Living and working while the economy is in a downturn can be downright scary. And for business owners, watching a once vibrant and engaged audience of consumers start to lose interest and distance themselves can spell disaster if you’re not prepared for it. Fortunately, recessions are just temporary and, if you’re doing things correctly, your customers will come back in time. The key to success during times like these (besides optimism and patience) is strategic marketing. Here are some ways to turn your business “recession-proof”. Follow our lead, and you’ll be poised for success.
Don’t Instinctively Slash Your Marketing Budget
This is a problem we see all too often from businesses of all types. At times of economic uncertainty, you might be inclined to start making cuts to anything deemed non-essential to operations. And unfortunately for a lot of businesses, marketing dollars unjustly seem to fall into that category. Despite everything pointing to the contrary, marketing endeavors and the people that put them into place are still seen as “luxuries” in many a business owners’ eyes. Don’t give in to this temptation. Your marketing budget is not “fat” that needs to be “trimmed” at the first sign of financial instability. Your marketing plan is essential to your business’s current and future success.
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: Cutting your marketing budget is exactly what your competition is hoping you’ll do in this situation. In scaling back your marketing efforts, you’re essentially waving the white flag and pulling yourself out of the running for new clients. You’re driving potential buyers right into the arms of your competitors. You’re making this drought longer and more painful than it needs to be in precautionary and misguided effort at keeping a few extra dollars on hand in the short term. Don’t do it!
Start Tracking and Analyzing Data
Now if the decision to cut a marketing budget is outside your purview, then it’s important that you prepare yourself should such a directive come from one of your higher-ups. How you ask? By tracking and analyzing everything you possibly can when it comes to digital marketing. You should be able to see and understand your returns on investment for every dime you’re spending right now. Notice and dissect trends in traffic and conversion rates. Because of the data available, and your ability to customize and target specific audiences that are already interested in your products and services for a relatively low cost, digital marketing is going to be your saving grace as you get through this stage. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, while certainly not a great strategy to begin with, is now a surefire way to watch your marketing budget get diminished. The numbers don’t lie. When marketing dollars are clearly planting seeds, generating leads, and driving traffic and sales, this is not the time to ease off the pedal. Digital marketing, including pay per click campaigns, SEO optimization, paid search, social media initiatives, and other tactics are going to get you through this.
Focus on your existing customers
Now is not the time to start fishing with a bigger net. While expanding your consumer base tenfold would be awfully nice right about now, it’s just not realistic. Your consumers, and potential consumers, are feeling the economic strain right now just as much as you are. With maybe a few exceptions here and there, it’s safe to say they’re not out there looking for new places to spend their hard-earned money.
The best thing you can do for your business is to be there for your current customers–the ones who’ve stuck with you when times were good and who will stick with you during these trying times as well. Let them know you’re there for them and that they’re valued customers. Maybe this is a time to reward their patronage with a special discount or promotion. After all, they could use a little good news right about now too. Once this recession is past us, we can start looking into new client recruitment initiatives. But for now, it’s imperative that those who’ve stood by you continue to do so.
Take a long-term perspective
Now this one is easier said than done. We understand that when times get tough, you as a business owner are going to be tasked with extinguishing day-to-day fires and swinging wildly at curveball after curveball. And just when you think you have it under control, you guessed it; more fires, more curveballs. So when we say think about the big picture, we know it’s not always that easy. But if you obsess over driving your website’s traffic and your sales over a day or two with every Murphy’s Law scenario playing out all around you in real time, it’s going to be a painstaking process and visible gains will be minimal at best. Don’t let this discourage you. Observing your successes and/or opportunities for growth on such a small scale is not what we’re talking about. Instead, this is the time to start planning for the future. As hard as it may be to see it now, the recession you’re in is just temporary. The economy will rebound and, if you’ve put in the work when times were tough, your business will see growth like never before.
Reassess Your Brand Positioning
Okay, so what do we mean by this? Well, basically we’re suggesting that you be aware of how this recession is going to affect your target market and, more importantly, how are you going to adjust to it? This might be the perfect time to conduct a brand workshop (read more about what that entails HERE). It’s time to figure out what your business stands for during these times. How do you want your customers to see you? What can you offer your customers that no one else is offering? Even under normal circumstances, these can be tough questions to answer without some impartial input from outside your organization. And especially during uncertain economic times, this is not just a one-off exercise with throw away results. If you don’t know where your company stands or where it needs to go in order to succeed, you’ll have a lot of ground to make up once the recession is over..
