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Six Tips for Online Businesses to Survive and Thrive in Hard Times

Yes, we’re in a big economic downturn. Yes, it’s going to be here a while. Yes, it’s going to be hard for a lot of people. Yes, thousands of businesses will close their doors. So tell me something: WHY DO PEOPLE CUT BACK ON MARKETING when times get tough? Have YOU ever wondered that? It’s […]

Yes, we’re in a big economic downturn. Yes, it’s going to be here a while. Yes, it’s going to be hard for a lot of people.

Yes, thousands of businesses will close their doors.

So tell me something: WHY DO PEOPLE CUT BACK ON MARKETING when times get tough?

Have YOU ever wondered that?

It’s a curious question, but the first reaction of most business people facing tough times is "cut the marketing"!!!

It is, after all, a very large expense in most companies. So it’s an easy line-item to cut.

But WHY, when you know that customers are going to be tougher to find, would you PURPOSELY stop looking for them?

If the pool of available prospects were shrinking, why do you add to your own suffering by REFUSING TO ATTRACT them?

You’d think — if business owners were rational people — that they would make the path from "prospect" to "customer" as slippery as possible during tough times.

You’d think that people who wanted their businesses to survive would redouble their advertising and marketing efforts during tough times so that THEIR PIECE OF THE PIE at least stayed the same, even as the pie itself became smaller. 


It’s as though they’ve decided that they don’t deserve to win — or to even survive.

They give up.

And that is very, very strange.

Don’t you still need to pay your employees? Feed your family? Protect your own future?

I’ve been thinking about this for the last week or so, as I’ve been avoiding cable news, newspapers and talk radio.

I thought a lot about this. And now I understand.

LET ME ASK YOU this question…

If you knew that when you gave away a dollar, you got back two dollars, how often would you repeat the process?

Over and over again, right?

But what if you gave away a dollar, but didn’t know how much you’d get back? What if you sometimes got back more than a dollar, sometimes less, and sometimes nothing at all?

Put another way, what if you had NO IDEA AT ALL how much you were getting back?

You’d stop, wouldn’t you?

Any rational person would.

I would.

QUESTION: What’s the difference between those two situations?

ANSWER: One is measured, and one is not.

In the first situation, the dollar is an INVESTMENT– you gave it away, but it came back with friends. You know because the results are MEASURED.

In the second situation, the dollar is an EXPENSE — it goes away and you don’t know what happens to it. The results are UNMEASURED.

The gut reflex of most businesses when faced with difficult situations is to CUT THE EXPENSES.

Those business owners who cut their marketing to the bone during tough times do that because they are not measuring their marketing. They can’t tell you, with absolute certainty, that when they spend a dollar, they get two back.

And so, out of fear — and PANIC — they cut their marketing efforts.

When food is scarce, they stop eating on purpose. They give up. They starve. Voluntarily.

In business we call this "out of business".

So what are YOU going to do?

What is your plan to survive over the next couple of years?

If you choose to survive — and I hope you do — here are six tips to help your business survive.


Since you run an online business, that means knowing where your traffic comes from, how it gets there, and WHAT IT’S WORTH.

A few weeks ago, I made you a video that shows you exactly How to set up Google Analytics on your website in 6 minutes.

Analytics can tell you which of your marketing is making you money, and which isn’t.

If you haven’t seen the video, and installed analytics on your own site yet, do that first. It’s free, and is one of the best website statistics programs available.


Niches are far more profitable than large groups of people.

First, you’ll find that it is far less expensive to market and advertise to a small niche than it is to advertise to a large group. But YOU CAN ALSO CHARGE MORE for your specialty item that solves a specific problem than you can for an item "just like everyone else’s" that "everyone can use".

Knowing your customer is the key to making every marketing dollar more effective.


I hope you’ve heard this before — and acted on it. But if you’re not building a list on your website and starting a relationship with your prospects long before they buy from you, you are truly wasting your marketing dollars.

On average, only 1% of visitors buy from a direct marketing website, but 20% will join a list. Of those 20%, typically a fourth of those — 5% of the total visitors — will buy. That means a list can increase your sales by FIVE TIMES.

And it’s not hard. Learn how to build a list and set up a squeeze page on your site.

4) KNOW YOUR COMPETITION. The traffic is out there. Even in down times, millions of people still buy what they want, and they buy what they need. If the pie is shrinking, and you are gearing up to get a bigger slice of it, then you’ve got to understand where your traffic will be coming from.

And it will be coming from your competitors.

You are going to be taking TRAFFIC that is currently theirs and MAKING IT YOURS. There are some tools on Google and other search engines to show you exactly what your competitors have done to get their traffic, and what you can do to steal it.

I created a video to show you how to steal your competitor’s traffic. I recommend you watch it.


Once you’re measuring, targeting, capturing, and locating, it’s time to re-double your marketing efforts.

Like we discussed at the top of this article, the ironic thing is that in down times, most of your competitors are going to be cutting back on their marketing.

Truly stupid, in the conventional sense of the word, if their goal is to survive.

