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What To Do When Customers Aren’t Buying

Few things are more exhilarating than starting a business and watching it grow. Finally, it seems as though all your creative talents, energy and passions have been directed into one profitable venture! You’ve said goodbye to the predictable 9-to-5 existence and your dreams have taken on a life of their own. Yet, there comes a time for many small business owners when the market changes, the tide turns, and the profits suddenly dry up. Before throwing in the towel, you’ve got to do what you can to keep the business afloat, if at all possible. Here are a few bold moves you can make if the customers aren’t biting and business is not going as you’d hoped.


Adjust Your Business: Find The Money!

Sometimes the money dries up in your primary market. For instance, Zor Gorelov of SpeechCycle began marketing his automated call center software to printer companies who needed support, but he found that the thin profit margins for these call centers prevented them from investing. By contrast, targeting Internet providers like Comcast was much more profitable.


Tailor Your Product Offerings.

While product development can be a costly venture, look for easy ways to customize your products to sell what consumers want to buy (rather than what you want to sell.) For Gorelov, there was an opportunity to begin selling software as an online service, rather than sell software licenses the old-fashioned way. Customer surveys are cheap and easy to do, so find out what you may be lacking – and deliver!


Start Wheeling and Dealing.

Make your target market an offer they can’t refuse. “We started out with a per-minute model like everyone else,” Gorelov told INC Magazine. However, SpeechCycle soon switched to charge only for calls that are successfully resolved through the automated system. “We don’t get paid if the customer starts pounding zero, or calling for an operator, or if they just hang up,” he explains. Value-based pricing is a great way to stand out from the competition.


Get A Foot In The Door.

There is a saying in business that you can either take the “Foot in the door” or the “Door in the face” approach. You risk getting a door slammed in your face if you put the most expensive offer on the table right away and hope for the best – or let the customer bargain you down. On the other hand, other companies take a “foot in the door” approach, where they offer a free trial offer to get people to try them out, hoping to bring them on as paid customers when the trial period is up. With a low-risk sample or trial, many more customers may be willing to give your company a try. 


Improve Efficiency.

If your business is suffering, it’s a great time to take a look at your expense sheet and internal processes to see how processes can be improved for better efficiency. Rather than rushing to cut hours or make other rash decisions that might hinder customer service or innovation, why not offer a contest that awards the employee with the best idea to improve efficiency and cut operating expenses? You’d be surprised by what ground-breaking ideas can come up. Many CEOs make this a common practice. For instance, Andrew Schuman of Hammond’s Candies gives out $50 bonuses for the best cost-cutting ideas; Jared Heyman of Infosurv gives out $150 restaurant gift cards and $100 cash rewards on a quarterly basis; and Mike Hall of Borrego Solar Systems offers two quarterly cash prizes of $500 for the best business innovations.


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