Repair IT, upgrade IT, profit from IT

Iain Shaw offers some sage advice on how to deal with the downturn
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As we move into the festive month of December, I wonder just how much Christmas spirit there will be about for those who depend for their living on retailing. The Credit Crunch is likely to mean that people will be holding onto their hard earned cash and not splashing out on expensive items, which is good news for the supermarkets and bad news for all other retailers and etailers.

The one bit of good cheer I can see for indie computer solution providers will be that end users – be they businesses or consumers – are going to want to extend the life of their existing IT solutions. So make sure that you get the message out in your area that you are the computer expert that can repair, upgrade, and, most importantly, extend the life of existing equipment. Remember that potential new customers like to feel confident when they engage with someone new.

Trade association membership can help with that, so if you have not yet joined ITACS make sure you do so. Get end users through your doors and it will open up selling opportunities for software and other services such as online backup. Have everything you will need to hand for basic tasks such as virus removal and operating system cleanup, together with the provision of additional memory, hard disk space and graphics capabilities. The opportunities must be grasped as they arise and it will be no good to tell a potential new customer that they will have to wait as your competitors will be offering same-day fixes.

I hear you all saying 'he is teaching his grandmother to suck eggs' – well I may be, but the message I am trying to drive home is that in this time of doom and gloom it is no good to stick your head in the sand. Remember the basics and keep the stock-in trade that you will need to grasp each and every opportunity that comes your way.

Now how about some marketing, which does not have to cost much? Whenever you or your engineers visit a customer in December and January, as you finish the job, ask the customer for some recommendations in the local area.

If someone around the corner has a problem or may be looking for computer help, call on them while out and introduce your business, ensuring you make clear who recommended you, as this will open doors.

Other simple things that cost little money would include locating all local notice boards in places such as supermarkets, post offices, churches, doctors' surgeries, fish'n'chip shops, etc, and then push your message out with a simple flyer that carries the extending computer equipment life message together with your contact details.

You could also download copies of Sun OpenOffice and Ubuntu and write them to CD. Once once placed into jewel cases with printed artwork, these make a very nice £10 retail sale – remember you are not selling the software as that is free, but simply putting an admin charge on preparing the media. These products are very easy to introduce to hard-pressed end-users looking to upgrade.

Finally, the key here is to encourage customers to want things that you can charge your time to deliver. Focus on the time not the goods! Those indies that attended last month's highly successful tenth Brigantia Members Roadshow at the Belfry Hotel, sponsored by Nvidia and hosted by Enta Technologies, will remember the mantra of repair IT, upgrade IT, profit from IT. Those that did not should take this onboard.

Next month I will be reviewing feedback on trade in 2008 and looking ahead to 2009.

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