Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specialising in lead generation and content marketing.
OPINION: While there are a few outlier businesses who are thriving at the moment, many of the business owners I’m speaking to have definitely seen a cool down in leads and sales.
I’m not an economist, but I love to read and explore, and I’m also a mega planner. So with markets all over the world saying a recession is coming, and my desire to make sure both we and my clients (and you) are prepared, I thought this was a great opportunity to talk about how we need to market during a recession.
If you only take away two things from this column, it would be the following two points. First, a recession doesn’t always mean disaster is coming. Many businesses can thrive during a recession. It’s about narrowing your focus, your message and really getting your target market clear. I’ve got businesses I’m working with who are having their best year yet. And others who have already experienced a significant slowdown.
* The art of balancing creativity and business
* Mike O’Donnell: The online art of a good cross-sell
* Good luck finding a five-hour a week ‘marketing angel’ offering entry-level pay
* 12 questions to answer before writing your marketing strategy
* The best way to stand out from one hundred businesses just like yours
One of the things to be mindful of is to almost wipe the last two years out when comparing your growth.
For some the pandemic brought disaster, and for others it brought a boom of sales. If you want to have a place to measure growth, go back to the year before March 2020 to make your comparisons.
The second point is that marketing must continue.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I’m stressed I want to hunker down, and sometimes the marketing stuff feels a bit harder to do, because it’s taking me away from the effort of just surviving.
I’ve experienced this recently, not due to recession effects, but just with a large couple of projects that have taken up my headspace. But this is not a time to abandon marketing. In fact marketing might be your ticket out of any recession-based pain you might be open to.
So with these two essential tips covered, what else is important?
Well, for starters, you may need to make some changes in what you market.
I’m not asking you to pivot (I still get shudders from that word) but I am asking you to be flexible in what your primary offer is, where it sits or even who you are targeting it to.
Sometimes our core offers in a time of plenty don’t fit a time where the belt is tightening. It’s a really good idea to look at the trends and make adjustments. They need to stay in your zone of expertise, be something you can deliver profitably, and also be to a target market that’s open to it. It’s a good idea to think about how you can reshape or repackage something you already have, rather than risking everything on something that’s brand new.
The best place to focus your marketing efforts is with people who’ve already chosen you before. This is the time to dig deep into those emails, and start to get a regular habit going. Don’t just send endless promotional material.
Send email that helps people connect with your brand. Give them tips, or even a special discount. If you’re in a B2B space, email some of your biggest (or favourite) customers individually, and check in with how they are going.
Be wary of making it all with a hope that they’ll buy from you. People can smell desperation from a mile off, and no-one likes to be emailed just to be sold to. I often suggest you mentally turn off your selling buttons, so you can write with generosity and authenticity without that creep of “buy my stuff” permeating every sentence.
Of course, you can sell in an email. Just focus on the customer a little first before you jump in with the ask.
When it comes to your marketing message, you might need to do some tinkering with your messaging. When we’re in a time of easy growth, or even maintenance, it’s easy to get a little broad and general with your messaging. When it’s a time when everyone’s going for a smaller audience, you need to be really sharp with what makes you different from everyone else. This can include clearing up some of the messaging on your website, making sure the messaging is the same on all the platforms you use, and keeping your core messages consistent everywhere.
When people are under stress, they need you to make it easy for them. Super clever taglines aren’t helpful to someone starving for what you need. Make it clear, simple and direct.
When it comes to social media, find little ways to make it more personable. We’re all looking for connection, and if people feel emotionally invested in you, your team and your brand, they are more likely to support it and use their money with you. This is something that needs to be from the heart. People can spot a needy or contrived campaign a mile off. Simple ways to do this can include sharing a bit of office life, packing an order or sharing a business update that is a bit more every day than “here’s us at the Christmas party”.
Whatever you do, you need to stay consistent. Consistency is a powerful weapon during a recession. When you show up consistently, you show you’re committed to building a relationship with your followers. You should be trustworthy. And you make it harder to be forgotten. Sometimes, being the most consistent marketer can put you ahead of those who are better at marketing than you, but distinctly sporadic.
Leading experts on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) believe companies can benefit further by implementing DEIB practices throughout their organisations, online and offline.
If you’re wanting to tighten the budgets, it makes sense to look at your marketing budget.
Take a look at what’s working and what isn’t, and cut from the areas of your marketing budget that aren’t giving you the returns you need. It’s really important to keep spending where things are working. That Facebook or Google Ads bill might look big every month when you go to pay it, but it may be helping you sell a significant amount of product or services. It’s not always a good idea to cut everything, as you’ll also end up dropping your sales.
Overall, the last tip relates to your own expectations during a recession.
If you’re focussed on how difficult it will be and all the stress, it’s far easier to become overwhelmed.
There are many stories out there of businesses who’ve grown through a recession, across all sorts of business types and models. Get yourself some recession-proofing motivation in learning about how other businesses succeeded before you, and you’ll be in a better position to not only get through a recession if it comes, but to grow and thrive during it.