What Small Business Can Do In a Depressed Market

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The Economy is extremely volatile at the moment and if it becomes a bear market, it can have severe consequences for a lot of small businesses. For some, it meant cutting back on expenses, downsizing, or even bankruptcy. However, during these times businesses can give real value to their customers and stand out from their competition. Your ability to adapt, shift priorities, and look for opportunities during a downturn can help you stay afloat and gain a decisive edge above the competition.

We’ll be focusing on three main areas considered to be the most vital during this phase.


Customers tend to be more price-sensitive during tough times. Buying habits change, as well as their priorities. But despite all that, you need to keep a steady flow of income for your company. Getting enough customers to keep the ball rolling should be high on the list of your priorities. There are at least 3 ways you can achieve this:

  • Cross-sell/up-sell
  • Be more competitive
  • Focus on Customer Service

Although it seems counterintuitive, cross-selling or up-selling when most people are trying to stay on budget actually works. In retail business, this could mean offering bundled items, a discount, or selling them in bulk. Services like salons may offer one or more complementary services at a slightly lower price than if customers were to avail of them on separate occasions. Customers will take every opportunity to get the most out of their dollar whether it’s through discounts or storing up for the rainy days.

Staying in touch with your customers is a lot easier these days because of sales and marketing automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Small Business Dream helps business owners acquire new customers and maintain customer loyalty through email autoresponders, survey forms, inside sales tools for salespeople (Action List, phone script, notes, etc.), landing page templates, and sales funnel.

Cash Flow

Maintaining a positive cash flow can be tough for businesses during recessions. People tend to be more conservative with their finances, and businesses might have a hard time finding more capital to run their businesses. This often results in drastic measures like downsizing and outsourcing certain tasks, while others may try reducing their workload through automation. Check your cash flow and see if your business spending gives the best possible output.

Identify important areas in your business. If you are to strip down your business to its core, which ones would likely stay and keep you in business all throughout? Is there any task that hasn’t been automated, and is taking up too much time to accomplish? How effective is your marketing, and does it justify the cost? In many cases, business owners find themselves spending too much on things that don’t have significant impact on their bottom line. You could be hiring more people when you could have just spent a fraction of the cost using sales and marketing automation. We want our business to be as lean as possible and still be able to maximize our gains.

Reallocate your resources as needed. Technology has come a long way towards improving our efficiency from customer acquisition to maintaining good customer relationship. In fact, some businesses are already moving towards inside sales using CRM because it allows them to save up on gas, meetups, business trips, and other related expenses doing outside sales. This strategy greatly reduces business costs and helps them stay cash flow-positive when most businesses are barely making it.


When the economy is bad, most people turn to cash. Savvy investors and business owners use this opportunity to acquire more assets and properties as many of these will go on sale during recession. This is where businesses with enough cash stored away can benefit the most. If you are able to stay cash flow-positive, this can be your chance to grow your business significantly.

Foreclosures and auctions are pretty common during economic downturns. Take some time looking for opportunities to buy assets properties on the cheap which include real estate, office equipment, vehicles, goods, and raw materials. Some of these normally cost a fortune, but you might be able to acquire them for your business at significantly reduced prices. Market downturns allow you to grow your own business by picking up the pieces from what is left of other people’s businesses.

Final thoughts

You can succeed with any small business regardless of the present economic conditions so long as you have the mindset, skills, and the right tools to get the job done. You can always achieve more by working smarter, not harder. Use technology to speed up and automate your tasks, and be prepared to step up your business when opportunities present themselves.

Learn more on how you can successfully build your small business through sales and marketing automation. Visit SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.

Customer Relationship Management Strategies for Financial Planners

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Creating wealth and being financially secure later in life should be on top of everyone’s priority. However, most people know very little about the ins and outs of financial planning and probably need professional advice to help them with their short-term and long-term goals.

Financial planners are the go-to persons for people hoping to maintain the kind of lifestyle they want beyond their productive years. In the busy age of social media, technology, and shrinking attention spans financial planner need a way to educate and communicate with current and potential clients about the necessity of financial planning in these uncertain times. The best way to stay in touch is to automate using Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Why Financial Planners Need CRM

Financial planners usually start small, often with very few results during the first few months. You’ll have to gain traction and build your name over time.

People who want to learn more about financial planning will come to you for answers. Most of the time, they can be dealt with in one or two articles (if you have your own blog or website), on your FAQ, landing page, or having an automated email response for each set of questions and related topics.

Autoresponders works perfectly in these situations, allowing you to stay in touch with your current and potential clients with less work. CRMs makes it easier to create your own pages, set up an email series or sales funnel, and have the system do the rest of the job screening out and acquiring new clients for you.

