11 Ways to Recession-Proof Your Online Appointment Book in 2020

Are we on the verge of a coronavirus global recession… and if so, is your business prepared?

Oil prices have plummeted to their lowest since the Gulf War. Entire economies are quarantining themselves. Shoppers are sparring in the aisles for bales of toilet paper at Target.

It would appear we’re headed for something…

…and preparing your business *before* a downturn { ← or the apocalypse} can save you time, money and heartache if a recession takes place.

No matter what kind of business you run, planning for slow times is critical for long-term success. As Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.

Recessions can represent valuable opportunities for businesses positioned to capitalize on them. All it takes is a little anticipation and strategic planning. You can’t control the economy, but you can control your business. We found 11 ways to recession-proof your online appointment book in 2020.

1. Optimize your recurring appointment bookings

Do you get heart palpitations when you peek a few months ahead at your online calendar? A week of openings here, a spatter of openings there… it’s enough to give anyone a stress ulcer.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way? Offering your clients recurring appointments is a win-win for both sides. Your clients will be psyched they need not schedule a reminder to book highlights, a bi-weekly massage or their training sessions.

And you? Well, we’re gonna need a bullet list for those bonuses:

  • Security & peace of mind from months of pre-booked appointments
  • Clients who are committed to themselves and your services
  • Up-front deposits before a scheduled appointment

Did you feel that? That’s your blood pressure dropping with the realization you can fill your online appointment book—no matter the state of the economy.

2. You have an emergency fund, right?

woman smiling with the sun in the background

Three to six months of expenses: It’s the golden rule of emergency funds. How many times have you heard: “Build up your rainy-day fundkeep at least three months in your savings.” { ← as if calling it a *rainy day* fund makes it somehow less stress-inducing} Well, conventional wisdom for your personal finances happens also to apply to your business.

The unfortunate truth is, without a decent cash stash, there’s a chance you won’t survive a recession. The first step—open a separate account for business savings. You’ll no longer be tempted to dip in for day-to-day {AKA personal} expenses. Whether you save the money in a high-interest savings account or add to a secret stash jammed under your mattress—build up enough until you feel *I-can-finally-breathe-easy-comfortable.* A general rule of thumb? Aim for a total that’ll cover at least three months’ worth of expenses—if you can, six months is even better.

3. Say goodbye to last-minute cancellations & no show clients

Nothing kills your mojo faster than a revolving door of clients who cancel last minute or ghost altogether.

Your no-show clients leave you with a wide-open space in your day that’s next to impossible to fill. Yet still gives you plenty of time to ponder how much money you gave up… enter your saving grace…  up-front deposits. Why not take the ball back into your court and require each of your clients to pay before they book?

You decide if it’s a full or partial amount, but having guaranteed cash up-front means no major disappointments down the line. It gives you the security needed to move forward in your business and holds your clients accountable to their commitments.

Related: Tired of No-Show Appointments? 5 Reasons Why Your Clients Keep Bailing

4. Run a promotion—maintain your integrity

Sales and promotions can be a touchy subject. You don’t want to devalue your skills—or draw in a new breed of *clientele.* You know the ones. They prowl around on sites like Groupon and without a deep discount would never give you a second glance.

Look, when times get tough you may need to be creative. However, a promotion doesn’t require discounting. There are ways to drive ideal clients to your services without becoming a *bargain* business. The most common promo tactic being the add-on. Here are a few ways to use this promotion depending on the industry you run in:

  • Free Olaplex treatment with highlights
  • Bring a friend to your personal training session when you sign up for 3/30-minute sessions
  • 30-minute makeup lesson (with complimentary false lashes)
  • 60-minute photo session (25 shots included + 5 edited)

You get the picture. Clients love an upgrade (why do you think there’s a first-class section on airplanes—even when the difference is negligible?). Anything you can do to differentiate your services will help fill up your online appointment book.

5. Show your current clients a whole lotta love

Think about the conversation you’d need to have if you were *selling* your services to a current client vs. a potential client. When you walk through the process, you’ll notice a tremendous difference between the two. While spreading the word about your *not-to-be-missed-business* far and wide is a fantastic idea—in the greatest of times—when you’re facing down a recession it’s best to work from the inside out.

You’ll find talking to your current clients is a superb way to:

  1. Size up your competitors
  2. Increase sales: current clients are already familiar with your business. Many of your loyal clients may be open to up-sells.

Bonus number two—it’s less expensive to market to those who already know who you are and what you sell. Rather than spending sizeable amounts of your budget on social media ads, you can send your offer via email to current clients.

As we discussed in #4 ^^^ your promo need not be a steep discount. As long as you show clients how much you value them, they’ll keep coming back for more (and tell friends to do the same). Before you know it your online appointment book will be overflowing.

6. Reach out to clients you haven’t seen in a while

Has it been a while since you’ve seen certain *once-upon-a-time-regulars* in the shop? Looks like it’s time to reach out and rekindle those connections. Your active and inactive client roster is priceless.

Think of it this way: how much did it cost you to attract your current client list? Whether those clients are visiting on a regular basis or not is irrelevant, as it’s much less expensive to win them back then entice new clients who’ve never heard of you. Now’s the time to come up with a plan for bringing past/absentee clients back into the rotation.

