Do you feel a recession coming? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 70% of Americans are bracing themselves for an economic downturn, with the majority expecting it to happen in the next six months.
More often than not, recessions mean bad news for SMBs. For small business owners working with limited cash reserves, the general economic belt-tightening makes it harder to score work, obtain materials for fair prices, and even tackle their daily commutes.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Recessions also provide brands with valuable growth opportunities.
When you understand and fulfill your consumers’ changing needs during an economic slowdown, you can pick up market share, bump up profit margins, and position your brand for explosive growth once the market recovers.
The key to marketing in a recession is planning ahead. To help with this, we have compiled a list of five recession-proof marketing strategies you can implement right now.
1. Reassess Your Customers’ Top Priorities
Consumer priorities have changed significantly in the last decade, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. With recession calls coming from many directions, there’s every possibility that customers may recalibrate their spending habits.
In order to deal with this, examine how the pandemic, inflation, and other factors have influenced your customers’ behaviors and preferences. The goal is to identify what they are most likely to cut back on and provide valuable alternatives.
Also, aligning your brand with user expectations is crucial to marketing in a recession. If your brand is experiencing some downtime right now, you can use this opportunity to reassess and reestablish its personality and voice.
Is it hitting the right notes? If not, do you need to make changes to your marketing messages?
Examples of shifting priorities could include cost savings, company morals, and eco-friendliness, among other things. Here’s the real million-dollar question: how do you effectively understand what your customers care about?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, you can try:
- Engaging with users in real-time through channels like Messenger
- Generating behavioral data from customer analytics
- Creating robust buyer personas (a fictional description of your ideal customer)
- Analyzing competitor behavior and looking into what they’re doing right
2. Focus on What Makes Your Offerings Valuable
A looming economic recession can be an ideal time to identify what values set your brand apart – and how you can showcase them to your customers. Think of it as shining a spotlight on your strengths.
If you want people to continue shopping with you, even during a nationwide financial crisis, you must make your value readily apparent to all. A great way to accomplish this is by evaluating how customers perceive your brand and delivering on their expectations.
Ready to try value-based marketing for size? Here are two ways to get started.
Launch Promotional Programs
When it comes to marketing in a recession, successful promotional programs satisfy consumer demands. For this to happen, you must:
- Zero in on your target. Will the promo apply to your entire audience? Or is it more geared towards some subsets of your client base?
- Set clear goals and have a distinct idea of what you wish to accomplish.
- Leverage the element of surprise.
- Raise the stakes by placing time limits on your promotions.
- Hand out freebies, if possible.
- Spread the word about your promo.
Bank on Informational Marketing
Informational marketing is the art of displaying details about a product or service. In a nutshell, it educates audiences about the basics of your brand – where your products are sold, their core features, and what makes you unique.
Things like how-to videos, e-books, blogs, and brochures qualify as informational marketing. They present users with an exact description of a service or product, as well as what differentiates them from others in their niche.
Informational marketing is all about creating content that lets audiences find what they’re looking for. The more information they have about your business, the more likely they are to consider investing in it.
3. Bolster Your Customer Feedback Initiatives
Your existing customer base is one of your biggest assets during an economic crisis. As you’ve likely heard, it’s easier to retain old users than find new ones. If that wasn’t enough reason to nurture your clientele, happy customers can also recommend your business to peers, leave glowing reviews, and bring in referrals when sales start to dry up.
Whether you’re gathering data for internal purposes or collecting customer reviews and testimonials to share with other shoppers, now is the time to ramp up your efforts. Given how 98% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, positive customer feedback can go a long way in saving your bottom line.
Not sure how to connect with customers and request reviews? You can start by:
- Asking for reviews in your post-purchase e-mails.
- Adding a review request form on your product pages.
- Creating a separate landing page for reviews.
- Inserting review requests in e-mail newsletters.
- Awarding loyalty points for writing reviews.
- Responding to all reviews thoughtfully (even the negative ones!).
- Joining social media conversations about your product.
- Managing reviews with Product Review Tools.
- Sending out feedback surveys promising a discount on completion.
4. Don’t Cut Your Budget
Most small business owners instinctively slash their marketing budget at the first sign of economic trouble. While they might assume marketing is expendable, the reality is far from it.
Despite its momentary benefits, decreasing your marketing budget can hurt your business in the long term. Not only will you lose market share, but you’ll also have a more challenging time attracting new customers.
By curbing your marketing efforts, you risk cutting valuable connections with customers that may help you remain afloat in times of duress. That’s why businesses without a market presence are left most vulnerable during a recession: they have no clientele to fall back on.
The truth is that marketing in a recession allows you to micro-target your business’s most valuable audiences, even on a smaller budget. All you need to do is spend smarter, and you’ll have no trouble working with lower capital than usual.
Start by locating which of your marketing vehicles generate the most ROI, and double down on them. If need be, outsource some functions to a reputable digital marketing firm that knows how to keep up with changing times. Whatever you do, be sure to keep your core promotional campaigns running in full swing!
5. Automate Where You Can
Small businesses often take pride in the personal touch. However, many teams are currently stretched thin, and it could pay to automate some tasks – especially those that are potentially revenue-generating.
This includes marketing. Automated marketing is simpler, speedier, and more efficient – plus it can save you money on labor charges. What’s not to love about that?
Marketing in a recession is all about making the most of limited resources- and automated marketing can help you do that. Here are a few examples of tasks you can (and probably should) automate.
- Drip Campaigns: Enroll specific contacts in a campaign to automatically send them tailored content at set intervals.
- Follow-Ups: Instead of manually chasing people who don’t get back to you, send them an automated e-mail every week.
- Social Media Posts: Social media automation allows you to post regular updates without relying on a team. It also schedules shares and reposts to maximize your reach.
- Email Management: Schedule e-mails to send later, set reminders, and track responses.
- Cart Abandonment Mails: Nudge customers to cross the line with automated cart abandonment e-mails.
- Upselling Customers: Automation can enable you to upsell customers with products and services similar to those they have enjoyed before.
The Wrap Up
As you can see, marketing in a recession isn’t the most difficult thing to accomplish, provided you use a little foresight. By being open to change, understanding the true value you provide to customers, and re-examining their priorities, you can help your brand weather financial storms with ease.
Want to learn more about marketing in a recession? Our team at Ayokay is happy to talk about the best strategies for your business. As a full-service digital agency, we’re passionate about guiding you to marketing success. Contact us to find out more about what we do!
Jack Shepler is a Marketing and Search Engine Optimization expert. He founded Ayokay, award-winning marketing, and web design firm in Indianapolis, Indiana that has built brands, increased sales for businesses, and helped nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions since 2011. He uses his decades of experience to educate through the Ayokay blog and through public speaking. You can follow him on LinkedIn.