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How to keep down business expenses

Know the Score

Posted: September 26, 2008 8:13 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

This is the conclusion to the 36 tips I promised to help keep your business expenses in control:

n Join local business associations. This is a marvelous way to make valuable contacts that can enhance your business. It will help locate customers by discussing shared problems with other businesspeople in your area.

n Purchase “remnant advertising space.” Magazines and newspapers never have any blank spaces because they fill unused space at the last minute by selling remnant space at a pittance.

Try contacting the publications where you’d love to gain exposure but can’t afford the rates. Let their advertising salespeople know of your situation and your willingness to take some remnant space when it becomes available.

You might also consider sharing advertising costs with suppliers and non-competing related businesses.

n Purchase small-space ads. Many businesses have been successful using small ads or even classified ads. You can always work up from a small ad.

n Buy your business cards, stationery and forms on the cheap. Chances are you don’t need to spend a lot on designing a fancy logo, and purchasing expensive business cards, stationery and forms.

You can get perfectly satisfactory printed items at much lower costs by using a mail-order stationer or local print shop. You can also produce the items yourself by using your own software on your computer. Remember, too fancy stationery might send the wrong signal to your customers.

They want to know you’re as concerned about controlling expenses as they are.

n Encourage free word-of-mouth advertising. It’s the best and cheapest advertising. Do what you can to stimulate good word-of-mouth promotion of your business by first satisfying your customers, and second by asking them to recommend you to their friends.

You might even offer some sort of discount to new customers who tell you who referred them to you. You’ll be surprised at how effective this can be.

n Obtain free media publicity. If you can put together a good story about your business that appeals to a particular newspaper, magazine or radio show you have a good chance to get free publicity. You might also offer free talks to local clubs and offer to be an expert in your field for the press.

n Become active in your community. If most of your customers are local, potential customers will be aware of your civic activity and are more likely to support your business.

If you doubt this check out the occupations of the people who are active in your town. Many of them will be small business owners.

n Don’t entertain customers lavishly. In these frugal times 3-martini lunches are passé.

This can cost you a lot of precious money, and you also risk sending the wrong message to your customers.

n Airline reservations should be made well in advance of the conference you need to attend. The cheapest airfares go fast, so plan ahead and make your reservations as soon as your plans are firm.

n When you do attend conferences, stay over a Saturday night. Airfares are generally mush cheaper if you stay over a Saturday night. The extra night in a hotel is usually a fraction of the airfare savings.

n Stay at budget hotels and motels. There’s a lot of difference in the cost of a typical luxury hotel and the rapidly growing cadre of budget lodgings. Business owners who have stayed in them swear by them — that’s why they are thriving.

n When at a conference, go out for meals rather than getting room service or dining in the hotel restaurant. At a New York hotel where I stay, when someone else is picking up the tab, a continental breakfast costs $18. If I walk half a block, I can get the same orange juice, muffin and coffee for about $2. So as soon as you check into your hotel, check out the immediate neighborhood to find some good, affordable eateries.

I’m sure there were many of these tips that you r knew already, but it’s always good to be reminded of them. Entrepreneurs get so involved in the day-to-day demands that we forget the things we knew when we started, so reminders are always helpful.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t scrimp where it is important. If a profitable client hits you with a big job on a short deadline (and everyone gets hit with this occasionally), don’t risk losing the business by not outsourcing portions of the job.

It may be pricier to have a local printer set-up and duplicate what you’ve designed, but they can get the job done quicker and help you meet your deadline. Customer goodwill is beyond cost, so just assume you’ll make the cost up on future business.

Maureen Stephenson is a local author and owner of Santa Clarita-based REMS Publishing & Publicity. Her column represents her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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