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Posted: February 24, 2009

How to develop business in a down economy

Why a positive attitude is one of your most important tools

Cindy Rold

Every day, the newspapers are full of stories about the weak economy.  You may have even experienced a downturn in business yourself. Two common reactions to a slowdown are: to hibernate and completely avoid networking and business development or to come on too strong out of desperation. Neither is effective. 

So what is effective in this economy? 

First and most important is to maintain a positive attitude. A positive attitude will allow you to engage in appropriate and effective actions and will keep you out of the downward fear spiral. Release your fear, focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want, and spend time nurturing and developing your relationships.

Recognize that a slowing of business gives you the opportunity to get back to basics and to focus on your relationships. You no longer have the excuse of “I don’t have time.” You now have more time to meet with people, call them and stay in touch. You have time to attend industry meetings, write an article or give a talk. 

Here are a few other specific actions you can take to engage in business development and strengthen your relationships, which will ultimately lead to business:

Make a contribution to others every day. A contribution means doing or sharing something that enhances another person’s business or personal life. You’re not giving with the thought of, “If I do this for Person A, she’ll give me business.” Instead, you’re doing it with an attitude of selflessness. Call a client to ask how they are being affected by the down economy. Send an article about a subject the person is interested in. Write a note to thank the person for something – or maybe just a "thinking of you" note to someone who has been laid off.

Get closer to your clients. Meet with your clients and learn more about their businesses and how they are doing in the current economy. If most of your communication is done via e-mail or by phone, this is a perfect opportunity to meet in person (without charge). Ask for feedback on your services. 

Identify your ideal client. It’s surprising how many people can’t precisely identify their ideal client. Figure out the characteristics of your ideal client so people you know can mentally scan their contact list and think of people they know who meet your description. Once you have that clear description, share it with everyone, including your closest friends and family members. Don’t assume they know what you do and who you do it for, because they probably don’t know.

Attend and make the most of gatherings. In the current economy, you may have the time to attend events you chose to pass on before because you were “too busy.” These include business networking events, social gatherings and even your kids’ activities. Prepare before going, and ask questions to turn conversations towards business activities and needs. Don’t sell, just look for ways to contribute and be helpful. 

Get involved. Join and actively participate in the industry or professional groups frequented by your ideal clients. Look for ways to make a contribution to the group by volunteering (sitting at the registration desk at meetings is an excellent way to meet people), getting involved in committees or serving on the board.  

Speak and write. Once you know what groups your ideal clients belong to, find out how to speak at their local, regional or national events and write for their print and electronic publications. Before you speak or write, ask your clients or potential clients for their input. Invite them to attend the speech. After you speak or write, send a synopsis or a copy of the article to your contact list with a personal note. 

Implement your marketing plan. Even in a down economy, you won’t have time to implement every one of these suggestions. Select a few that best fit your business, industry and personality. If you need some help devising or implementing a personal plan, a coach can help. Create metrics to track your progress and success, such as call two contacts a week, send four notes a week or meet with a referral source every week.

Many businesses are being affected in some way by this economy. Take heart in knowing you are not alone. Maintain a positive attitude, take action, and concentrate on building relationships with prospects, clients, and referral sources, and you will position yourself to receive business not only today, but well into the future.

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Cindy Rold, JD, is a success coach, professional speaker, and co-author of 99 Networking Nuggets and The Networking Gurus News, a comprehensive monthly list of business networking events in the Denver metro area. She can be reached at 303-734-9776 or cindy@cindyrold.com. Visit her website at http://www.thenetworkinggurus.com.

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