Strategies You can Implement Using Small Business Dream CRM

Let’s take a look at how CRM can be used to grow and succeed in this particular business.

Share your Expertise on Financial Literacy.

Most people shy away from financial literacy because it seems too complicated. You should start with an email series based on which plans your prospects would be interested in, say an email series about 401k’s, mutual funds, annuities, etc. Or you can have them sorted out based on a particular age bracket, net worth, long term/short term plans, and special cases such as illnesses and disabilities, and so on.

With Small Business Dream, you only have to do them every once in a while and have the system do the rest like switching from one email series to the next based on user response, or how often they’ll receive updates on their newsletter subscription.

Use Networking to Build Reputation and Trust.

Financial planners should work on building trust and establishing good reputation in the community. People want someone they can count on with their life’s savings, esp. one who is qualified to manage people’s funds. They want to know you really care about them and that you’re not just doing it for personal gain.

Networking events are a perfect opportunity to tell others how they can benefit from you. Whenever possible, make some preparations ahead of time building your own landing page and sales funnel, so you can present your business at a moment’s notice.  Small Business Dream incorporates these features in the CRM and made it easier for the averager use to make one.

Follow up on your clients about their plans and recent changes in the market.

Inflation, market fluctuations, tax laws, etc. canimpact on your client’s portfolio. You need to be able to notify all of your clients as quickly as possible.

This can be done using Small Business Dream’s email blast feature, targeting specific segments in your email list that belong to a particular category of clients. This feature not only simplifies tasks for you, but it also helps build trust and confidence with your clients.


These are just but a few examples of how Small Business Dream can help financial planners succeed using CRM as their marketing and follow up tool to achieve phenomenal growth in the financial planning industry.

Learn more on how you can successfully build your business through sales and marketing automation. Visit SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.

Managing Customer Data for Small Businesses

In order to maximize CRM’s capabilities in managing customer data, we need to consider the important aspects of data management such as data gathering, organizing, updating, amongst other things. We’ll take a look at some of the data management strategies used by successful business owners and how we can apply them using Small Business Dream CRM.

Decide What Information to Collect and Store

When it comes to data collection and storage, we only need what’s essential to making the sale and how to get them to that point. It makes perfect sense, since we are dealing with large numbers of prospects and customers, and we don’t want our customer database to be cluttered with useless data.

The following customer information should be your top priority:

  • contact information (email, phone number, social media account)
  • location (address, country, time zone)
  • personal information (name, sex, age, date of birth, occupation)
  • transaction history (notes about recent customer engagements such as calls, emails, text messages, surveys, etc.)

Most people will have at least three ways of communication – email, phone number, and social media account. Communicating with prospects and clients by phone may seem old-school, but it still ranks as one of the best methods of sales conversions.

Email and social media accounts of your customers enable you to collect more information about them through surveys and customer feedback, as well as educate and communicate with them through automated and semi-automated messages.

Other information about the customers can be used as well. Countries and time zones lets you know when the right time is to make your scheduled call. Holidays, birthdays, and personal milestones helps maintain customer loyalty by adding a personal touch to your messages.

Of all these information about your customer, the transaction history will make up most of your customer data as they will be constantly updated each time you interact with them. Salient points from every phone call, text, email and social media message must be diligently put on record in order to stay on track with every customer.

Small Business Dream CRM has a place for each of the four types of information. Its Contact Manager has a very intuitive way of looking up every customer information, and is seamlessly integrated with other useful features such as the Action List, and the Survey Engine.

Adopt an Efficient Way to Collect and Store Data

Collecting information from prospects and customers is one of the most time-consuming aspects of managing customer data. With the advent of CRMs in business, companies have been able to collect customer information more efficiently through sales and marketing automation.

Nowadays, it only takes one, easy-to-use, simple CRM to collect customer information in a snap. Small Business Dream captures all the information you need from your customers through the Client Acquisition tools. This can save you many hours collecting and typing all the data by yourself – possibly losing it in the process.

Typing customer information on the fly is also very efficient with Small Business Dream’s user interface as it allows salespersons to add notes about their customers in more ways than one, i.e., through the Action List, Contact Manager, or customer feedback.

Centralize Customer Information for Quick Access

Salespersons should be able to access customer data, all in one place. Some companies make the mistake of having different salespersons collecting and analyzing different types of information from prospects and customers. Since only a particular data is available to some, this might create gaps in communication which either makes it too generic or completely miss the intended audience.

Getting full access to customer information, including records of previous customer engagements allows salespeople to stay relevant with them and avoid repeating the same action with a customer over and over again.

