With the economy still undergoing a lot of uncertainty, rather than throwing in the towel at your small business, especially if you are in services, you can instead extend the same principles the environmentalists recommend – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – to what you offer clients and keep the dollars rolling in.
The strategy of reducing doesn’t just apply to the office products you use or how much space you occupy; you need to also look at how to reduce what you offer without taking away from your value proposition. That means never reducing your price, but instead looking at ways to chop up what you do, so that clients can still buy from you while leaving your value proposition untouched.
For example, depending on the work you do, instead of covering the whole project from soup to nuts, you might do the front-end planning while they supply the labor and premises to execute the tasks. Or, they gather the information and then you come in at the back-end to do the analysis and provide the recommendations. The beauty of reducing is that it still leaves you performing the higher-perceived-value tasks out of your overall offering. It doesn’t mean you can’t do entire projects if clients still have the budgets; of course you can! But for those customers who are cutting back, you can tailor to the funds available. As they say, no-one is ever remembered for their prices but they are for their value.
This leads to the second part of the formula, Re-use. In this case, while you can go on making good use of your paper clips over and over, it also means looking outside your four walls for ways that can help your clients. One form of “re-use” is putting people to work that your clients might otherwise have to lay off. Perhaps a client has always wanted to undertake a major nationwide survey, but has never had the budget? Or, they want to do some business development work but didn’t have the feet on the street? Rather than paying the much higher costs, which include markups, to an outside firm such as yours, they instead have you act as manager of an in-house team and put their surplus people plus your expertise to work. This way, your client will see you as even more indispensable to their business while the customer teams you manage will get the job done.
Even if you’re already recycling waste paper and other items at the office, you need to also look at how to recycle past work you have done for clients. While any such initiatives must avoid betraying client confidentiality, especially if you have signed agreements to this effect, by taking the generic parts of existing client work, perhaps even from past work for several clients, and finding ways to recycle these as products you can sell, you will meet two goals. One is, you will generate some revenue and two, you will have found another way to introduce prospective customers to your services. You might want to bring out a series of reports or your First Annual Survey of X about a market in which you do a lot of work; if you have done such work over the last 12 to 24 months for large corporate clients, finding ways to recycle this information to small businesses will introduce you to a market segment that you might normally not serve.
While no one likes a shaky economy, by using the 3 Rs to your advantage, you will be better able to weather the storms and position yourself for the fourth R – Recovery – when that happens!
Copyright Deborah C. Sawyer