Is Your Business Ready for 2003?

By: Kimberly Stevens

Anyone who owned a business in the U.S. in 2002 knows the difficulties that a poor economy can cause. Even those in other countries who may have operated under better economic conditions last year have or will experience downturns in business.

Well, 2002 is over, so how do you regroup to face 2003 with optimism and a fresh game plan? That was the topic of discussion in my recent coaching session with Denise.

“The economy can’t possibly be as terrible this year as it was last year, can it?" she asked. “I mean, I’m really struggling to get new jobs from my current clients much less bring on new clients."

“Well, it does seem like the economy is taking a longer time to rebound than anyone expected, so let’s see what we might be able to do to shore up your business during this down time."

During the rest of our conversation, we set a new agenda focused on strengthening relationships with current clients, further distinguishing herself from her competitors, and approaching segments of her target market that she’d never really considered.

By strengthening her relationships with her current clients, she is ensuring that they will return to her when things do pick up instead of hiring some writer they’ve recently met who was more in the forefront of their mind.

By focusing on identifying more ways to distinguish herself from her competitors, she is making sure that if she does get the opportunity to make her pitch to a business that is hiring now, they will be more apt to hire her over her competition.

But, the most significant way you and Denise can get new business coming in the door now is to identify and approach segments of your target market that you’ve previously ignored.

People and businesses haven’t completely stopped spending money, but many have cut back significantly. Your job is to find those that are still hiring people to provide the service you sell.

You can do this by focusing in on one or two market segments within your target market and really going after them. Segments are smaller groups that fall within the larger label “target market."

Let’s say your target market is “business owners." Well, there are a lot of industries represented within the group called “business owners." And finding, reaching, and pitching your services to each one takes a different approach.

The “business owner" group could include:

* freelance writers* caterers

* interior designers* florists

* house cleaners* doctors

* landscape planners* recruiters

* accountants* architects

* massage therapists* dry cleaners

And, I’m sure you’d agree that these people do not likely belong to the same networking groups, read the same national publications, attend the same annual conferences, or buy the same support services. Additionally, they don’t have the same needs or care about the same things.

If you go out into the marketplace in an attempt to reach “business owners" with one marketing message, nobody in the group is going to hear the specific message they want to hear – “what’s in it for me?" It’s impossible to answer that question for all the diverse groups that make up the whole category of “business owners."

So, what’s your target market and can you identify segments within it that might represent new opportunities for you in 2003? And, further, how can you locate, approach, and sell to them? Take some time to think about it this afternoon. It will be well worth your investment.

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