How Health and Wellness Businesses Can Thrive During A Recession

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These four to-do’s help your wellness center, fitness business or employee wellness business survive — even thrive –in an economic downturn or recession.

1) Renew your connections with current customers

Payoff: easier revenues and lower sales costs

Current and previous customers are your most valuable asset when the economy’s in a bad place. Why? Because they already know, like and trust your business. You can avoid the usual sales and marketing costs to introduce them to your business.

Instead of chasing new customers, target the ones you’ve already got. Do they know about your newest services? If they’ve fallen off the healthy lifestyles bandwagon, do you have products or programs to help them get re-started? Partner with related businesses who’re probably feeling the economic pinch too. For example, host a workshop offered by a local chiropractor. If you sell things that need replenishment (like supplements), now’s a good time to set up an automatic reorder program.

Don’t overlook the intangibles. For example, can you boost the fun level of your business by partnering with other businesses? We have one client whose wellness center brings in an improv comedy troupe every month to entertain the folks using the cardio equipment.

2) Random acts of kindness are good for business

Payoff: customer and employee goodwill and loyalty

You can be certain that most of your customers and employees are anxious and worried right now. A little goodwill goes a long way, whether it’s a personally-signed birthday card, genuine enthusiasm and a big smile when you see them, or an unexpected “random act of kindness” like a fresh shiny apple, a fresh flower or a gasoline gift card.

You don’t need a lot of marketing fanfare around random acts of kindness, either. Just do them – and let delighted and astonished word-of-mouth take care of the rest.

3) Watch your advertising spend

Payoff: lower customer acquisition costs = new customers who are more profitable from Day 1

In general, it’s really tough to scare up loads of new customers during a recession.

Before you commit thousands of dollars to direct-mail campaigns or “shotgun” tactics like newspaper and magazine ads, do the math. How many new customers will you need to get for this advertising investment to make sense?

Even if you’ve seen good results from advertising in the past, you should expect less impressive results right now. So last year’s advertising budget may not make sense this year.

Online advertising seems easier and cheaper – but it’s harder than it looks. You can easily waste hundreds, even thousands of dollars without getting a single new customer.

if you run a local health or wellness business, make sure you’ve done these six things before you even think about spending a dime on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or other forms of online marketing:

  • optimize your website for local search
  • look at your site statistics monthly and tweak your site accordingly
  • identify low-cost yet effective publicity opportunities, like providing free fitness classes for child survivors of cancer.
  • offer and promote free seminars that incorporate aspects of your wellness services and programs
  • offer and promote a free informational newsletter suitable for potential OR current customers
  • actively reach out to your local media to comment on health news and provide human interest story ideas, so that you’re likely to be contacted for quotes

4) Cash is king when business is slow

Payoff: better cash flow = larger cash cushion = a better night’s sleep

Four areas where attention can improve your cash flow:

First, little stuff adds up. Start here:

  • Can you switch to generic inkjet cartridges instead of Canon’s brand-name cartridges? How about compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) instead of incandescent?
  • Are your phone rates the best available? Call your business telephone provider and find out if you’re getting the best available rates, and check out Internet telephone services (aka “VoIP”) like Vonage or Packet8 which are often much cheaper than traditional telephone service.
  • Is your web developer gouging you because he can? If you’re paying steep rates for minor changes, consider sending an employee to a workshop to learn basic HTML so you can make small updates in-house in the future.

Next, do you have customers with past-due balances? We frequently see this issue if you sell memberships and wellness services to businesses. Hold their feet to the fire. It doesn’t matter how much you like them or how influential they are locally. They’re not good customers if they don’t pay you. Don’t continue to provide services to people who owe you money. Remember that you can report them to Dun & Bradstreet and other credit-reporting agencies.

Now, are you making full use of the terms you’ve agreed to with suppliers? If your terms are net 30, don’t pay earlier than 30 days. If you know that their billing cutoff each month is the 15th, order on the 16th so that you’ve got a full month to pay.

Last, ask for deals and special pricing. Don’t assume that your purchases are too small. Remind your employees to ask about the best price available when they’re buying on behalf of the business. Consider splitting the savings with them when they find a really good deal.