Having all the information about the customer in one app means salespeople can get back to their customers and continue where they left off. The Notes function in Small Business Dream’s Contact Manager gives a full history of all the customer engagements they have with a particular customer, each note time-stamped and arranged from the most recent ones for easy lookup.

Have a System for Sorting and Prioritizing Contacts

Salespeople waste a lot of time calling up random contacts without doing research or even getting to know their potential prospects – what they want, who they are, or their business. This type of scattered approach could mean a lot of missed sales opportunities.

Small Business Dream can deal with these situations and makes it easier for salespeople to take action by simply following the system.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sorting contacts based on priority. Small Business Dream’s Action list sorts out customers based on their priority score (some CRMs use the term ‘lead score’). High-yield customers and patrons provide most of the company’s revenue, thus putting them on top of the list whenever a scheduled call, email, or social media message is due. New opt-ins and potential customers are considered high priority as well. Low priority contacts are dealt with afterwards. However, it’s important not to pre-judge and link up with all your prospects and customers regardless of their priority score as they could turn up into high priority contacts later on. Once the Action List is empty, you’re task is done for the day.
  2. Setting priority scores. Small business owners can only do so much with their limited time. Hence, they must be able to evaluate and set priority scores for each client to maximize their use of time. Small Business Dream’s Contact Manager contains a lot of tools that allows salespeople to make a quick assessment of potential clients. The Notes section in the Contact Manager contains all the useful information about the customer from phone calls, emails, social media messages, and answer to survey questions which serve as a guide for sales people in giving their priority score (scale of 0 to 10 from highest to lowest).
  3. Segmenting your contacts. The Contact Manager also has a feature to segment your contacts for your email campaigns, newsletter subscriptions, and regular updates about special events, promos, and discounts. With this feature, you’ll be able to stay top of mind to your customers with very little effort using sales and marketing automation aimed at specific type of customers only.

Take your business to the next level through sales and marketing automation. Visit SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.

The 4 Content Marketing Steps To Increase Sales

Content marketing is one of the most successful methods of customer engagement used by businesses for centuries. Although the buzz around content marketing is new, it’s been around way before we had the Internet or the very first website in 1991.

Content creation is probably the most challenging and time-consuming aspect of acquiring and maintaining customer engagement. Rules have changed quite a lot since Google Panda, which now favors quality, substance, and relevance over quantity.

This gives users a much better experience by providing them only the most relevant information from online searches, and, from the standpoint of online marketers, an incentive to create high quality, shareable content throughout the Internet.


Defining Your Target Audience

Content marketing revolves around the target audience, customers and clients, who are the main source of revenue for nearly all kinds of businesses.

Defining you target audience should always be the first priority before starting off with any business venture. Over time businesses may expand or evolve to include additional products or services which could also mean redefining the target audience in every stage of a company’s lifetime.

For a small brick-and-mortar business the target audience could be just the people within or around the city who might be interested with what the company has to offer. However if the brick-and-mortar business has an online component then it could include a national or even international audience.


Setting the Tone and Purpose of Your Content

When you’re absolutely certain about your target audience, the next step is to determine the purpose of creating content. Depending on which stage of the sales funnel you’re currently working on, you could also set a different purpose in creating your content. Some of these include:

•     To stimulate interest
•     To inform or educate
•     To entertain
•     To persuade

Content creation, to be most effective, should be a part of a larger system which works hand in hand with every aspect of the business instead of being a separate strategy on its own. Most sales funnels rely on a systematic approach to content creation to lead their clients from one stage to another.

During the initial stages of client acquisition, the purpose for creating content is usually to stimulate viewer’s interest.

Writing copy for landing pages is one great example of how content can be used to start a conversation with the clients. This may also include subscription to a free monthly newsletter or a quick survey for collecting relevant customer information.

Potential clients respond differently to different content. If they want to know more about the company, its products or services, your purpose should be to inform or educate the audience about the benefits and advantages of using or applying them, whether it’s in a form of free content, an informative blog post, infographic, or YouTube video.

The latter part which involves your prospects taking action requires a more persuasive form of content or writing. Content creators needs to be able to make the final push to lead conversion by conveying a sense of urgency and what they stand to lose for not taking action.

Following-up with your prospects is essential to lead conversion at this stage of the customer’s journey.

Being able to define the purpose of content creation allows businesses to accomplish their sales and marketing goals more efficiently.


Maintaining Interest

Holding viewer’s interest is the next important aspect of an effective content marketing strategy. It not only helps with lead conversion, but in the long run, it would also help increase the company’s visibility through online search or social media.

