I googled “time of political unknowns” this morning, and I found all sorts of articles written by very sophisticated professional marketers who were expounding on the business wisdom of not cutting marketing dollars in a recession. On the other side the small business owners were doubting the integrity of these opinions from people also hunting new business in tough times. Amid all of the pontificating by experts and the predictable backlash from the skeptics, I was struck by this simple statement from a blogger:

“Dumb business owners think they are in the business of their product of service.

Smart business owners realize they’re in the business of marketing their product or service.”

How profound! Often the simplest statement is the essence of the big debate.

If you see the wisdom in that statement, but you also side with the skeptics in the above controversy “To Market or Nor To Market” in tough times, one might construe the following statement:

“Things are tough these days, so I decided to cut my sales…” Need I say more?

So what is smart? Marketing smart. You are in the business of attracting customers to buy your product or service. Here are some suggestions:

Use direct marketing, the measurable media. By utilizing mail, telemarketing, e-mail or texting, you are contacting a finite number of prospects. You are, thus, able to accurately measure your response and your return on investment, unlike newspapers, billboards, TV and radio.

Stand out from the crowd. Be noticed in the mailbox. As we neared the end of the “boom times”, our customers continually told us they didn’t want to mail anymore – too much competition in the mailbox, response is down. So if everyone else is cutting back, now is the time to give mailing a try again. There will surely be fewer pieces of mail to compete with in the mailbox.

Don’t be ruled by fear. Everyone says, “No one’s buying anything. Everyone is scared.” Really? I was at the mall the weekend of Presidents’ Day and the parking lot was packed! President’s Day Sales. We have become a nation of bargain hunters practically overnight. We are watching what we spend, but we can’t resist a bargain. Offer them “a deal they can’t refuse”.

Your present customers are your company’s biggest asset. Every business owner knows it. I know it, but in the scramble for that hard-fought new business, I forget to continually emphasize that principle to my sales force. The cost of a new customer is so much greater, so don’t forget these overlooked buyers right there is your database. Pay attention to them. Probably nobody else is, and we all love attention.

Be the company your customers can depend on and tell them so.

Appeal to their emotional needs by pointing out that your company is here to help them by providing the same quality products or service at a reasonable (or better) price (depending on how the math works out for your business). Ask what you can do for them.

And above all, stay positive. The message you send in your marketing may just be the confidence the consumer needs to make that buying decision. Your choice of words should subconsciously convey strength and stability to the reader. We’re all searching for that feeling anywhere we can find it today. And if you convey a positive, calm attitude, you and your sales staff will definitely close more sales.