10 Tips To Recession Proof Your Small Business

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If you are tired of hearing about the recession or the potential of a double dip recession due to foreign markets crashing now, Listen up. It does not matter. Recession or not you need to run your business well. You need to be an agent of convenience for your best target customer, manage cash flow with military precision and pay attention to the trends in your industry. This is a perfect time for an aggressive small business. No matter what your business does, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.  In order to beat the recession, you must get smart about your marketing and business operations.

Here are 10 tips on strategic marketing and cash management to recession proof your small business.

Keep marketing. Do not be tempted to cut or eliminate marketing activities. This is no time to cut back on marketing. If you can’t afford a full-blown marketing campaign, pursue low-cost options such as social media marketing, webinars, news releases, e-mail blasts, blogging, and online newsletters. Be sure to keep your marketing activities going at least six months so that you can track your rate of return.

Develop 30-day sales goals. Do not focus on sales activities beyond 30 days. You should break down how many sales you need to close each month to meet your revenue goals.  Determine how many meetings, calls, emails and blog posts you need to have, make, send or write to generate your target sales.  You must keep the sales engine rolling in your business. You should be doing at least 60 minutes of sales cultivation activities per day.

Cut expenses and track cash carefully.  It is extremely important for you to understand your monthly burn rate and your cash position.  Determine where you can cut costs, and make sure on a weekly basis that you understand what money is coming in. As you cut costs use this formula, for every $2 dollars you cut in business expenses, invest $1 into your marketing efforts.

Start collections at 30 days past due. The days of waiting 45-90 days for payments are over. You need your money now. Once a client gets to 30 days past due, get on the phone and track down the accounts payable manager for an update. Be sure you are set up to take credit cards, you may get paid a lot faster.

Improve communications with your customers.  Have quarterly face-to-face meetings or lunches with your top customers. Understand their biggest business challenges and look for ways you can help even if that doesn’t involve more direct business for you.  Consider keeping your fees the same for long-term customers if they are really having financial difficulty.

Add value, not price.  Continuously adding value to your and services is the way to get repeat customers and new business through referrals.  Adding price without value is a lose/lose proposition.  You may get the reorder, but your client will start looking for a replacement vendor.

Under Promise and Over Deliver.  Excellent customer service is the number one way to beat the recession. If you do a great job and your customers love working with you, your customers will become an unpaid sales force for your business.  If do great work, are highly responsive if there’s a concern, make follow-up calls, send thank you cards, throw in little extras all that shows you care.  It’s also the best way to encourage your customers to refer you more business.  Be known for delivering great products and services. Do not treat your customers like you are doing then a favor.

Network, network, network online and offline.  People do business with people they like, know and trust. You need to make sure people know who you are, what you do and how to do business with you. You want to be top of mind when an opportunity presents itself.  One of the best ways to so this is using social media. You can network online without being considered spam. Use Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages to give out helpful advice.  Consider updating your LinkedIn profile regularly with updates on your business and/or any signature content such as blog posts.  When you meet a new contact, online or in person think solutions for them first.  Successful networking is all about give to get.

Consider adding staff.  One good thing about a recession is there are lots good people are on the market looking for a job.  You could pick up some quality talent right now that you could not otherwise afford.  Consider hiring a salesperson and pay them commission only.  Make them kill what they eat. Also be sure you think about exact what target market they will focus on and how success will be measured. If you have never hired an employee here’s a recent blog post that will give you some tips on the interview process.

Call the bank before things great critical.  Good relationships are made in hard times. Regardless of your business situation, you need to communicate with your bank sooner rather than later.  The bank does not benefit if you go out of business, so stop the denial and negotiate better terms with your bank.

Last week, I spoke with FedEx Office® during a live Tweet Chat #FedExSmallBiz about ways to recession proof a small business.  Check out the transcript from part one of their Boost Your Small Business Tweet Chat series.

Do you have any more ideas on how to recession proof a small business? Your idea could be worth $50 bucks.

@SmallBizlady will offer two $50 gift cards for two more great ideas to recession proof your small business.  To be considered, post your comment on this blog post until 10pm ET Wed Oct. 12, 2011. Winners will be announced on Twitter on Friday,  Oct. 14, 2011. FedEx Office has no involvement in the selection of winners.   This is sponsored by @SmallBizlady.

