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RISMEDIA, March 31, 2009-It’s one of the cruel ironies of business. When the economy is bad, you need to pull out all the stops to reel in new customers and extract more sales from current ones. Unfortunately, at the same time that your rational brain is telling you to rev up your marketing efforts, your fear-driven gut is telling you to conserve money. Which message should a conflicted businessperson listen to? Both, says MaryEllen Tribby: Choose a variety of simple, inexpensive marketing vehicles and fire away.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to ensure that your marketing message is heard loud and clear,” says Tribby, publisher and CEO of Agora Financial’s Early to Rise and coauthor (along with Michael Masterson) of Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business. “There are plenty of inexpensive and very highly effective ways to attract new customers and stay in front of old ones.”

Tribby-whose book explains how to use a variety of both new and traditional media (i.e., multi-channel marketing) to reach a wider customer base, build customer loyalty, and increase sales-says there is a right way and a wrong way to sell during a recession.

Here are a few critical do’s and don’ts:

DO send out an e-mail newsletter. Even if you have a small bricks-and-mortar business, you should be collecting the e-mail address of every customer who walks through your door. That way you can send them a regular newsletter with special offers, special events, coupons, and more. “Your newsletter will keep your best customers coming back again and again,” says Tribby.

DO try your hand at online public relations. If you have a new product coming out, you should announce the news online. Write an informative press release with plenty of contact info that leads back to your own website or business. Be sure to link your news with a hot topic of the day.

DO hold teleconferences (a.k.a. teleseminars). Anybody can pick up a phone and start talking, and that’s the key to using teleconferences to promote your business. Find an expert in your industry to interview over the phone, and arrange a number for your customers to call to hear the interview either for free or a modest fee.

DO participate in joint ventures. Leverage your relationships with other, likeminded businesses in your niche or in related industries through joint ventures. Each joint venture is different, but they all involve working together to promote each other’s products, with each side taking a split of the profit. It’s a great way to accelerate the growth of a business without spending much money.

“When joint venturing, look for strong partners, businesses that have skills or resources you lack,” advises Tribby. “Make sure each side’s contribution is equal and decided in advance. Make agreements simple, but put them in writing. The idea is to create joint ventures that are easy to maintain, financially lucrative, and long-lasting.

DO use pay-per-click (PPC) ads. Services like Google AdWords offer a great low-cost way to advertise online. The best part is that your ads are targeted to Web surfers who are looking for products or services just like yours. You can even target your ads to specific geographic areas. “The key to success with PPC is testing,” notes Tribby. “You have to change your headlines, copy, and offer until you find the combination that brings in sales.”

DON’T overplan. The worst thing you can do in business is overplan, endlessly tweaking until everything is “just right.” Just do something and get your product or marketing effort out there. There is plenty of time to improve after you’ve seen what the market wants.

DON’T overspend. You don’t need to overextend your budget, hire an expensive consultant to craft your marketing plan or spend thousands to build your website. Cheap freelancers are easy to find. And most of this work you can-and should-be doing yourself.

DON’T fall in love with your ideas. Be ready to start over with new marketing copy or even a new product if the market tells you to-i.e., if nobody buys.

The bottom line? Marketing your business is not rocket science, says Tribby. It’s a simple matter of following proven formulas and executing methodically. “In recessions, people tend to panic and make bad business decisions,” she adds. “They either choose expensive and/or ill-suited marketing vehicles, or they stop marketing altogether. Don’t be one of them. Just stay calm and focused and keep sending your message out, relentlessly. When the recession ends, you’ll be glad you kept a cool head about you.”

About the Authors:
Michael Masterson is not your typical businessman. An ex-Peace Corps volunteer, he never took a class in business, doesn’t read the business press, and doesn’t like to talk business.

MaryEllen Tribby has led the Early to Rise team since May of 2006 as publisher and CEO. She has over 20 years of publishing and business experience, most notably in direct marketing.