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Is it time for cheap tricks?

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Steve Strauss
Friday, May 15, 2009

So, what’s working for your business? It’s not an insignificant question, that’s for sure. With Oregon unemployment the second highest in the nation, finding and keeping customers is harder than ever.

Go to any retail area around Portland, or a main street in any rural community in Eastern Oregon and all of the “for rent” signs are potent reminders of those small businesses that never did figure out the answer to the question posed above.

For many businesses the answer is discounting. I know that's true for mine. I am in the business of selling content, and whether it is an article, a webinar, a speech or whatever, we are not commanding, nor are we asking for the sorts of prices we got even a year ago. And it’s working.

Of course, discounting your prices is a strategy that must be undertaken carefully. Cut too much and it could kill your brand or cannibalize your other offerings. But that said, it is equally true that right now it’s a buyer’s market out there.

Another thing that often works for small businesses in an economy like this is increased marketing, as counter-intuitive as that may sound. Because customers are in fact looking for a bargain these days, especially here in Oregon, loyalty is rare. So you need to keep getting new customers to replace those that are going to leave, and you also need to nab some of those who are looking for greener pastures.

Increased marketing allows you to do both of those things.

And it need not cost a fortune. Whether it is increased Internet marketing or a discount coupon, shoestring marketing works.

So what’s working for you?

Steve Strauss is the small business columnist for Oregon Business.

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