President and Founder, Big Ideas for Small Business, Inc.
If sales are down and cash flow is tight, small business owners can find ways to reduce expenses and save money. Here are five ways you can get started:
1. Bartering. You can conserve cash yet obtain the goods and services you need by trading for your items. You can swap on an informal basis with other merchants you know (for example, you can provide Web design for an attorney in exchange for legal services). Or join one of the many online barter exchange groups that are geared to specifically to businesses (which BizBox discussed a few months ago).
N.B.: Exchanges you do for business are taxable (and subject to sales tax where applicable).
2. Get cash back for purchases. Bank of America (which powers the Small Business Online Community, at which I write) recently launched an online shopping portal called Add It Up, where small business owners can earn up to 20% cash back from more than 270 retailers when they shop online with their Bank of America check card. Participating retailers include top names such as Staples.com, HomeDepot.com, Walmart.com, and Costco.com--places where small business customers spent the most money in 2008.
3. Network for marketing opportunities. Connect with people in person and online to develop relationships that can lead to new business. Consider joining a networking group in your area through your local chamber of commerce. This will allow you to meet other small business owners in your community that may be facing similar challenges. There are also many online sites where small business owners can network, like the Small Business Online Community, that provide expert articles and are free to join.
4. Cut travel expenses. Instead of costly business trips, connect with customers and prospects online using Web conferencing tools, many of which you can try for free. If you must go in person, decide whether it’s cheaper to fly or drive by using an online travel calculator. Keep in mind that additional savings can add up from driving when two or more people travel together.
5. Reduce advertising costs. Note: this is not the same as telling you to cut advertising all together. But if you can accomplish the same for less money, why not do it? Today, online marketing has become an important advertising option for many small businesses. It can be very cost-effective and easy to implement. Consider reaching out to your top clients via e-mail with a special offer or keep them in the loop of company happening’s through a monthly e-newsletter.