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Monday, July 27, 2009

6 Ways to Grow, Despite the Downturn

By: Lesley Spencer Pyle

The good news in this economy is that people are still spending, and they'll continue to do so. Businesses still produce their products and deliver services. So what can you do as a home-based business owner to make sure you're not left out?

Don't cut prices. Avoid the temptation to discount products and services in competitive environments. It can erode your profit and, ultimately, your brand. After all, if you cut your prices, does that mean you were charging too much in the first place? Price-cutting can also give the impression that you're desperate, which doesn't breed confidence. Plus, if you cut prices, your customers may sit around waiting for further discounts before buying.

Adjust marketing tactics. Increase your marketing efforts, even if you don't increase your advertising budget. While it may cost you additional time, you'll find that the investment pays off. "Initially, (the economy's downturn) was why I turned to Twitter and Facebook," says Sherri Morris, president of Digi Time Capsule LLC. "I was not real big on the social networking, as I had tried MySpace, but have found that Facebook and Twitter offer a much better atmosphere."

Ignore the doomsayers. Sometimes it pays to ignore all predictions of doom and gloom, and operate with full confidence. "I'm not doing business any differently," says Kassandra Vaughn, CEO of ROI Coaching. "I don't consider this a lean time. I know that some of the greatest, most successful businesses are resulting out of these times and I consider ROI Coaching to be one of them. We're a one-stop location for virtual and audio coaching, and our demand in the marketplace has not changed."

Add value. Just about every small business can find some way of adding value to its existing product or service. Consider adding a new line or service that costs less than your current offering. Consider adding free gift wrapping, a small bonus gift or a discount for a longer contract.

"I'm always looking for new ways to increase the value we offer our clients and customers," Vaughn says. "If you sell a service, bundle more features into the same price so customers get more and you add more value to your offering. You can also bundle complementary products together."

Find a mentor. Another option to survive tough times is to get help from people who have experienced the same struggles. There are volunteer programs such as SCORE, which is composed of mostly retired executives and entrepreneurs. There also are formal mentoring programs, such as the Athena Foundation and Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program. Or look into professional organizations such as the National Women's Business Council.

Form partnerships. Now may be the best time to look for innovative partnerships and collaborations. Think beyond link exchanges and be creative. If you're a baby planner, look for ways to partner with a company that makes baby announcements or unique baby toys. Could you bundle gifts and services together? Take time this week to look into and start mutually beneficial partnerships.

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Cathy Harris is an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Self-Publishing and Business Coach.