Rolling with the Tides: How Service Businesses Can Ride the Wave of Shifting Spending Habits
Wallets are tightening. People are spending less. The shifts in spending patterns are giving analysts a run for their money.
While we’re not yet in recession, the economy is giving off some serious warning signs, and experts are on high alert. One key indicator they watch is the yield curve, which is supposed to slope upward. However, if it starts to slope downward or becomes “inverted,” that’s a signal that a recession may be looming. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening right now – danger is on the horizon.
But there’s another, more relatable way to gauge the state of the economy: what people are searching for on Google. Google Trends reveals that searches for “recession” in Australia are abnormally high, and that’s never a good sign. In fact, the only times they’ve been higher were during the global financial crisis in October 2008 (although Australia managed to dodge a recession) and in March 2020, just before Australia indeed entered a recession. Unlike economic data, which is often lagging, these real-time Google search trends give us insights in the present moment. They offer a glimpse into how people are thinking about the state of the economy.
One trend I saw was small businesses asking how to grow a business during a recession. Now, as a small business owner, I’m in the same boat; so thought I’d do some digging into what’s working and what’s not.

The Wallet Revolution

Consumers have traded their cash splurges for a more frugal, value-oriented approach. Why? Well, the past few years have been, let’s say, interesting, and that has made everyone a bit wiser and tighter with their pennies.
The shift isn’t just about spending less, it’s about spending differently. Eco-consciousness, social values, digitalisation – all these are playing a big role. 

Adapting Like a Pro


Understand Your Client’s New Priorities

In the good old days, the recipe for success was simple. If you were a mortgage broker, you hunted for the lowest interest rate. If you were an accountant, you kept your eyes on compliance. But the tables have turned.

Why the Change?

The shifting spending patterns aren’t just about buying fewer lattes or skipping the smashed avo. Today’s clients aren’t looking for a job done; they’re looking for an experience, a relationship, and most importantly, a service that evolves with them.

How to Adapt?

  1. For Mortgage Brokers: Yes, the lowest interest rates will always be attractive, especially given the recent rate hikes. But in these unpredictable times, clients might also appreciate flexibility and risk management. Can they have an early repayment option? Is there a way to cushion the blow of potential future rate hikes? These are questions they might be asking. Listening to these queries and addressing them might just turn a one-time client into a loyal customer (and avoid clawback when they go rate-chasing again).
  2. For Accountants & Bookkeepers: Compliance is vital, but in a world where every dollar counts, cost-saving and sustainability advice could set you apart. Can you educate them on tax credits for eco-friendly practices? Or perhaps offer insights on streamlining operations for cost-effectiveness? Offering extra services not only adds value to your client but deepens your relationship with them.
  3. Client Retention: Don’t forget your existing clients while chasing the new ones. Clients appreciate being valued. Regular check-ins, personalised advice, and responsiveness can go a long way in maintaining a happy client base. A satisfied customer is the best business strategy.

Embracing the Digital Era

Gone are the days when the digital world was a futuristic concept, something to marvel at from afar. The digital era isn’t just knocking at the door, it’s already made itself comfortable in our living room. If you’ve been treating digitalisation as a sidekick, now’s the time to give it a promotion.

Why Digitise?

Digitalisation isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the new language consumers are speaking, and it’s high time professional services learn to converse fluently. The new-age consumer is not just tech-savvy; they are tech-dependent. They crave the convenience, the speed, the 24/7 accessibility that digital platforms provide.

How to Digitise?

  1. Virtual Meetings: The office is now as far as your nearest screen. Virtual meetings have made geographical boundaries irrelevant. They allow clients to consult with you at their convenience, creating a sense of comfort and flexibility. The pandemic forced us to get used to virtual meetings quickly, and while it’ll never be the same as in-person; the convenience and time-saving of virtual catch-ups are attractive. 
  2. Digital Document Signing: Who has the time to print, sign, scan, and send back documents? Digital document signing is quicker, easier, and eco-friendlier. Plus, it’s secure and legally binding. It’s a win-win! (yes, I know some banks don’t like it yet, but they will in time).
  3. Online Presence: A well-optimised website, active social media channels, and a strong SEO strategy are no longer optional. They are the lifeblood of your visibility in the digital age. It’s awesome if referrals are your main source of leads, but if you don’t have an online presence for potential clients to stalk, you could lose them by not showing up as trustworthy experts online. 
  4. Automated Customer Service: Chatbots, automated emails, and AI-driven customer service can answer client queries at any time of the day, improving client experience and freeing up your time for the stuff a robot can’t do. This can be great for guiding a client enquiry through to booking, or answering simple questions about your office location or hours. Just be careful not to overdo it, or make it too hard for someone to talk to a human when they want to.

Winning Hearts in a Numbers Game

In a world increasingly driven by algorithms and data, there’s one thing that sets you apart – the human touch. Yes, even in the world of mortgages and balance sheets, a dash of empathy and a sprinkle of personalisation can make a world of difference.

Why Empathise and Personalise?

Today’s consumers want to feel seen, heard, and valued. They want a service that understands their unique needs and caters to them. This is where empathy and personalisation come into play.

How to Empathise and Personalise?

  1. Know Your Client: Understanding your client’s unique needs, preferences, and circumstances is the first step. This means going beyond their financial situation. What are their life goals? What are their fears and concerns? This understanding allows you to tailor your advice and make your client feel understood. Need a hand with this? Check out my workbook
  2. Communicate Effectively: Clear, timely, and empathetic communication is key. Whether it’s explaining a complex mortgage term or discussing a tax issue, do it in a way that’s easy to understand and shows you care.
  3. Offer Personalised Solutions: One size doesn’t fit all. Customise your services to fit your client’s unique needs. This could mean offering flexible appointment times, personalised financial plans, or bespoke advice.
  4. Celebrate Milestones: Celebrate your client’s milestones, whether it’s a successful mortgage application or a profitable year-end. This not only shows your involvement but also strengthens your relationship with the client.
In the end, business is all about people. And people crave connection, understanding, and personalisation. By empathising with your clients and personalising your services, you’re not just providing a service; you’re building a relationship. And in this ever-changing landscape, that could be your strongest asset.
As the storm clouds of a potential recession gather on the horizon, it’s natural to feel a sense of unease. However, amidst the uncertainty, there are always opportunities for those willing to adapt. By understanding the shifting spending patterns, embracing digitalisation, and connecting with clients on a deeper level, you can position yourself to not only weather the storm but also thrive during challenging times.
Are you ready to win hearts in a numbers game?

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