While there’s nothing to cheer about in these sobering statistics, you nevertheless need to see that this can serve as a winnowing of your potential competition. The small business industry is better when more businesses succeed, but there’s plenty for you to learn from the lessons of others. Pay careful attention to those small businesses that don’t make it, and see if there’s something you can glean to keep your business from running aground in similar fashion. Avoiding mistakes made by others is your first step to helping your business endure.

Stay optimistic, especially when competitors aren’t

While you don’t have to pretend times aren’t tough, you also needn’t forget that there are still people looking to purchase products—so serve them

Selling is a tough prospect in just about any market, good or bad. When times turn sour, though, some sellers succumb to the gloominess and begin to slack off in their sales and marketing efforts. Don’t let this happen to you! Instead, take this as your opportunity to reach out to customers who are being abandoned by the distraught competition. While you don’t have to pretend times aren’t tough, you also needn’t forget that there are still people looking to purchase products—so serve them.

Another key point in being optimistic is to share the good news about the products and services you offer. However, better than saying how much happier customers will be when they buy your products is when your own customers say it for you. Invite your customers to share their good experiences and ask about posting those as positive testimony. When times are tough, folks are looking for something to feel good about. Let your satisfied customers share how happy they are with their purchase. That is often enough to motivate others to buy and enjoy in similar fashion.

Feel your customers’ pain (It’s not always about price)

If one of the worst things a seller could do during tough times is to mark up prices, is one of the best things to do slash prices? Not always. While customers are driven to seek out the best prices for what they want, they’ve also become disappointed that a low price incurred, overall, lowers value in the end.

A lesser price, these days, has begun to indicate lower quality of the goods or services being offered. Heralding “free shipping” sometimes comes at the cost of long waits and damaged goods due to a cut-rate packing and delivery method. So while you do want to remain competitive on the matter of pricing, you should first see about heralding quality goods backed by reliable customer service. The market can often bear a slightly higher price when it’s accompanied by clear information about a product or service, easy methods of orders with several options for delivery, and responsive customer interaction via phone or email.

Price is certainly a pain point for customers today but end-to-end value of the purchasing experience—before, during and after the transaction has taken place—is a top matter you can address to sustain your sales without slashing prices to razor-thin profit margins. Remove the pain of disappointment for your customers, and they’ll come to find every dollar they spend with you is a best value for their money.

Your best way to keep sales going strong in tough times is to show you understand what your customers want

Stay in control

Most of all, resist getting sucked into the “woe is me” mentality when the economy stumbles and struggles. Even in the worst of times, customers are still buying. Your job is to figure out what they’re buying and, more importantly, why they’re buying.

When it comes to tradeoffs in the customers’ minds—”Should I buy this or that with my available funds?”—you need to understand the total picture of what they’re shopping for. Keep your perspective on the positive side, invite customers to provide feedback about the sort of experience they’re seeking, and see if you can meet them on their ground, or somewhere in the middle.

Your best way to keep sales going strong in tough times is to show you understand what your customers want. When other sellers have tucked tail and run for cover when the economic storm is overhead, stand strong and continue to find new ways to serve your customers—and new customers who may be underserved now. Develop an ongoing relationship with your customers and they’ll often continue to support you to ensure you don’t go out of business, too.

No doubt, keeping your business afloat is no simple task. Even so, when you focus on basics of service, quality and responsiveness, you stand the best chance to withstand the trouble times. Keep the faith, keep up the positive spirit and keep the customer in the forefront of your mind. When you do, you’ll develop a customer community that also keeps you and your business in the forefront of their minds, each helping the other to get back to better times.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Scott

    My season runs September to May, I am glad to have the time to work on projects that have been putting off all year.

  • Great advises, I agree with your comments and tactics !

  • bagsarus123

    I agree with you   at all times serve your customers the best product and be aware of the proper business person who keeps going through good and bad  that is the real business person.
    I always think of the thrill the person gets when he or she opens  a parcel filled with more quality than they ever expected   This is what makes me continue through thick and thin

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