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Websites, a Slow Economy and a Leaking Roof?

I work downtown, and often I walk down Main Street to clear my head or get a bite. I have noticed more "For Rent" and "Going Out of Business" signs up lately. No big surprise, we watch the morning news over coffee and see all of the "Economic Crisis" headlines. I read in the paper that another local retailer, among many, was calling it quits today. So what does this mean to you and the other local business owners?

Some, if not most, will acknowledge that business has slowed down and its time to hunker down. Maybe cut costs or limit capital spending this quarter. This is a very reasonable response to our current economic situation, or is it? I had a client in the first part of 2008 tell me that his company was just too busy to deal with putting up a new website and that he needed to wait for the 4th quarter. I called him recently and was told that business was too slow now and they couldn't afford it, shame. I would have charged him a great deal less for the same job. I suppose some of his competitors are slow too, and some may close up for good. I know some of my smaller competitors have and will go away.

Consider this, if supply goes down (as a result of less competition) and demand is slightly less or stays the same, then demand for you actually goes up. If that is the case, wouldn't now be the best time to market to the folks who need a new service or product provider? Yes times are tough, but the reality is that people need stuff. Businesses need stuff. The healthy businesses that can weather the storm will still be here when its over. That being said, what better time to upgrade, market and capture the business from the folks left behind when your competition closes it's doors. Adjust pricing to what the market will tolerate, offer a larger, better product or service line and make your self more available to those consumers.

The web is a good place to start. Why not set the bar higher now, while there are very few new businesses starting up and more closing? When things are good, so is growth and growth means more competition. I know this sounds counter intuitive, spend when cash flow is down, but consider the end result of maintaining your existing client base, gaining some of your ex-competition's base and getting more customers through offering better and more accessible services on the web. I am not seeing a whole lot of new advertising right now and it seems like it should be more important than ever? Aside from the big box, discount stores very few local businesses are reaching out to potential customers. Ad prices are lower, web developers are bargaining and consumers are seeing their choices wither away in bankruptcy or closed doors.

A state of the art website would be a good way to get ahead of the new and inevitable competition that will be coming after the smoke clears and the economy stabilizes. I suppose you could wait until things start booming again, but you'll probably be too busy, plus the other guys will inundate the airwaves and the web with their new ads and websites driving the prices back up. If you're too busy to spend time on your marketing when you're busy and you're too broke to spend marketing dollars when its slow, then you must be content with your overall sales. Ever notice a small water stain on some one's ceiling? Most likely only a small leak, no big deal, after all it only rained a little last year. They are probably content to let it be since no real damage has occurred.

When I was younger, I put on roofs for a living. It was tough work but it paid well. I always dreaded the jobs we got during the rainy season. Folks would wait until it rained to call us up and complain about their roof leaking. When we got to the house, we almost always found several years of water damage to the ceiling or walls. Trying to fix a leaky roof in a rainstorm is next to impossible so why do folks wait until the ceiling is falling down to call, especially when we charged double for an emergency?

Being proactive in business before the roof comes down and doing the necessary things to set you apart from the competition will pay off when its busy or slow. Why not take advantage of a smaller playing field and lower marketing prices? Its easier to achieve an increase in brand awareness when there are fewer brands to choose from. This holds true on the web just as much as any other marketing medium. With more folks that know who you are and the higher you set the bar now, the more difficult and expensive it will be for new competition to challenge you in the future. It may not happen today or tomorrow but it will rain competition again, it always does.

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