Since the end of World War II, the U.S. economy has experienced a recession about every six years. The most recent, which was one of the worst ever, officially ended in the summer of 2009, but its effects are still being felt today. So by historical standards the U.S. is overdue for another downturn. Is your business ready?

A recent webinar sponsored by improveIt360, the Certified Contractors Network and Keyword Connects offers lead-generation strategies to prepare home-improvement professionals for the next recession. It also provided general tips for any business to survive an economic rough patch.

Tim Clark, director of communications for improveit360, said the most recent recession was more like a Great Depression for the home-improvement industry. Many companies went out of business, and many others were forced to get by with much lower revenues. And while the U.S. is due for another recession in the near future, he said it’s likely that it’ll be much less severe.

“Statistically, we are highly unlikely to see a recession as large as the last one,” Clark said.

Still, it’s important to prepare, he said. Here’s his advice:

  • Have a “worst-case scenario” cash flow;
  • Stay as lean as possible;
  • Look for new marketing opportunities;
  • Stay in touch with past customers;
  • Keep customer service at the forefront;
  • Hire not fire, because you don’t want to get rid of your best people;
  • Know your numbers;
  • Streamline processes;
  • Talk to peers, and;
  • Keep generating leads.

Todd Bairstow of Keyword Connects then discussed those lead-generation strategies with an emphasis on digital media.

Build your e-mail list now, not later. Bairstow urged webinar attendees to “collect e-mails everywhere. Get them at home shows, showrooms, during in-home visits, on your website via informational offers and over the phone. Train your phone reps to get those e-mail addresses.”

Use sweepstakes to build bigger lists. These can be controversial, he said. “Some folks swear by them, others don’t like them because they don’t want to give away a large amount of material.” Bairstow said it’s a good tactic that can generate tons of names with a low cost at the end of the day, especially if the contest goes viral on social media.

Embrace mobile as a marketing tool. Bairstow said people ages 45 and up are converting on their phones thanks to forms that are easier to use on mobile platforms. “They’re filling out these forms on their phones like never before,” he said, adding that mobile-friendly “responsive” sites will show up more often in Google searches. “In 2015, 21 percent of leads were coming from mobile,” Bairstow said. “In 2016, it’s up to 32 percent, a 50-percent increase in one year. This is happening stunningly quickly. It’s faster than I’ve ever seen something happen in online marketing.”

Text and win. “More than 90 percent of people read a text message within the first three minutes of receiving it,” Bairstow said, noting that millennials are especially fond of texting. “Use text messaging to reach those homeowners you can’t reach by phone. It increases contact rate on data leads from all sources, improves appointment set rate and lowers cost per issue/cost per appointment.” He also said it’s good to use texting in addition to phone calls to confirm appointments. An added bonus – it’s simple. “You can integrate texting into your CRM pretty easily and implement a strategic texting plan. The process is completely automated.”

Diversify your product mix. During a recession, homeowners want to maintain good relationships with businesses, Bairstow said, so diversification can help tremendously. He cited a replacement window company in Massachusetts that has massive name and brand recognition and tens of thousands of existing customers. They added siding, bathroom remodeling, walk-in tubs and roofing to their lineup. They went back to their past customers and it kept them in business, he said.

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