How To Survive the Next Recession As a Local Service Business

It’s the nature of the economy to be cyclical – it’s a matter of WHEN and not IF that a recession will happen.

Given that the economy has been expanding for a while, many experts predict that there will be a contraction in the not-too-distant future.

In fact, nearly half of U.S. CFOs believe that the nation’s economy will head into recession by the end of 2019 and 82 percent believe that a recession will have begun by the end of 2020.

As a local service provider, the health of your business is largely dependent on the economy. For example, when consumers have less disposable income, they put home improvement projects or non-urgent repairs on hold (duct tape, anyone?).

In order to ride out the next recession, you need to plan to survive and prepare to grow. There are opportunities during recessions if you set your business up for success.

Here’s what you can do to recession-proof your local service business:

1. Focus On Cash Flow

Cash flow is king and also one of the biggest concerns that keep business owners up at night.

Don’t wait till money gets tight before you scramble to improve your cash flow. Start implementing strategies that’ll help you increase cash flow now and make them part of your operating procedures:

  • Sell or retire excess and obsolete equipment.
  • Require a deposit to be made on large projects that take longer to complete or require you to outlay more cash.
  • For some B2B customers that can’t enter into a contract with an initial deposit, negotiate payment terms so you get paid in installments as work is being completed.
  • Incentivize your customers to pay quickly by offering a discount or penalizing late payment.
  • Consider a subscription model if your services are recurring in nature (e.g., landscaping, housecleaning).
  • Review your loans to see if you can renegotiate interest rates.

2. Cut Expenses

Increasing revenue is important but so is managing your expenses – which are the two sides of the same coin when it comes to your profit margin.

Make it a habit to review your expenses regularly so you’re not spending money on products and services that you no longer need. The better you’re at managing expenses, the less pressure you’ll be under during lean times. Here are a few tips:

  • Evaluate your operating costs such as staffing, rent, and utilities to see where you can trim the fat.
  • Adjust vehicle expenses – e.g., by using vehicles that consume less fuel.
  • Monitor supply cost and renegotiate when necessary.
  • Keep an eye on the advertising expenses to make sure you’re spending your budget wisely and optimizing the ROI.
  • Keep an eye on your insurance rate and insurance requirements so you can shop around for the best deal.

3. Minimize Fixed Cost

Overhead cost can be a big burden when business is slow and every penny spent can impact your bottom line.

Look for opportunities to minimize your fixed costs while turning as much spending into variable costs as possible so if you aren’t generating revenue, you don’t have to pay for the expenses. For example:

  • Review all your recurring expenses to see if they’re necessary or priced reasonably.
  • Brainstorm with your employees – they can offer different perspectives that could help you cut unnecessary spending.
  • Consider a pay-per-lead marketing service so you don’t have to pay a fixed monthly fee if you aren’t getting as many leads, which is normal during a recession.
  • Consider cloud-services (e.g., for bookkeeping, invoicing, scheduling, etc.), which allow you to purchase as much capacity as you need without paying a big upfront investment.

4. Plan For Different Scenarios

While you shouldn’t be pessimistic about the future, you should also make plans for various scenarios that could impact the financial health of your business so you can put the necessary measures in place to mitigate the impact. For example:

  • Expect more customers to pay their bills much later or fail to pay them at all.
  • Have a process in place and be proactive about collecting for late payments, particularly from B2B customers. Squeaky wheels get oiled until the oil runs out – be the first in line to get paid!
  • Plan to readjust your expenses and staffing. For example, you may choose to move to a smaller space and let go of some employees. You should identify the best team members who are pulling their weight and make an effort to keep them.
  • Put away some money every month. Businesses should have at least 6 months of operating cash in the bank to help ride out any rough patch.
  • Consider putting your business up for sale while the market is strong if you’re thinking of retiring in the next five years.

5. Start Marketing Now

When the recession hits, lead volume will decrease and competition will increase. As more service providers will be competing on price, you need to stand out by offering something in addition to great pricing. Start differentiating your business now by carving out a unique positioning.

Online marketing, such as SEO and content marketing, often takes a few months to gain traction. Don’t wait until your leads dry up before scrambling to figure out how to market your business!

Start trying out different marketing methods. Get leads from multiple channels and learn how to generate the best results now while cash is less scarce.

Keep in mind that marketing helps you stay on your prospects’ radar and build trust with them. It’s an investment that’ll pay off in the long run, so take on this upfront cost while you have the cash.

Here are a few things you should be doing right away:

  • Establish an online presence and increase credibility with high-quality marketing materials, such as a lead-generating website and videos.
  • Optimize your website content and use online ads to help you get found by prospects, drive traffic to your website, and improve your SEO.
  • Get great customer reviews on third-party review sites and social media, such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Grow your email list with high-quality prospects and existing customers so you can stay top of mind and cultivate trust.
  • Experiment with local email marketing and text message marketing. These strategies require low initial investment and can yield high ROI when done right. To increase their effectiveness, start building your list now to accumulate thousands of local contacts that’ll keep you busy over a year or two so you can ride out the recession.


