Some analysts appear certain of it, while others predict continued growth, even as they note wage stagnation and slowing GDP growth.
Either way, it's best to be prepared.
Because so many economists and businesses missed the warning signs in 2008, it seems that experts are more quick to temper any optimism in their forecasts, with even bullish outlooks including some gray clouds.
For small and medium-sized businesses out there, a coming downturn can be a very scary thing. However, with the right plan, you can weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.
The key is knowing where to focus your efforts — like your website.
Recession-proofing your business website
Twenty years ago, websites were simply not as important as they are today.
While potential customers once might have made judgements about the quality, health, and professionalism of your business by driving by or walking in your store, today, they make the same judgements from your website.
What we haven’t written about is the way the right website can help recession-proof your business when a downturn may be coming.
Here’s how to prepare your website for the storm ahead.
1. Recommit to education
Your primary goal should be to make your website the most trusted educational resource in your industry. We believe this should be the case in good times and bad.
A trusted educational resource builds meaningful connections with prospects. When they research their problems and find that you provide answers and solutions, they are more likely to buy from you, either now or in the future.
In an economic downturn, trust-based relationships are more important than ever.
In a recession, buyers are even more careful with their money. They will thoroughly research any purchase they are going to make.
In order to build trust, you need to provide answers to customers’ most common questions.
They want to know about cost and about potential drawbacks of a product. They want to see how product A compares to product B.
They need honest, unbiased reviews.
Simply put, they want to know what are the best solutions to their problems.
2. Learn digital sales and marketing best practices
Just as you should focus on educating your prospects by way of your website, you should also focus on your own team’s learning. An impending downturn should remind you of the importance of staying sharp in all ways.
Those pool company professionals who were partying at industry events should have been bettering their own knowledge and skill-sets.
In a period of uncertainty, the competence of each team member needs to be high. Your salespeople need to know how to best use digital assets in the sales process. Your marketers need to be up to date on SEO best practices.
Your videographer needs to stay abreast of cutting edge programs and techniques.
You don’t want to wait for the economy to go sour to start talking about creative, effective ways to market and sell your products and services.
When your team is at its best, your website will be at its best.
If the economy shows signs of worsening, businesses should focus on producing content that is closely related to their services, but that might not be exactly what they do right now.
Here’s an example.
At River Pools, our main focus is installing fiberglass pools, however, we also offer a fiberglass resurfacing service to our clients.
It certainly isn’t a primary business focus, but it is something we do.
As an economic downturn approaches, we could build on this skill by producing content about it. That way, when pool owners research pool resurfacing, our website would come up. This positions us to move into a new revenue stream if the market demands it.
Now, I don’t think a recession is a time to suddenly open up new facets of your business. After all, growth takes cash, and you are likely to have less of it.
Rather, I recommend placing yourself to be ready to move into related, low-cost expansions if the market opens up.
As an added benefit, these new pieces of content drive more traffic to your site. Perhaps a pool owner, who might not normally look for a pool installer, finds your business and realizes you have services or products well-suited to her needs.
Do this now: Brainstorm what relates services you might begin to focus on, considering the skills you have. Add these topics to your content calendar — and then to your website.
4. Talk about cost and value — a lot
During a recession, people are watching every dollar. As I said before, customers always want to know the same five things, no matter what they’re buying: cost, comparisons, reviews, potential drawbacks, and “best of” lists.
In order to recession-proof your website, you need to intensify your focus on cost.
If people are able to find a better deal elsewhere, why should they buy from you? Is there an added value or service you offer? Is there something that differentiates your company from others?
Additionally, make sure to focus intently on the factors that drive cost. Are there options the buyer can select that will raise or lower price? What are they?
If a buyer is choosing between you and a competitor, price will likely be a deciding factor. You want to be able to explain why you charge what you do. Buyers respect transparency.
Do this now: Make sure you include price on your site currently. Then, start talking with your sales team. If you were to offer a ‘recession-buster’ package, what would it look like? Start pulling together the necessary resources now.
Prepare for the winter during the summer
In olden times, farmers would plan all year to make it through the winter. All of their spring planting, summer labor, and fall harvesting would assure survival during the cold winter months.
Absent that sort of foresight, the winter would be devastating and deadly.
The prosperous times for your business are not times to get lazy and complacent. Rather, they are times to prepare for the winter that is always coming.
Your website is the most public aspect of your business, and with the right forethought, you can recession-proof your business — no matter what lies ahead.