Disclosure:  FedEx Office compensated me to write this post and participate as a small business expert during the FedEx Office Boost Your Small Business Tweet Chat program.  FedEx Office also provided the $50 gift cards. The ideas in this blog post are mine and not ideas or advice from FedEx Office.

About FedEx Office

FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko’s) has the world’s largest retail printing network, providing access to printing and shipping expertise with reliable service.  The company’s network of more than 1,900 locations includes 1,800 in the U.S. and features FedEx Office Print & Ship Centers, FedEx Office Ship Centers, FedEx Office Signs & Graphics Centers, and centralized production centers.  Services include copying and digital printing, professional finishing, document creation, direct mail, signs and graphics, computer rental, free Wi-Fi access, FedEx Express and FedEx Ground shipping, and more.  In addition, the company offers the award-winning FedEx Office® Print Online solution, an online printing application for business and personal printing, at home, at the office or on the go.  Products, services and hours vary by location.  For more information, please visit www.fedex.com/office.

For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.

Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading smallMelinda Emerson "SmallBizLady" business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure.  As CEO of MFE Consulting LLC, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. Forbes Magazine recently named her one of the Top 20 women for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog    www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works. (Adams Media 2010)


  1. says

    Another tip….when you actually start out make sure you are dealing with a product that is in demand all year around..affordable..and something people need…in a recession people cut spending on luxury items but will continue to buy neccessities..

  2. says

    My tips post jobs for college students on http://www.usaintern.com with the economy down, students are looking for work to gain experience even though it might be unpaid. This is a great opportunity to use students for a no money or a nominal fee. They gain experience and you get to delegate some work you’ve been putting off.

  3. says

    This is a great article! Love the tips.

    Additional Tip 1… Market to your current customers. Finding new customers is wonderful, but it can be expensive. However by keeping your current clients “in the know” about new products/ services, specials, sales, events, etc., you have the opportunity to market to those that already are familiar with your company. Reach out to them they already like you! Encourage them to share your products/services with their friends and family (consider using a coupon that states “bring a friends and receive 50% off”). With this example not only is the original customer going to come back but they are also introducing you to new business by bringing a friend. Essentially by keeping current customers happy and marketing to them often, you will keep your bank account happy!

    Additional Tip 2: Google your business and check out the reviews/comments that are being said about your business. Also check out what is being said about your business on sites like Yelp. If you see any complaints, take that as constructive criticism and fix the problems fast! If it is something that happened to just one client, reach out to them and offer to amend the problem. This gesture can result in a happy customer as well as getting them to change their original review to a more positive experience. Many people search sites like Yelp to get a general idea of what to expect before patronizing a new business. Monitor sites like these regularly so that you are always are about how your customers view you. In these economic times (and always) EVERY customer counts!

  4. says

    These are all great tips!

    Along with adding value and NOT price you can offer an incentive to your clients for referrals whether it be a discount on product or services or free product or services. I know when I refer clients to my hair salon I get a discount om my service price. I also offer discounts to my clients that refer me to others for graphic or web design. It builds your clientele and your new clients will refer you too. Nothing like word of mouth marketing from satisfied clients!

    Also consider taking on an intern, there are plenty of high school and college students that are interested in business administration, business marketing and sales looking for school credit. You can train them and they can assist you with handling certain areas of your business. You are training them on the job and they will receive credits for it and you haven’t spent a dime on wages.

  5. says


    Excellent Article!

    Tip #1 – ASK FOR THE ORDER – That is oversimplifying things a bit, but you need to put yourself into the position to drive your sales up. This could be by sending out offers, traveling to an expo or trade show, or having some face time with long standing clients. Whatever it takes to get in there and close more deals. Don’t sit and wait for orders to come to you.

    Tip #2 – Maximize your online social network and build your brand. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, whatever works for your business and customers. If you don’t know how to do it, get some help, or just simply work on it a few times a week and teach yourself. There are plenty of resources online for guidance. Have everything point to my Tip #1 – ASK FOR THE ORDER

  6. says

    Delegate. Every hour you spend tracking receipts and mileage, scheduling, answering emails and researching is an hour that could have been dedicated to lead generation, relationship building, and getting productive work done.

