recession marketing strategy

What’s your recession marketing strategy? Are you preparing to win the recovery? 

Before we jump into business stuff, let me say I hope you, your family, and your teams are healthy and safe. Whether you’ve had to pause revenue-generating operations completely or your buyers just aren’t buying like they used to, the ideas that follow will help your marketing team continue to deliver real value and position your brand for the coming economic recovery. As always, we’re here to help if you need us.

For many marketers, yesterday marks one month since the day your ad messages suddenly became irrelevant, your budget evaporated, the stock market plummeted, and your buyers stopped thinking about nearly everything except the COVID19 pandemic and the unprecedented businesses and personal challenges it brings. 

I like to say “the customer is not always right, but perception is always reality.” For many brands, customers and prospects have all but disappeared, and they won’t come back even when the government says it’s OK. They’ll come back when they feel it’s safe, physically and financially, to do business with you again. 

The Economic Crisis Ends When Customers Say So. 

When your buyer’s attention turns from survive to thrive once again, will you be ready or will you be playing catch up?

Now that the past few weeks of crisis communications priorities have stabilized, we find that opportunities for real growth are still weeks or months away for some brands. According to a Harvard Business Review study published after the last recession, 85% of growth-leader companies are displaced during a recession. Many businesses won’t even survive this one, and the ones that do will encounter a new and unfamiliar competitive landscape. New market leaders will emerge. Will you be one of them? 

That same article details how companies that focus on efficiency improvements (not just staff cuts) and balance that with strategic spending on marketing, R&D, and asset investments, are the ones that fare better. Fortunately, there are deals to be had in each of these areas. While we’re certainly in uncharted waters now, we expect that progressive leaders that are able to find the right balance of efficiency and prudent investments will once again be the winners of the economic recovery. 

In terms of your marketing investments (of time, money, or both) here are some ideas your team can implement right now, either internally or with an agency partner. If you haven’t done these things, or had the resources to do them well, now is the time to act. 

Branding and Differentiation
If you haven’t updated your customer personas in a while, now is a good time to revisit them. Who are your ideal customers? How much do we really know about them, their needs, and their journey? Do you offer a compelling differentiation strategy among the competitive set–one that will support future growth? Are you in a category by yourself? Do the buyers understand your competitive advantage? Do they believe it? Will the difference or category still be relevant after the crisis abates? Also, have you refreshed your competitor analysis recently? Do you know what competitors are saying? Which ones might not survive?

Content Plan
Remember when you were too busy to produce the content you wanted to produce? Keep the content flowing now to sustain your awareness, SEO, and social visibility. Take advantage of this time to do a content audit or even to get a few months ahead on your content calendar. If you don’t have a content strategy, now is the time to develop one. Start with your ideal customer and their information needs during various stages of their buying journey. Add your content niche (your authority on the topic+value to the audience+underserved by competitors). Determine your topics, how you will complete them over time, and how they will work together to form authority-building and traffic-attracting topic clusters. If you already have a consistent content program in place, take a fresh look at your “delight-stage” content. What additional content could you create for your existing customers to improve satisfaction, earn more of their business, and grow word-of-mouth? Finally, if your content doesn’t include video, now is the time to invest. Production companies are eager to get back to work as soon as it is safe.  

Creative
If you’ve paused your media or switched to an interim coronavirus-related message, revisit your prior campaigns. When we move to “new normal,” will this still resonate? Were your creative concepts already becoming stale before the crisis? Can you do better? Will this work help you increase market share in a post-crisis environment?  

Media
For the first weeks of the crisis, noise, customers’ inattention, off-tone creative, and budget freezes caused many advertisers to pull back spending drastically. Now that conditions are stabilizing somewhat, there is a huge opportunity right now for brands to invest in mindshare–and there are bargains to be had in digital and traditional media. Think of awareness like the stock market, and buy when the price and competition are low. If you have cash and a message that resonates, buy some visibility that will position you for future growth. 