When creating content, keep the following characteristics in mind:

  • Usefulness – Viewing or reading content will use up some time from your target audience. Creating content that is useful is an incentive to spend more of their time viewing or reading them in the future.
  • Relevance – What’s in it for them? Creating content that is on point to the viewers or readers is a sure way to keep an audience. This applies to email sequences where clients receive updates based on how they respond to a given call-to-action (CTA) or data gathered from subsequent surveys.
  • Timeliness – Proper timing is also key to maintaining interest. Blog postings, for instance, should follow a certain schedule or pattern where readers could expect something new from time to time. This applies to any type of content whether it’s a YouTube v-log, new findings or research, press release, etc.


Improving Online Visibility

 Online content can be used to leverage your marketing efforts due to the fact that it can be viewed or shared across multiple channels. This is particularly true with high quality, shareable content.

Marketing experts have already developed some of the most effective ways to increase visibility through search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), email marketing, and social media.

Each method has its own ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ but for most startups with limited budgets, improving visibility can be achieved through social media and email marketing.

Some CRM services incorporate these two features to enable small businesses to communicate with their clients at very little or no expense at all. Link-building through SEO or paid inclusion in search engines through SEM, although quite effective in extending reach, could entail higher expenses.


A Better Alternative for Small Business Startups

 Having a good sales and marketing app that goes hand in hand with creating content that really speaks to your audience is by far the most reasonable, if not the only way of starting up and growing a small business.

Small Business Dream goes beyond by offering client acquisition tools through its survey creator and landing pages along with sales and marketing automation features. Find out how at www.smallbizdream.com.

Digital and Physical Customer Engagement, and Why We Need Both

The Internet’s rise to power in the late 90s  has changed the way businesses interact with customers in an unprecedented way. Online stores and e-commerce websites started a new trend in customer engagement which enabled all kinds of businesses to link up with customers worldwide.

It leveled the playing field between small businesses and large companies by introducing automation and digital customer engagement which replaces many of their routine tasks, and lessened the impact of promotion expenses by harnessing the power of the World Wide Web.

This begs the question whether or not this movement would replace the human aspect of customer engagement. Is it possible for all businesses to be run entirely with automation in the near future?


Pros and Cons

To answer this, we need to look at the possible outcomes of using just one method of customer engagement.

Consider the following pros and cons of relying solely to one method of customer engagement:




The ability to communicate with customers on a deeper level. This can be accomplished personally, over the phone, or online.

Businesses interact with their clients in a meaningful way, providing answers to specific questions, issues, and concerns.


A high volume of customers could also mean hiring additional personnel to improve service. This translates to higher costs in running the business (hiring, training, employee benefits, etc.).

Slow response compared to digital customer engagement. Everything is basically a one-on-one engagement.



Repetitive and time consuming tasks are accomplished quickly and easily through automation and CRM tools and applications.

Highly efficient and scalable. Businesses can accommodate a growing number of customers and adapt to their needs without having to hire additional personnel. This translates to lower operational costs and a better chance to compete in the marketplace.


It requires some experience and technical know-hows of customer relationship management.

Tends to be ‘robotic’ because it lacks the human aspect of customer engagement.


As it turns out, ‘digitizing’ customer engagement is not everything. There are certain aspects of customer relationship that could never be replaced by complex machines and IT services. By the same token, relying only to physical customer engagement will yield an equally unpleasant result.


Avoid Both Extremes

Relying on just one mode of customer engagement is a recipe for disaster. There has to be a delicate balance between the two and  they should be used to complement each other.

There are many examples of companies that suffered enormously because of their inability to adapt to the changing trends, particularly with the way they interact with customers.

Tower Records is one example of a business empire that succumbed to the Internet’s rise to power. Online music stores slowly ate up their dwindling customer base until its eventual collapse in 2006.

A post-mortem analysis showed that they failed to anticipate the emergence of online stores like iTunes which sold digital music and music files at a cheaper price. Tower Records overstretched their resources in physical stores and outlets and was unable to come up with a digital alternative in response to the customer’s changing needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sears Holdings did the exact opposite with the same catastrophic results. Most of its resources had been used up for e-commerce and other online ventures and left a small portion to its brick-and-mortar business.

As a result, other companies took up that space and the company had lost a substantial market share to its competitors. In seven years time, stock price had gone down by 75%.


We Need Both to Succeed

A perfect blend of digital and physical customer engagement is the key to become a successful business in a highly competitive environment. Whatever shortcomings digital customer engagement has are completely wiped out by its physical counterpart, and vice versa.

To learn more on how you can incorporate the digital aspect of customer interaction to your brick-and-mortar store, visit our website at www.smallbizdream.com and learn how you can grow your business with our suite of tools designed for small business owners like you.