We usually have our weekly planning meetings in one of the coffee shops in town—for one thing, there’s better coffee—and we can usually find a couple of other business owners to chat with.

The “R” word is coming up a lot, of course. How bad will it be? What should we do? How worried are you? Maybe surprisingly, in those coffee shop gabfests, we’ve heard some fabulous ideas and success stories along with the questions and worried looks.

Recessions are not new. Statistics show that businesses that continue promoting through recessionary times come out stronger than ever when the hard times are over.

The First Step: Take care of your ideal customers and they’ll take care of you.

Ideal customers really trust you, value the experience they have doing business with you and look to your expertise to give them what they want. They buy a lot of your product, pay quickly and never give you a headache. They pay more, and they expect to!

They are the lifeblood of your business, and right now they are being wooed by every one of your competitors with special offers, lower prices and extravagant promises.

If you do nothing else this week do this: write to each of the ideal customers who provide most of your profit to tell them how much you appreciate their business. Reassure them that you are committed to maintaining the high level of service they are accustomed to. Ask for a personal meeting with you or your sales team to discuss their needs. Remember, they are hurting too—be prepared to offer them something of value that will help them keep their ideal customers.

And know that in times like these, you have to go the extra mile to maintain these valuable relationships.

But don’t stop there. Ask your ideal customers what publications they read, what TV shows they like, what kind of music they prefer, and perhaps even what kind of leisure activities they enjoy. Look for the commonalities among the answers and you’ll get an idea of the places where your advertising will work best because it’s reaching the right people.

If you really want to be successful, you simply must strengthen the loyalty of your Ideal Customers and find more customers just like them.

Here is what we would like to hear you say every time you are about to start a new task in your business: “Will this help me keep my ideal customers?”

If the answer is no—don’t do it!

Elizabeth Walker and Ken BurginElizabeth Walker and Ken Burgin

Ken Burgin and Elizabeth Walker are the Marketing Masters, a full-service marketing and advertising partnership that helps build busy businesses.