Marketing in a down economy

When the economy sours, a firm needs to modify its marketing and client development activities to deal with the new realities. When business slows down, accountants may tend to hide in their offices, ignore the outside world, and hope that business will improve. However, consider this an opportune time to put some extra effort into your marketing and client development activities. Here are a few things to consider when the economy is in the dumps.

Add value
Show your existing clients that you really care about their business by adding value wherever possible. In some cases, it is the little things that matter, like responding to email and telephone calls promptly. In other cases, you may have to give a little on fees, swallow some expenses or provide a “freebee” or two. When things are slow, clients look for greater value from all of their service providers. Do not give them a reason to find a new accounting firm because you are reluctant to bend a bit on your fees or services.

Reconfigure your services
A service that sold well in an expanding economy may not do as well in a down economy. Look at your service offerings and see how they could be changed or repackaged to make them more attractive in this situation.

Upgrade or develop a website
If your firm has a website, spend time thinking about how it can be made more effective and take steps to upgrade it. The key to making your website interesting and attractive is the quality of the information you provide. If you don’t have a website, set one up and be sure to add your website address to your letterhead and business cards. A web presence is not limited to the large players that can invest a great deal to promote their firm on the web. A relatively simple site can offer a little history, a list of services provided, and an email address and telephone number for direct contact.

Keep in touch with former clients
Do not just call past clients looking for new business — send them something of value such as a report, survey results, an article of interest or other information, and then follow up to discuss it. You will get a much better reception than if you simply telephone to prospect for work.

Attend to your prospect list
A down economy is no time to forget about your prospective clients. Just don’t spend a lot of time trying to sell and persuade. Instead, spend most of your time providing information — hands-on material that your prospects can really use. These types of activities will keep your name in front of the prospect and also help communicate the value that you offer.

Broadcast your message
When business is slow, you need to get your name, your message, and your ideas out there for prospects and clients to see and hear. Giving a talk to a professional or industry group or conference at least twice a year will spread your name around and start generating some very good leads in short order. This may be the highest leverage marketing activity you can undertake in a down economy.

Renew your marketing efforts
Marketing during difficult economic times is always tough. But cutting back on your marketing efforts is the opposite of what you should be doing. When things are slow, use the time to review and re-energise your marketing efforts. While the suggestions above may require some creative thought, effort and money, they will help ensure the future growth of your firm.

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