FORTUNE Small Business:

Freebies and cost-cutting: slump survival tactics

Business owners need to do more with less to make money in a down economy.

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Get small-business intelligence from the experts. Here's a chance for YOU to ask your pressing small-business questions, and FSB editors will help you get answers from the appropriate experts.
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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I run a lawn and landscape business in Texas. I was wondering if you believe there will be a change in our business due to the dipping economy. I have met plenty of people with profitable businesses like mine. Is there any way to grow my revenue even further?

- Mike Whittaker, Fort Worth, Texas

Dear Mike: Though there are business owners who are beating the slump (see our package on Defying the Downturn), "the situation is pretty universal," says Bill Zimmerman, a consultant at The Hartford Financial Services Group.

But don't despair yet. Zimmerman believes that small business owners can increase business if they become more aggressive about staying ahead of the competition.

"Consider these three points: value, cost and volume," he says. "You must provide a high value with a low cost to a greater number of customers. The increase in customer volume will offset the low gross-profit margins."

In evaluating your value, consider throwing in extra work - more than your competitors offer. Extend the seasons of your annual cleanups, or throw in some additional summer maintenance with the usual trimmings.

"The proof is in the product. Anyone who drives by will see how nice the job is," Zimmerman says. "And nothing is stopping you from going across the street and dropping your business card off at the neighbors'."

Jeff Blatt, director of the Dallas Small Business Development Center, agrees, adding that cost-cutting tips can help small business owners weather the economy.

"With the increase in gas prices, try to add large, municipal contracts to the single, residential client roster," he advises. "If you work with residents only, organize the business so that you are in one area each day." Blatt adds, however, that you shouldn't cut labor when cutting costs. "Instead, try to market more in specific areas. In addition to distinguishing your company's value and customer service through local marketing tactics, you can attend functions, such as the Texas State fair."  To top of page

Are you beating the slump with your grassroots business? Tell us how.

For more info on marketing on a shoestring, check out these helpful links:
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Jump-start your marketing
Drumming up business with direct mail
Local marketing: Where to start
How can I market on a shoestring?
How do we reach our target market?
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