Your opportunity, right now, is to increase your focus on Marketing. You need new customers to survive, and to even THRIVE right now.

Do everything you can to INCREASE THE TRAFFIC coming to your site.

And there are lots of tools available to you: article marketing, web PR, SEO, Web 2.0 tricks, blogs, Adwords — all easy to do — and all CRITICAL to your survival and prosperity over the coming years.

And you don’t have to take my Stupid Easy Traffic course for this — you can do it on your own, over time. You just need to do it, one way or another.

This new fight for business survival is really a FIGHT OVER TRAFFIC. It’s either yours or someone else’s. I’d rather it be yours.

I’ve got one more tip for you. And this may be the most important…


I was talking with a good friend the other day. She’s recently gone through some very dark times — perhaps the darkest you could imagine. But she’s made it through — with a big smile on her face. And as we were chatting yesterday, she said "Yes, it was tough. But now I’m on the other side of it."

I thought that what she said was profound.

Even now, there is tremendous opportunity in this world for those who choose to create it, see it, and take advantage of it.

You, too, can get to the other side.

Imagine yourself there, for a moment, through the tough times, and into the happy, prosperous ones.

You deserve to be there.

To Your Success,

–Mark Widawer

P.S. If this article impacted you in some way, please leave a comment.

Also, let me encourage you to watch the video about how I showed one regular guy how to steal $125,000 of traffic from his biggest competitor. (It’s not going to be hard). Plus, you’ll learn some cool Google tricks you can use to figure out if you can steal traffic from your own competitors.

Stupid Easy Traffic begins on October 21. If you need more traffic, you may as well get it the EASY way. The expert faculty and I will show you exactly how to get the traffic you need to your site as quickly and easily as possible.

I’m going to hold your hand through the process, and we’re going to make it fun, too.


13 replies on “Six Tips for Online Businesses to Survive and Thrive in Hard Times”

Good advice. Thanks for sharing. I am still setting up my website, but hope to have it up and running next month. And I would like to have another one done by the end of the year. The first one is the hardest, I think. So much to learn. It’s been fun but sometimes very frustrating. Margaret.

Mark, thanks for the tips! I make sure I’ll survive.

I have G. analytics set up. But I can’t find out where the buyers originally came from. Most buyers receive at least 8 pre-autoresponder messages or so, before they buy. By that time, analytics lost track of the original traffic course.

Google Analytics shows there is a high conversion from hotmail account users, but how did those buyers found my site in the first place?

Is anyone having the same problems? Advice?


I agree completely. It seems so counter intuitive to actually cut marketing because you’re not actually saving money — you’re losing revenue from would be new customers.

Even worse you might actually be driving your would be customers directly into the hands of your competitors by not marketing to them.

As far unmeasured and measured results — if a business is really that concerned about their results then they should focus on marketing that works and once the economy is doing better they can increase their marketing by focusing on new marketing strategies.

– Sam

Great advice Mark, and the Google Analytics setup was extremely helpful as well.

Vic, you might add a customer survey to your the final part of your order form, or even as part of your thank you page, asking how customers heard about you. If they don’t complete it, offer them an ethical bribe to do so (anywhere from $1-$10 off, depending on the cost of your product or service).

Everything is about traffic. It always is. If you have no traffic you have nothing to measure. Cutting back on advertising cuts back on traffic. This is something every business owner shoud know and if they don’t they deserve to go out of business.

I’ve been around since 1997 and seen more than a few down cycles on the net. Considering I’ve been on earth 62 years I’ve seen more than one recession. The people who last are always the ones who attract the most customers.

Best part is I’ve never seen a recession I didn’t or couldn’t make money in. If you have enough traffic to measure analytics can help you stay on top or make even more, if you don’t start optimizing your pages and getting links so your analytics can do you some good.

Hey Mark!

This is a great article that every one who wants to make a living on the internet, in any economic times, needs to read and take action on.

I’m looking forward to the start of your Stupid Easy Traffic Course, and I’m excited to be a part of it.


Jeff Herring – The Article Marketing Guys last blog post..Article Marketing Tips – How to Put the Power of the 3 R’s of Article Marketing to Work For You

Hi Mark…

Great tips! I think staying positive is so essential. You need to look at your attitude and expectations — if both are aligned with success, then all the systems and techniques you have in place will serve you well. If however you have an underlying expectation that it won’t work, that you will go under… no matter how wonderful your systems and techniques are, more than likely your expectation will become reality!


Jeanne Mays last blog post..Economic Downturn And Your Goals: how will you respond?


All us marketers know this is true but, the way you presented it is tremendous, using this statement of yours as a great example:

“But WHY, when you know that customers are going to be tougher to find, would you PURPOSELY stop looking for them?”

That “line”, “schpiel”, “angle” or whatever you choose to call it, ALONE, is worth money to anyone marketing to small business owners. I do, and I appreciate it. Hope you don’t mind if I use it.

Thanks Mark, enjoy your weekend.

Jim Rodante

The Referral Pro

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