Think about what incentives you could run for clients who haven’t visited your business recently. What would draw them back in? Is now the right time to offer a discount just for them? Weigh the pros and cons of offering a lower-priced service {one-time only!} over having to scout out brand spanking new clients.

7. Outshine your competition

woman on the beach

Now that you’ve taken steps to win-back or secure existing clientele, recession-proofing is all about finding cost-effective ways to expand your client base. Look around at your primary competitors and come up with a strategy to gain the upper hand.

There’s no need to go crazy here and start adding new services outside your core genius. Instead, look at what your competitors offer to add value to their business and more importantly, how they treat their clients.

Don’t panic if you aren’t familiar with other businesses within your industry. Researching those around you is easier than you think. Sign up for their email lists, pop over to their social media pages or even drop by their shops. Keep an eye out for the key differentiators that separate your business from theirs, and do your best to offer something unique no-one else can match.

The best place to start? Client service. Brainstorm a multitude of ways you go above and beyond to *wow* your clients. That’ll be the difference between an empty or full online appointment book during times of leanness.

Related: How to Wow Your Clients: 25 Ways to Stand Out from Your Competition

8. Keep your business in the public eye

What’s the first thought most businesses have when times get tough? Cut the marketing budget. As a solo entrepreneur, you might feel like it’s an unnecessary expense—but you’d be wrong.

Whether you’re running a full-blown campaign on social media, sending weekly emails, or blogging—keep it going. If you have the budget for it, ramp it up. In times of scarcity, your clients are looking to make changes in their buying decisions.

What does that mean for you? If your business isn’t on their radar, you might be saying goodbye to those potential clients. You need to help clients find your services and choose them, rather than push them toward someone else’s.

The fact is, it’s impossible to grow your business if no one knows about you. Relying solely on current clientele to stay with you is a serious gamble when a downturn is looming. To keep your calendar stacked, maintain your marketing for three to six months and track your results. At that point, you can reevaluate—but give yourself a fighting chance to stay ahead of the curve.

9. Want to fill your online appointment book? Become a *need to have.*

When the economy hits the skids, everyone tightens their belts. From the J. Crew cashier making $11/hour to the CEO raking in $250 K a year… the common denominator? Everyone still wants to treat themselves.

You need to become the service your clients will splurge on. Here’s how you go from *nice to have* to *need to have*:

  1. Add value—not price. Continue to add value to your services by going above and beyond wherever you can.
  2. Under-promise and over-deliver. Every. Damn. Time.
  3. Provide standout client service. Word of mouth is the cheapest and most effective way to bring in business.
  4. Make follow-up calls. It’s a rarity these days to get a call from a business {that doesn’t involve a sales pitch}. After an appointment, follow up to find out how the experience was and if your client has feedback for you.
  5. Send thank you cards. When was the last time you got an honest-to-goodness card in the mail? Blow your client’s mind by sending a thank-you card for being so marvelous!

Your challenge: Make every interaction count. Every client should leave your business feeling like you’ve markedly improved their day. If you stick to your guns here—your online appointment book is gonna be stacked!

10. Focus on what you do well

It’s easy to overlook how well your message connects with your clients when money is flowing… but, if there’s a chance the bottom’s gonna drop out why not tighten it up?

Ask yourself:

  • Do my clients understand the value my services provide?
  • What’s my specialty? Am I communicating that clearly?
  • How do my clients view my business? {ex. affordable luxury, cheap & cheerful}

A looming recession is not the time to branch out and start imitating your competition or frantically adding new services to appease the masses. You should delve into what makes you special, and articulate it in a way your clients can understand.

Once you’ve spent some time reflecting on your unique skills and message, determine what services and client sectors are most profitable for your business. In tough times narrow in to stabilize your cash flow.

11. Network & become the next *go-to* in your community

women networking to get more online appointment booking

People hate to waste money. I know I do, and I’m sure you do too. That’s why the first thing clients do when they’re considering making an appointment is open up Google to see if you’re legit. People do business with those they know, like and trust.

To survive a recession, an influx of newcomers into your industry or even a dry spell — you need to make sure people know who you are, what you do and how they can do business with you. Not to mention the bonus of being top of mind when your clients are referring to friends & family.

How do you get that familiarity?

First stop: networking online by connecting through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Engage daily with your followers and by commenting on other accounts {ya know, the *social* part of social media}. You can also go the extra step by visiting online groups where your target clientele is hanging out. Search for questions and be a helpful person providing answers.

Next up: keep your online presence tight. Have an up-to-date website that’s easy to navigate with links to your appointment booking page. Make it dead simple to go from browsing to booking.

Last, IRL you can drop by networking events, community fundraisers, the local coffee shop… show up, smile, and be friendly. Don’t focus on what you can get, but on what you can give.

Are you prepared to recession-proof your online appointment book?

The economy runs in cycles—it’s the perpetual circle of life.

Rather than lose sleep over the *what-if’s* and *what-happens-when* being blasted out as BREAKING NEWS every 15 minutes, you can choose to formulate a strategy. You may not be able to manipulate the economy, but with forethought and careful planning, you’ll be able to steer your business through whatever challenges come your way.