Contrarian view? Absolutely not. The best time to strike is when your competitors are off guard. While they gather in their conference rooms to complain about the economy, use this golden opportunity to reach out to your existing customers and find new prospects.

Far too many business owners absolutely take the wrong approach. They hunker down, cut marketing budgets and pull back. The end result is "unattended customers" and less competition for you. Businesses that cut marketing budgets also demotivate their best salespeople, which start spending more time thinking about getting a new job than a new customer.

Economic downturns are an excellent time to strengthen your relationships with both your existing customers and your competitors' customers. Odds are, they are not as busy. Are they willing to spend a little more time with you? Very possible so get in touch with them and consider the following:

  • Collect testimonials: Asking for a testimonial is a contact with your customer that's not a sales call. Tell them you would like to promote the testimonial and link it to their website, which will promote them as well. Use the opportunity to show your customers you value their opinion, your business relationship, and their business (i.e., dynamic websites, blogs, Scribd, PR news, etc.);
  • Survey your customers: Create an opportunity to collect feedback and discuss services and/or products you offer that they may not be fully aware of or completely understand (i.e., email marketing, custom website landing pages, etc.);
  • Network: Introduce your customers to people in your network that they consider prospects and ask to meet their business colleagues and associates – an excellent source of referrals (i.e., LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, etc.), and
  • Use your "consulting" skills: Help your customers and prospects save time and money by providing pertinent industry news and educational materials that will help them compete during these difficult times (i.e., email newsletters, white papers and custom publications all have high ROIs).

But don't be fooled. There is also new competition for you – competition from << Continued on digital AIM >>

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