Trade Show Alternatives
For B2B brands that rely on trade shows to supply leads, we have to assume disruption of that lead source well into 2021. In fact, as buyers and sellers find successful alternatives, the trade show landscape may be transformed forever. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to implement inbound and/or Account-Based Marketing (ABM) programs to build your lead-generation machine. Also, take a fresh look at the offerings of trade media leaders in your industry, particularly their email relationships with prospects, their webinar products with existing audiences, their gated white paper programs, and other lead-gen specific opportunities beyond the basic magazine or banner ad. If you maintain prospect databases, be ready to do a major overhaul, as many buyers will have been displaced. 

Website
Is your website worthy of an emerging market leader? Is the user experience simple and streamlined? Is it focused on users and their needs, or on you and your offerings? Does it deliver a responsive mobile experience? Are you using video effectively? Is your content well-organized and optimized for search? Have you considered optimizing your content for voice search? Would a chatbot help engagement? Do you have modern analytics and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) tools installed? Is your website in a constant state of evolution and Growth-Driven Design (GDD), or is it a one-off effort that began its inevitable decline on the day it went live? As you know, web years are like dog years, so if your website is more than a year old, it’s time to start thinking about the next evolution. Do it now. Be ready when your customers are ready. 

Digital Footprint
While your website is the most visible online manifestation of your brand, also consider upgrading your social media profiles. Add or delete social media channels to stay aligned with the needs and habits of your various audiences, enhance your profiles, share your content, and build your audience. Perhaps introduce a “Follower” strategy to improve your reach. Follow industry thought leaders and other inspiring people on their social media channels, engaging with and promoting their content. You might just get them to follow you back and/or share your content. Optimize your YouTube channel. Improve your local SEO by optimizing your presence with Google My Business, all relevant directory sites, and any association trade sites to make sure they all have correct and current information and backlinks wherever available. Look at your reviews, actively replying to both the positive and the negative, and encourage your customers to add their reviews as well. 

Marketing Tech Stack
This is an ideal time to review your marketing and sales technology. The value of these tools can range from simply adding a little efficiency to something positively transformational. However, the low “per user per month” costs can add up to huge expenses for you over time, and their features and benefits are constantly evolving and leapfrogging each other. Take a look at your processes and utilization for each tool. Does the tool still bring value? Should you use it more/better or eliminate it? Look for redundancy across platforms and eliminate waste. Look for new tools in the marketplace that can perform essential functions even better than the ones you currently have. Look at integrations and analyze how well your tools work together or could work together. This is not merely a cost-cutting exercise. In fact, you may find that you haven’t budgeted enough for the tools your marketing and sales teams need to be effective. Consider the potential value to your organization, the transition and training cost, and if the time is right to get your team up to speed on a new tool before the next economic expansion begins. Most important, always be deliberate in planning and maintaining your tech stack, especially when it’s so easy and affordable to say yes to low-cost line items individually. They add up. 

Social Listening
Speaking of tech stack, some of the most underutilized features of many marketers’ tech tools are the ones designed for social listening. Consumer brands tend to be more engaged in this area, but both B2B and consumer brands can learn much by listening to customers more and combining the insights they discover with their inbound and ABM strategies. Want your customers to engage with you? Engage with them. It starts with listening. 

Marketing Automation
If you’re using marketing automation tools (and you are, aren’t you?), take advantage of this time to review and enhance your nurturing and remarketing sequences throughout your funnel. Align them with your updated personas and buyer’s journey. Leverage your differentiating messages and your new content. Test now to make sure your new initiatives are ready to scale. 

Key Takeaway – Your Recession Marketing Strategy
If you can’t get customers right now, make friends. Share stories. Be helpful. Use this time to enhance your relationships with current customers, future buyers, influencers, employees, potential employees, media, vendors and other stakeholders. Let them know you will be ready when they are. If you’re not sure how to do any of this, let us know how we can help