Marketing Strategies During A Recession

By: Michael Frank

If you’ve ever been an organizational leader, marketing team member or agency partner you’ve likely encountered some scenario of external economic uncertainty and the direct impact that can have on operational costs. Typically, one of the first budgets businesses reduced in a downturn is marketing. That’s a mistake. Recessions can be opportunities to accelerate growth and deepen the relationship with your customer base. Bottom line, it’s advantageous for businesses of all sizes to spend smarter, not less. Here are four tactics we advise our clients to focus on and support them in delivering upon in times of economic uncertainty. 

1. Become Customer Centric With Communities & Workflows

It sounds obvious but unless your business is customer centric, it’s unlikely to last for the long haul. Amazon made this their mission – so why wouldn’t you? Get ahead of the game by identifying all of your customer touchpoints pre and post-purchase and re-examine the communication and value proposition you’re offering them. In a world where anyone can find just about anything online, what’s separating your company from the competition beyond a logo and a promise? How you treat your customers, of course! Community moderation, quick replies to questions and inquiries, and being personable go a long way in building trust and affinity – especially if things don’t go great the first time. 

An easy post-purchase win is setting up retention and referral workflows – and if they haven’t purchased from you in some time, then a win-back email series is a non-intrusive way that gently reminds your customer you’ve missed them and have something special to offer for a limited time. Ultimately, turning your existing customers into evangelists is word-of-mouth marketing gold. Ask to utilize their user generated content in a pay-per-click campaign that shouts them out, send them a heartfelt thank you in the comments section online or better yet, a personalized note with their next purchase. One founder we work with includes a handwritten note in every shipment – which has led to a 50% customer return rate per month, a statistic often unheard of in eCommerce. And if the experience is outstanding from start to finish, they’ll tell everyone they know.

Returning Customer Rate (Tincanfish.com)

2. Focus On Unique Marketing Messages based on the Customer Funnel 

Awareness, interest, conversion, retention, referral are all common conversational touch points within marketing departments and components of a comprehensive digital strategy. Yet, how much attention is being paid to the specific tools and measurement that drive your company’s goals for each stage of the funnel? Does your CRM and PPC strategy reflect the buyer’s journey from start to finish? For many small businesses, this type of thinking is a luxury; however it stands as one of the most critical determinants of success. In an economic downtown, every marketing dollar spent matters even more. Establishing an executable funnel or revitalizing an old one can help deliver more leads, customers and revenue with a greater ROI. 

In order to succeed in your space, look for low-cost, high value opportunities such as display, search and retargeting. Then combine compelling copy and creativity with a value-oriented proposition that makes it impossible for the user not to take action. Once you’ve got them to click, be sure to make it as simple as possible for the customer to find what they’re looking for by utilizing conversion oriented design on the site or landing page they’re being directed to. 

Retargeting is a great way to re-engage customers who bounced without converting. Because so much marketing goes to acquiring new customers, your existing customers can be an afterthought, but a high-touch retention approach – such as first-looks, discounts for subscriptions, and loyalty programs are cost-effective ways to bring customers back. 

Another key ingredient to the perfect funnel recipe is measurement. Tools like Google Data Studio can help any marketing manager or business owner visualize their marketing spend and results in easy to understand graphs and charts. Creating a dashboard with up-to-date metrics allows your marketing team to identify how to spend their budget most effectively, as well as spot new opportunities to test and iterate against along the way.

maximizing content for the marketing funnel

3. Invest in Organic 

For all the visibility it can bring to a business, SEO doesn’t get enough attention in mainstream marketing circles. I suspect that’s due to the confusion of the ranking process, algorithmic complexity, and laundry-list of terminology. Because there’s already countless words dedicated to breaking down and describing all of what SEO entails I’ll focus on why it’s important (hint: “FREE” AWARENESS) and provide some quick tips to get the SEO conversation started. 

Unlike any number of levers one can pull when promoting a business, Organic Traffic costs a fraction of other awareness generating mechanisms. To start, use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Trend Search to see what (and when) people are searching for terms related to your business. If it’s a seasonal product, this can help you forecast sales and therefore inventory. Next, strategically use those keywords on your site for better on-page SEO. A deeper dive into keywords will help you craft an ongoing content strategy for your business. Regular publishing of blog posts, video content, listicles and the like related to those keywords will increase page rankings and as more people find it engaging the greater the potential for your ranking. 

One crucial distinction to make for community-centric business is Local SEO. According to Sagapixel.com, more than 50% of all searches have local intent and occur on a mobile phone. So owning your directory listings, keeping the information up to date, and including copy and imagery that reflects the best version of your business online can make or break your business when customers’ spending habits get more selective. In addition, noticing wins in regards to Local SEO is often faster seen which means that your Local SEO strategy could impact your business’s bottom line sooner than other strategies.

4. Invest In Producing Stories, Not Promotions for a Better Return

Strategically placed promotions can help spur sales during a competitive holiday weekend or traditionally slow sales season but consistently dropping prices in the name of moving units will train customers to not purchase at full price – or even worse – cheapen your brand in the eyes of your core customers. It’s easy to fall into this trap during a recession however with advanced preparation and planning there’s a number of ways to avoid it. 

  1. Create content that sells. Brand vs. performance. Storytelling vs. selling. These age-old questions no longer have to be at odds with each other with modern modes of communication. With phones better than many cameras and social (Instagram) or interest (TikTok) based platforms at your fingertips. Why not tell your brand story through a customer solving their problem with your product? Or produce a short series going into the company’s history and relationship to the community. It doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact, if your audience is Gen Z, they may prefer the authenticity of a honestly told story rather than a perfectly polished one. 
  2. Expect the unexpected. We all want to be surprised and delighted – and when this happens during the course of a purchase – all the better. Create customer appreciation week and offer a free gift with purchase over a certain value, do a live Q&A on social with community members who may not be customers yet, or promote a local cause that’s especially important to the neighborhood with a percentage of proceeds going to that particular organization. 
  3. Use humor. Admittedly, this is a tricky one and should be used with caution and consideration, as well-intentioned humor can be interpreted as inappropriate by some. So consider your audience and if you think they will be in on the joke, go for it, tastefully of course. The easiest way to accomplish this is through your brand voice via the social content you post. Witty remarks, playful language, and tongue in cheek turns of phrase can all lead to greater engagement and thereby more brand affinity. Another way, would be to poke-fun at your own business by showcasing the unintentional ways your product or service gets consumed. Because broader economic uncertainty can cause daily financial stress for so many, it’s important to run these ideas by your team or a trusted advisor before posting. 

In Need of Marketing Strategy?

These four strategies for marketing during a recession will not just help your business survive, but come out ahead of the curve when the economic headwinds turn and are in an expansion phase. Then it’ll be time to focus your attention on scaling the strategies that are most successful. 

If you like what you’ve been reading about here, we’d be happy to speak with you about implementing these marketing strategies as we face economic uncertainty. Shoot us a message and we’ll follow up with you directly. If you’re currently working with RyTech please feel free to reach out to your main point of contact and they can coordinate a strategy call.

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