“The darkest hour is just before dawn.” During a recession, competitors that don’t make the cut go out of business. When the economy emerges from a recession, service providers that survive can expect faster growth and more profits thanks to an increase in demand and less competition.

If you set yourself up to ride out the recession, you can bank on making the most of the recovery!

This means you need to be marketing and stay top on mind during a recession. Keep in mind that the number of leads will decline in a recession and you can eliminate high fixed cost SEO by using a pay-per-lead, performance-based marketing service to keep your spending in check.

Start now and set yourself up for success. Once things slow down, it could be too late to pick up the momentum. Check out 99 Calls see how our exclusive lead generation can help your local service area business grow.


Myth: Low Cost SEO Is A Scam

99 Calls agrees that there are lots of ineffective SEO companies out there.

But we vigorously disagree that all low-cost companies are bad, or scams, and that all high priced companies are good.

We have heard many stories about small businesses being burned by high-cost SEO companies, and marketing companies in general.

However, 99 Calls has been very successful in promoting local service businesses online at low cost.

To understand how low-cost SEO can succeed and high priced SEO can fail, assume that it takes significant effort and time for SEO to succeed.

Effort is in the hands of people.

If the average person must put in 100 hours of effort to achieve a positive result, how can one do this work in 25 hours?

If the person doing the work is above average then, this is totally possible.

Research has shown that above average workers can outperform mediocre workers by a factor of 10 to 1.

So let’s look at above average personnel doing 100 hours of work in only 25 hours. How can they do that work in even less time?


Even in SEO, many tasks are relatively the same across different customers.

With a programmer behind the scenes, an SEO company can automate repetitive tasks.

Posting a photo or article to a website, and social media?

One can login to each site separately and upload and post content and then send the customer an email to confirm the work was done.

Or our above average performer can do it in half the time by using software to automatically post content on the website and social media and send a confirmation email.

With sufficient automation, human effort is cut in half again.

Our above average SEO person is doing 100 hours of work in 12.5 hours.

Strategically, when cost is a concern, one will lean towards keeping things simple and streamlined.

Simple is economical.

Ferraris are fancy and cool, but Hondas are affordable, practical, and economical and both provide transportation just as well.

In fact, the Honda actually does a better job at transportation since it can hold 4+ passengers, get better gas mileage with lower maintenance costs.

The point being that with SEO and lead generation, many fancy and complicated things do not matter, or worse, have a negative impact on ROI.

Why pay for a fancy website for a new plumbing company with fancy video and appointment scheduling and elaborate graphics, when a relatively simple website will rank just as well or perhaps better.

Fancy sites load slower and Google likes fast sites.

High price SEO companies often excel at creating fancy websites, which helps justify a higher price but doesn’t result in higher rankings or more customers.

Assuming the high priced SEO company is billing for a fancy website and other non-essential features, let’s also assume that a more economical SEO company could produce a simple yet effective website in half the time.

This brings the 100 hours down to 6.25 hours.

What does this mean in cost?

Let’s say a high priced SEO company charges $100/hr, whether you know it or not, and probably not, being most companies like to charge by project than hourly.

They’ll charge $10K to do this project.

So how much does the SEO company with the above average performer using automation and focusing on essentials need to charge?

Well, they only need 6.25 hours and only need to charge $625.

Heck, they may even need to pay their above average personnel a bit more so it may cost $950.

Big difference between $950 and $10,000.

High priced SEO companies may be high priced because they are inefficient (or have high-cost salespeople, but that’s a different topic).

And a low priced SEO company may just happen to be highly efficient and cost-effective.

We’ve all heard “you get what you pay for”.

And we’ve all heard “a fool and their money are soon parted”.

In SEO, it can be hard to know which case applies.

How does one know?

Check reviews.

Talk to references.

Avoid contracts.



How To Use Email Marketing To Promote Your Local Service Business

As a local service business, keeping in touch with your customers is the key to generating more revenue and retaining more clients.

But you may wonder, what’s the most cost-efficient way to promote your business without a large marketing budget?

Turns out, email is the “oldie but goodie” that can help you generate more sales without costing an arm and a leg.

The Benefits Of Email Marketing For Local Service Business

Did you know that 91% of consumers like to receive promotional emails from businesses they have relationships with?

Meanwhile, email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined in customer acquisition.

Email marketing can help you build trust, nurture customer relationships, increase credibility, stay top of mind, improve client acquisition and retention rates, increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, and get more referrals.

In addition, email marketing is relatively low-cost and easy to get started. It works on all devices and allows you to communicate with your customers so you can learn more about the market.

Not to mention, by promoting the right offer to the right audience, you can generate immediate results and get a revenue boost with minimum effort.

How To Promote Your Local Service Business With Email Marketing

Your email marketing should focus on building trust and relationships by delivering the right content to the right audience in the right place and at the right time.

