What’s First to Go When Times Are Tough?

If you run a business then no doubt you’ve been keeping a close eye on the economy. When times get tough, most small business owners immediately look to cut costs…

The most “expensive” part of running a business is normally employees, so typically firing under-performing employees or external contractors is the first step most businesses take to reduce cost and therefore reduce risk.

Typically the second thing to go is the marketing budget. If you’re small, this might mean reducing your Google AdWords budget or letting go of your outsourced public relations company…

In this month’s newsletter I want to demonstrate practical examples of how you can survive (and even prosper) during a recession by putting various online marketing methods to work for you.

Yes, some of the ideas I’ll discuss do involve our products, but when used correctly you’ll generate an ROI significantly higher than what you’ve invested, and can continue to do so at will whenever you need more sales.

Think about it this way – if your competitors are reducing their marketing budget and you’re not, who do you think will have more reach and a better shot at winning more customers?

If that sounds good then let’s get started…

Strategy #1 – Building Trust With Autoresponders

Product required – Umbrella eMarketer or other autoresponder software

If you’re a small business then you might not be able to demonstrate the level of trust that your larger competitors can. What you can offer, however, is useful information which is relevant to your prospects – which will lead to an increased level of trust and therefore sales…

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Most people will only buy from businesses they trust, so if you can’t boast that you have thousands of customers or a best selling product, then you can build up trust over the period of a few short weeks using autoresponders.

To do this, you need to write a series of about 10 emails which will be sent out automatically to people on your email list over the period of about 2-3 weeks.

Your main focus with these emails is NOT to sell or promote your products or services. It’s to provide your subscribers with practical, useful information which they can get immense value from.

Over the period of a few weeks they will use and hopefully implement the valuable information you’re (automatically) sending them. The law of reciprocity will kick in, and they will want to “return the favor” by doing business with you.

Compare this to the way most companies go about trying to win new customers, and you’ll see why it works. It’s “selling without selling”, and your prospects will be grateful that you’ve taken the time to provide them with useful information instead of simply pitching your products or services to them like everyone else does.

Here are the exact steps to take:

1. Come up with a compelling reason for people to join your list

In order to send emails to someone, they first have to join your list. You need to come up with a strong reason for them to do so, and the best way to do this is to ask yourself “what one thing can I offer to prospects that will bring them the most value?”

Use this one thing as the anchor for your “join my list” page, and try to evoke curiosity by mentioning the benefits they will receive when they join your email list.

You can see an example of how we do it with our “How to Sell Online” autoresponder series, which currently attracts about 400 new subscribers per day.

2. Create your series of 10 or so autoresponder emails.

The emails can be short, but should be personalized with the subscriber’s first name and include useful information which they can use. For example, if you sell web design services then you might send a series of emails with advice on how to build a professional web site affordably.

Each email should also have a catchy subject line. Here are a few which get great open rates:

“[First Name] – here’s that report I promised you”

“The information you requested from our website”

“[First Name] – urgent”

“Check this out…”

The role of the subject line is to simply get your email opened. If you can do that, the rest is easy.

When you’ve created all 10 emails, copy them into Interspire Email Marketer as autoresponders. Nothing screams “this is an automated email” like sending out a new autoresponder every 24 hours, so schedule the autoresponders to go out with a bit of variation, like this:

  • Email #1 goes out immediately after signup
  • Email #2 goes out 2 days after signup
  • Email #3 goes out 5 days after signup
  • Email #4 goes out 7 days after signup
  • Email #5 goes out 10 days after signup
  • Etc …

3. Talk about your products or services in the FINAL email only

OK let me set the scene here…

Your subscriber has received 9 emails from you over the last 2-3 weeks, and the information you sent them is useful, so they look forward to hearing from you…

If you’ve done it correctly then they’ve started to trust you, because you’ve given them valuable advice for nothing – something 99% of businesses don’t do because they don’t understand the psychology of the buying process…

Your final email should still include a heap of useful, non-sales-pitchy information, but you should add a “P.S.” after your signature which subtly mentions your products or services, such as:

“This is the final email in our series on ‘[subject]’. Did you know that we’ve been voted the #1 web design company in the London area for 3 years running? If you’re looking to launch a new web site which will help you stand out from the crowd and win more customers, then call us on 020 999 8888 or visit our web site at for a no-obligation quote.”

So, let’s look at what we’ve done here…

Over a 2-3 week period we’ve provided this subscriber with a wealth of useful information without mentioning ANYTHING about our products or services and without asking them to buy anything.

The informative autoresponders you sent out (automatically) have helped build rapport and establish trust in the subscriber’s mind. When they’re ready to buy the product or service you offer, you instantly stand out because they remember all of the useful information you sent them.

You could take this one step further and simply give them a call once all of the autoresponder emails have been sent to them. You could lead in with something like:

“Hi John. I just wanted to make sure you’ve received our email course and I wanted to see if you’ve found anyone to help build your new website yet?”

This will lead in to a natural conversion which you can use to further build trust, and also introduce them to the products or services you offer which you feel could be useful to them.

This is called top of mind awareness, and it’s why you see so many Geico ads – they know you will need car cover, they’re just not sure when. If they bombard you enough times with the same ad, they hope you’ll remember them over the other companies.


This is one of the many strategies I’ll be sharing with you over the coming weeks to help grow your business using simple, affordable yet effective online marketing tools.

If you don’t have autoresponder software yet, take a look at Umbrella eMarketer – there are no monthly fees and it has all of the features you need to implement the strategy I described above.

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