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Monday, June 16, 2008

Vital Small Business Survival Advice via The Wall Street Journal

Posted by @ 6:03 am
Call it a “recession”, an “economic slowdown” or “market re-adjustment”, but either way, small business owners are bracing in the face of uncertain times, wondering which way to move to survive!

The Wall Street Journal via “The Journal Report: Small Business” shared some vital small business marketing tips from a recent discussion with Stefan Tornquist, research director of MarketingSherpa.

Stefan Tornquist took the opportunity to provide some key pointers for business operators to leverage “underused marketing channels” to improve their marketing performance in “a shaky economy”.

According to the survey MarketingSherpa conducted in Feb/Mar 2008, the majority of small businesses (those with fewer than 100 staff) are playing the “sit and wait” game. However, a large proportion of respondents see the current economic climate as an opportunity.

Tornquist points out, “that people who see the down economy as an opportunity aren’t spending their
money in the same way. They’re taking money out of traditional
advertising and direct-marketing campaigns and putting it online. That
was a movement that was already taking place, but the economy is
accelerating the trend.”

The article is a great read for all small business owners – whether you’re feeling the pinch or not. Here’s some excerpts from the interview that I feel are worth highlighting:

WSJ: What marketing strategies should small companies be looking at right now?

Tornquist: “I’m of the opinion that it’s a good time to increase a brand imprint…One of the greatest challenges for small companies is to make a name
for themselves, and a downturn actually provides an opportunity to do
that because it tends to suppress the branding activity. There’s
absolutely the opportunity to leapfrog competitors, especially if the
local leader is using the downturn to curtail their activities.

WSJ: But don’t online ads offer better bang for the buck and an
opportunity to jump ahead of other small companies that aren’t online
at all?

Tornquist: Definitely. Many small companies direly need to improve on
[marketing using search engines]. What we see with small organizations
is a lot of them have gotten into search marketing, but many of their
programs are quite limited… they have yet
to do the work to figure out what the highly converting search terms
[those that lead to sales] are. When you look at organic search [the
unpaid results that appear when someone types a phrase into a search
engine] and poke around in different industries, you find out that
smaller companies do not show up when they should.

A nice thing about online marketing is it’s cheaper
than offline. But the real advantage is it’s easy to analyze, and there
are many programs to help.”

WSJ: What about companies that simply have to cut their marketing budgets? Are there ways to save?

MR. TORNQUIST: “…Also, they should focus on increasing conversion [the number of hits on
the site that lead to actual sales],… Let’s say you’re an e-commerce site. You’re
probably experiencing something like 50% abandonment [of shopping-cart
items by shoppers]. A big part of that is caused by usability problems.
And copy [the text description of products] is still the No. 1 factor
in whether we buy or not. So companies should be conducting usability
testing and copy testing of their sites to see what changes lead to the
most conversions.”

The interview goes on to cover a range of other topics such as local marketing options, direct mail and the best way to find the balance between online and offline. Do yourself a favor and find out some options for you to improve your business’ prospects.

Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile

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