Here’s what you can do to get the highest ROI:

Use Mobile-Friendly Templates

As more consumers are reading emails on their smartphones, you should make sure that your subscribers are able to read yours on their mobile devices and take action right away.

You can include a call-to-action with a phone number so recipients can call you with one tap. If you’re linking to your website, make sure it’s mobile-optimized to deliver a seamless user experience.

Most email service providers offer mobile-friendly templates so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Don’t forget to send out test emails to ensure they’re legible on all commonly used devices.

Include Local Keywords In Your Subject Lines

The subject line of an email is one of the most important elements. After all, if you can’t capture the attention of the recipients, they won’t open the email so no matter how good your content is, it won’t get read.

Unfortunately, cutting through the clutter in most people’s inboxes is becoming harder and harder. You need to communicate your message’s significance on the subject line if you want to capture the recipients’ attention.

To do so, use subject lines that are related to the local area, mention local events, or include local keywords so you can communicate the content’s relevance and increase the open rate.

Use Email Automation To Send Personalized Offers

Most email service providers have automation features that allow you to trigger email sequences based on different criteria. Such highly personalized content can help increase open rate by 29% and click-through-rate by 41%.

For example, if you provide a recurring service (e.g., landscaping, housecleaning) you can set up email reminders to be sent automatically a certain number of weeks after each client’s last appointment with a link to schedule their next service.

Share Relevant And Valuable Content

Email marketing helps you build trust with your audience so you can increase conversion, customer retention, and referrals.

Sharing helpful and timely information is a great way to add value, stay top of mind, and build relationships while positioning yourself as the subject matter expert to boost credibility.

In addition, sharing fresh content makes it possible send emails more frequently without sounding too sales-y or becoming a nuisance (nobody likes being sold to!).

Segment Your List

Segmentation can help increase email open rate by 14% and click-through rate by as much as 100%. It allows you to send the most relevant content and offers to different segments so you can increase engagement and conversion.

There are many different ways to segment your list depending on the market, the types of services you offer, your business model, and how the recipients interact with past emails.

For instance, you can segment your list so you can send special offers to new prospects or lapsed clients to generate some immediate sales.

Make It Easy To Join Your List

To increase the ROI of your email marketing efforts, you need to grow your list with high-quality leads.

Driving traffic to your website via social media, paid ads, or SEO is essential but you also need to ensure that your website is optimized to capture leads. For instance, the call-to-action should be highly visible and the web form should be easy to fill out (e.g., by minimizing the number of fields).

If you’re attending local events, you can use a tablet so prospects can enter their information directly into your email service. This can streamline the process while avoiding illegible information. (You could lose up to 20% of new subscribers due to bad handwriting!)

Ask For Reviews

Most consumers do their research on the Internet before engaging with a local service provider. Building a good online reputation by getting good ratings on third-party reviews sites, such as Google, Yelp, and Better Business Bureau, can increase your credibility and inspire more trust in prospects.

You can set up an automated workflow to send an email to each customer after a job is finished to ask for a review. Include links to your profiles on the third-party sites so it’s easy for your clients to submit their reviews.

Add a Personal Touch

As a local service business, you’re likely to be the face of your company. Your clients have interacted with you and trust you.

Take advantage of this personal connection and use it to strengthen your client relationships. For example, include a personal note in your email newsletters, use a conversational tone that reflects your personality, sign off using your first name, and add a photo of yourself (or your team) in the signature.

Be Consistent With Your Mailing Schedule

In order to stay top of mind, you need to maintain the connection with your audience by showing up consistently. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, set a regular schedule and commit to it.

The good news is, you don’t need too much content in your emails for them to be effective. A helpful article, a couple of announcements (e.g., events, special offers) and maybe an employee spotlight are more than enough to help you stay on the radar.

Encourage Sharing

Leverage the power of word-of-mouth marketing by encouraging your subscribers to share your newsletters with their friends and neighbors.

Most email newsletter services allow you to include forwarding and social share buttons in the footer area. Email messages with social sharing icons get 158% more clicks so make sure to include them in your template.

In addition, ask your subscribers to share the content or special offers with their friends in your newsletter content. If you don’t ask… you don’t get!

Make Your Subscribers Feel Special

Cultivating client relationships is the key to success for local businesses. Make your subscribers feel special by letting them know about your new offerings or special offers before everyone else.

For example, you can send out an exclusive coupon code to your subscribers or you can announce a special offer a few days ahead of time to your list so they get first dibs to book an appointment.


Every local business is different and it’s important to tailor your email marketing strategy to suit your target market.

The best way to know what works and what doesn’t is to analyze your metrics and A/B test your emails. For example, you can find out what kind of subject lines work best or what day/time of the week will get you the most engagement.

In addition, your email marketing strategy should be an integral part of your lead generation efforts. For example, you can use SEO tactics, online ads, and an optimized website to drive traffic and capture leads then nurture relationships with prospects using email marketing.

Ready to get your online marketing strategy dialed in so you can get more high-quality prospects and increase your email marketing ROI? See how 99 Calls can help you get found and generate more leads.