    For a small investment (maybe $10 an hour at a freelancing or virtual assistant website), or by recruiting an intern, you can be more organized and focused on expanding your business and meeting goals if you’re not worrying about the small (though necessary) stuff that keeps your business running.

  7. says

    Make sure your patrons are aware of the full benefit & value of your services/products. For example, in my business ( a salon/day spa), there are a number of things given with service that add value but are not always assigned a monetary value -free bang trims or edge ups between haircuts, a special deep conditioner used on clients who have color services, etc. Making patrons aware of these “extras” enhances the perceived value and shows them that cheaper isn’t always better or even satisfactory.

  8. says

    I agree with everything mentioned about quality service and advertising. Don’t forget quality products such as business cards and quality Thank You cards with a handwritten touch.

    I’ve found that online presence is fine, but the human touch often seals the deal. :)


  9. says

    create a good rapport with your staff and clients.
    can you imagine a scenario where your clients and staff love your business as if its their own and they do anything to ensure that it thrives?
    at phiaton travels that is what we do,we show our staff and clients that we appreciate them.we keep our staff updated on the company’s progress and challenges.the word I is illegal in our company,we use WE instead.
    as the company grows our staff also grow with it and this has been very impressive to our clients,for example our drivers are our key contact with our clients,we pay them so well and ensure that they lead a good life and when clients see this,they are always impressed and prefer buying our services.
    invest in your staff,don’t make profits at their expense leaving them malnourished because it will tarnish your image.
    word of mouth marketing is very important too,we get referrals everyday from our clients.

  10. Alex says

    Phenomenal article! I am a college student graduating this December (yay!) and throughout my educational journey I’ve worked for several small businesses. You make such a crucial point when you say to continue marketing. In my business experiences I’ve noticed that a combination of marketing with increased customer service brings more clients, even during a recession. The bottom line is that during a recession the businesses that can publicize themselves in a positive light and continue reaching thier target audience are the ones that are most successful. Although money is tight, people still have needs- it’s just a matter of making people realize you are the one that’s going to satisfy them.

  11. Jessica says

    Excellent article – thanks! Another tip that can help you recession-proof your business is to keep overhead costs low in the first place. Starting a business can be an exciting time, but you don’t necesarily need to rent an office space – many times, you can “make do” by carving out a space for yourself in your house. No matter where you live, there’s almost certainly an unused corner or nook where you can park a filing cabinet, laptop bag and supplies. Not having to pay rent, a large fixed expense, can be a huge money-saver, especially if you live/work in an area where rents go up.

  12. says

    I have read some of the comments, and have used them in my own business, especially the referral. However, my TIP is a little different, to maintain good friendships and relationships, you always want to have great contracts. I have noticed friends, associates, family members and a friend of a friend may desire to use services but want to receive substantial discounts or receive it for free. However, when you approach them, they desire you to pay. So to cut down all friction, I talk with them, but when it is time to do business, I place the contract in front of them immediately…then I sit quietly, to either let them read it or to answer questions. If they do not want to sign, or start renegotiating the uncompromisable, it let me know right then about their intentions. If good or evil, it will come out. It will also let me know, do I want to proceed with the transaction or let them know that the offer is off the table. It will prevent a lot of headache and heartache down the road, especially getting paid. I negotiate, I never compromise because, I operate with integrity and respect of the one who gave me the opportunity to be of assistance to clients and future clients…GOD!

  13. Rakesh Singh Jadon says

    The best idea and tip has been used by you yourself at the end of this article by giving a small and smart lucrative attraction which can be turn a huge network of new customers at the cost of small investment say by 50 bugs. Same can be use in prospects making and i am sure it will turn your small business recession free and growing.

  14. says

    I believe that is among the most significant info for me. And i am happy reading your article. But want to observation on few common things, The website style is ideal, the articles is truly excellent : D. Good activity, cheers

  15. says

    Surely a lot of useful ideas which you have got in this article, thanks a lot for publishing it. I am a huge fan of knowing just about all the signs of the earth prior to proceeding ahead with decisions.

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