Every economy and every business has its ups and downs. The trick to weathering the storms successfully is to be prepared for them.

Reactivate dormant accounts

The quickest and easiest way to do this is to sit down with your list of past customers, call them, say hello, and see what's going on. Don't make this a hard sell call, just a reminder that you have done business before and you are interested in working with them again. You don't have to ask for work directly but when you end the conversation you might say something like, "Well, it's been good talking with you. Keep in touch, and if there's anything I can ever help you with, don't hesitate to give me a call." If you are uncomfortable about phoning, send a letter, flyer or brochure that mentions new products or services and includes testimonials from other customers.

Provide superior service to current customers

When business is slow you want to do everything you can to hold on to your existing customers. The best way to hold on to them is to give them not just their money's worth, but more than their money's worth. Now is the time to go the extra distance, give that little bit of extra service that can mean the difference between dazzling them and merely satisfying them. The best protection against a downturn in business is an active list of delighted customers.

Have existing customers drum up new business for you

It's probably fair to say that the customers you're currently dealing with associate with like-minded people - people who are in a similar income bracket, have similar interests, hobbies, and buying habits. And therein lies your sleeping giant. A referral system can harness this giant by encouraging existing customers to refer these people to you. If it's true that most of your customers are happy with your business and the products and services you sell, then it follows that most would be quite happy to refer you given an easy way to do so, such as displaying your brochures in their business. Slow times also provide the opportunity for more active networking, looking for opportunities that may only present themselves when talking to people.

Plan an ongoing marketing campaign

Slow business presents an opportunity to increase the amount of your time spent on prospecting for new business. During a lull in business you need to make this extra effort to attract clients or customers, follow up on leads and close sales. What types of marketing work best in slow times? Use a combination that includes direct marketing (direct response print ads, sales letters, self mailers, postcards, special offers) plus low-cost / no-cost visibility enhancing publicity techniques (press releases, articles, speeches, booklets, seminars, newsletters). Avoid costly image building marketing such as large space ads, slick corporate brochures, expensive annual reports and other marketing communications that can drain your budget without producing sales.

Add value to your existing services

In a slow economy customers are more concerned with price than ever before. Actually, their real concern is making sure they get the best value for their money. You can win new customers and retain existing ones by enhancing your services and providing your customers with more value for their money. For instance, if you are selling a commodity item you could add value by offering faster delivery than your competitors. Or a wider selection. Or easier payment terms. Or a better guarantee. There is no need to give away the store and promise an excessive amount of extra service. The extras you provide need not take a lot of time or cost a lot of money.

Keep busy by working ON your business

A slow period in your business is a good time to busy yourself with internal projects that will improve the business, such as developing a new marketing strategy, making technical improvements to an existing product, auditing and improving your customer service procedures, revising your newsletter or website, or any of a hundred things that you couldn't find the time for previously. Now you have the time. So do them.