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Firms aim to strike right balance post-Sandy

Jesse Wroblewski, founder of Generations Beyond, a marketing

Jesse Wroblewski, founder of Generations Beyond, a marketing firm based in Ronkonkoma, is among those Long Island businesses trying to judge the right tone for business after superstorm Sandy. Experts recommend reaching out without being aggressive. (Nov. 19, 2012) Credit: Daniel Brennan

Now that the power's back on at Generations Beyond, a digital marketing company in Ronkonkoma, founder Jesse Wroblewski is trying to figure out how to handle the calm after the storm.

Before Sandy flooded large swaths of Long Island, Wroblewski's business had 18 proposals out to potential clients. About six days post-Sandy, when the office's power was restored, the company alerted those prospects that it was open for business again. So far, very few have responded, and Wroblewski is trying to determine the right time to follow up.

"We're very trepidatious since the hurricane," he says, adding that calling prospective clients "feels a little odd . . . when a client might not have a house. A sales call might not be in the best taste right now."

Timing, tone prove tricky

For local businesses that avoided disaster, the question of when to reach out to clients is tricky. On one hand, it's important for businesses to keep up their contacts. Wroblewski, for example, points out that in his business, persistence is key when he's waiting for prospects to decide on project proposals. But on the other hand, a sales pitch in light of the surrounding devastation could irritate or offend some people.

Striking the right balance is critical, says Joann Dobrowolski, president and founder of YPI Consultants, a Nesconset firm that specializes in image strategies and business etiquette. It's important to reach out to business contacts, while avoiding an aggressive pitch, she says.

"You can have the best pot of gold, but if you give me the creeps, I'm not buying from you," she says. "If you go straight for the sale . . . and they're not in that frame of mind, it may take a little more to get through that door."

But a lack of contact could leave clients thinking, " 'I haven't heard from the guy, I'm assuming he's out of business,' " she says.

Instead, she advises businesses to go with a "soft" outreach plan. An email or text message checking in to see how a client and her family fared can go a long way toward reopening the door to business discussions. She says her strategy has been to ask a client how they're doing and if there's anything she can do to help. After getting a response, she says, she follows up by telling the client she's available to continue their business discussions whenever the client is ready.

Wroblewski, who founded Generations Beyond in 1999, expects several weeks of slowdown in business because of the delicacy of post-storm networking and the tough conditions some of his clients are facing.

Indeed, some of Wroblewski's existing clients had significant damage. One Long Island beach club contacted Generations Beyond to say that all the menus the company had designed and printed had washed away in the storm, Wroblewski says. Although Wroblewski expects the club will need new copies at some point, the recovery could take a very long time. "It's one of the ducks they have to get in a row, but it's probably not the most important duck," he says.

Other budget factors

Even for clients whose homes and businesses are in good shape, Wroblewski knows that some of his clients' customers are hurting, making a marketing push a low priority.

For example, Wroblewski had discussed a website management and search engine optimization plan with a potential client, Dr. Gregory Diehl, a plastic surgeon in Port Jefferson Station, in October. Although Diehl's practice didn't have storm damage, it has seen a drop-off in patients since Sandy struck, says office manager Kim Lipski.

Although Lipski views Web marketing as something she'll definitely pursue, either with Generations Beyond or another firm, the slowdown in patients will likely mean she has a smaller budget.

"Over this last month, people aren't going out and going to their doctor's visits," Lipski says. "I'll have a schedule of 30 patients in the morning and see half of them."

At a glance

Company: Generations Beyond

Founder: Jesse Wroblewski

Founded: 1999

Location: Ronkonkoma

Employees: Five full time, two part time

Yearly revenue: $250,000

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