Take a Hard Look at Your Current Expenses
As we mentioned earlier, and as you probably assumed before reading this, you may be forced to cut back on your spending. The key is to know just how to do that effectively without jeopardizing your future; that is, how to do more with less. This might come by way of postponing new investments or finding more affordable vendors and business partners. Again, we’re not suggesting that all marketing budgets be axed once and for all. Nor are we suggesting immediate cuts, layoffs, furloughs, or whatever else. But this is a good time to evaluate which of your dollars are being spent to drive sales and ensure future success? And which dollars could be saved for more vital purposes. Is it time to pull the plug on a wildly successful social media campaign that is continuously driving traffic and generating sales? No way. Is it time to maybe scrap the annual conference in Hawaii in favor of couple webinars over pizza in the breakroom? Perhaps. Basically, if something isn’t directly impacting your bottom line right now, or you don’t foresee it having a major impact in the future, it might be time to move on from it.
Critique Your Website
If it’s been a while since you really took a long, hard look at your business’s website, now might be the perfect time to do so. Consider this as seriously glass half full thinking, but with a likely decrease in traffic headed your way, you can take this time to spruce up certain aspects of the site. Are you happy with the way your site performs and looks? Before the recession hit, was it doing exactly what you needed it to do? Was it constantly bringing in traffic, leads, and/or sales? If not, then perhaps you’re due for a change. Now we can certainly respect your hesitation to spend money on a new or revamped site at a time like this. But just remember that your site is an important investment in your business and is absolutely necessary to ensure future success. It’s not something that you can simply ignore or cut, even during a recession. So if you can manage it, consider this down period as the optimal time to give your website some much-needed TLC.
Remember, You’re Dealing With People
We’ll keep this one short as it really should be a no-brainer, but it’s important to remember that recessions affect everyone differently. Apart from the economical aspect, people’s personal and family lives will be impacted and there’s no blanket strategy for dealing with the incurred stress and hardships. Being there for your clients and customers won’t cost you anything and it will go a long way in keeping spirits in check–even if conversions aren’t quite where you’d like them to be. This isn’t a big marketing ploy or anything, but being a respectful and empathetic human being is frankly more important now than ever before.
Keep An Eye On Your Competition
There’s a strong possibility that, depending on how long a recession lasts, some companies within your industry may be forced to close up shop. It’s up to you to make sure that you’re not one of them. It’s important to research your competition and see how they’re performing and serving your market at this time. Because I’ve got news for you; if they’re smart, they’re doing the same thing to you. Do not let them outperform you, especially right now. As we’ve mentioned, business strategies and goals are going to change, sometimes significantly, across the board for a while, and you want to stay two steps ahead of your competitors throughout. Build upon your existing strategies, find new avenues through which your services can help your clients, and just go above and beyond in every capacity. With a lot of hard work (and a little luck) your shared audience will begin to take notice and you’ll be that much further ahead once the recession is over.
Find a Trusted Partner
We know this can be a lot to take on right now. Which is why our last piece of advice is to find a trusted marketing partner who can assist and guide you through these uncharted waters. Trying to tackle these items alone is perhaps a lot to ask right now and it never hurts to have some teammates in your corner fighting for you. Take some time in picking the right partner too as you want someone who knows the ins and outs of branding and marketing who has experience helping companies during uncertain economic times. Mind you, this isn’t going to be a quick, end-all-be-all, wipe-your-hands-of-it solution either. Entrusting your company’s marketing success to an established partner or agency is going to require a lot of hard work and buy-in from both sides in order to generate positive results. So, to reiterate everything we’ve said thus far, trust this process and take things one step at a time. Celebrate the victories, but don’t get discouraged when things don’t go as planned. Be flexible. Keep the end goal in the forefront of your mind and don’t forget to take a few steps back from time to time to remind yourself of the big picture. Getting through this recession is going to be a challenge, but it won’t be impossible. If you stay calm, put in the work, do your research, focus your marketing efforts, and partner with the right team, you’ll be just fine.