“The next couple of years will be bumpy ones for the economy, with high inflation and slower growth. The likelihood of recession in the U.S. is now about 30%, up from 15% before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”– PNC Chief Economist Gus Faucher. (CBS 5/3/2022)
Many do not think the recession will hit until 2023 but that does not mean 2022 is without its challenges for small businesses, nor has it been easy the past few years during the pandemic. Small business owners are some of the most resilient people I know who use their innovative spirit and creativity to find solutions to hard problems. And in the past few years with a global pandemic, supply shortages, staff shortages, increased fuel costs, resulting in higher transportation and shipping costs, small business owners have had to modify, adjust and pivot.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”– Alexander Graham Bell
So again, if you believe the economists, and if indeed a recession is upon us, now is the time to prepare. Prepare financially by increasing your savings, lowering your debt, especially as interest rates continue to rise. Prepare your business plan to postpone big investments unless there is a guaranteed short-term return. Prepare your inventory now to circumvent supply shortages later. And … what’ll discuss in more detail in this blog, get your recession-proof marketing plan in order now.
Why Marketing is Essential, even in Recession
“Those who stop marketing to save money are like those who stop a clock to save time.”– Henry Ford
What did Henry Ford mean when he said that? Stopping a clock is futile obviously, but it would also be futile to cease your marketing strategies to believe it will save you money. If you reduce or stop marketing to reduce costs, you may think you’re helping your business but it’s actually counterproductive. If you quit marketing your product or service, you may save time and money, but you will also reduce sales and obviously profits that keep your business running. Marketing your product is critical to your brand’s success.
“Most of us are surprised to learn that increasing marketing during a recession can lead to growth. You see, companies that continue to market themselves during a recession stay on the forefront of the minds of consumers, so when consumers gain back the money to spend, they instinctively turn towards these brands.”– Wordstream.com
When you continue marketing, you provide an advantage that many of your competitors may miss. On the other hand, if you reduce your marketing presence, online and offline, you are causing two problems:
- First you opening the door to let competitors get the upper hand, while you have backed off from advertising and content marketing.
- Second, you are interrupting the SEO progress you’ve made, and taking a long pause in your online efforts will make it a harder climb back to get back where you left off.
For example, all the online work you’ve done in the past months and/or years has contributed to your current SEO page ranking for your targeted keywords. And all the offline work you’ve done (traditional marketing, networking, community involvement) have resulted in your brand being on the forefront of your target audience’s mind. When you resume marketing, you don’t want to have to start over or double your efforts to resume where you left off.
When it comes to marketing, it takes time to build momentum, to achieve the ranking on the SERP (search engine results page), to be seen as an authoritative and trusted site by Google, and to be seen as an expert in your field. So stopping that momentum when you have finally reached it, is like eating a dozen donuts to celebrate your loss of five pounds. Again, it’s counterproductive and foolish.
So how can you modify your marketing message during a recession? What marketing avenues should be maintained and pursued during a recession? And what marketing strategies can reduce costs while still showing a consistent ROI?
How to Revise & Pivot your Marketing Message During a Recession
“Don’t find customers for your product. Find products for your customers.”— Seth Godin
By having a consistent marketing strategy even during the downturns, you remind your customers that you are still there, running smoothing and open for new business. Even if you are not at your strongest, your clients and prospects will be attracted to whatever amount of stability you can provide. While marketing during a recession provides a unique set of challenges, it also creates opportunities and your efforts now during the rainy days will be remembered when the sun shines again. Here are some suggestions on how to market that improve reach, increase interest in your brand and cement the loyalty of your existing clients.
Pivot your Products / Services to Meet the Changing Needs of your Customers
Modify your product or service offerings to fit the needs of your customers, especially when their expenses may outweigh their income. There are four categories of products: Essential, Treats, Postponables, and Expendables, according to the Harvard Business Review. So if you product or service fall in the latter categories, HBR suggests:
“Begin by performing triage on your brands and products or services. Determine which have poor survival prospects, which may suffer declining sales but can be stabilized, and which are likely to flourish during the recession and afterward.”– Harvard Business Review
Your marketing, especially when done with a consideration of current market trends and circumstances, you can actually improve your brand to show that you are responsive to your customers’ needs and concerns. Simply put, show that you CARE. Ask yourself:
- If your consumers are feeling the pinch of uncertain times, how can your business (thus your product and services) respond to their needs?
- Does your product provide solutions that will provide consumers cost-savings in the short or long-term? If so, how can you promote this benefit clearly and effectively?
- Can you modify your process in serving your clients, receiving payments, offering payment plans, manufacturing your products, or revising your services to make it more affordable for clients in touch economic times?
Taking a good look at the benefits, especially the cost-savings of those benefits, are key aspects of your product or service that should be promoted and marketing during a recession.
“Don’t push people to where you want to be; meet them where they are.”– Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP Marketing of Hubspot
Create and Promote Content that Addresses Consumer Needs
Content marketing is your best strategy in a time when people are searching for answers, solutions and hope. Studies from the World Advertising Research Center show that content with an emotional message (of hope, empowerment, encouragement) have higher CTR (click-through-rates) than content with a focus on transactions (discounts, promotions or offers). A higher CTR means more people clicked on the ad to a brand’s website, showing engagement and interest in that brand. Here’s some tips on effective content marketing:
- Write content that sends the message that you care and that we are all in this together. Offer practical solutions for their concerns, whether they involve your products or not.
- Prepare a good content strategy before you start writing.
- Be consistent in adding content to your website, schedule it on your calendar and stick to it.
- Hire or subcontract experienced writers that can write quality, engaging and keyword-rich content.
- Promote that content to your target audience once published.
A Recession is a Great Time to Show Customer-Loyalty
“By increasing your customer retention rate by 5%, companies can increase profits by 25 to 95%.”– Martech
“It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep a current customer.”– National Review
The bottom line is that existing customers are easier to sell to, as they already are acquainted with the quality and customer service of your company; they spend more (300% percent), for the same reason; and they cost less to acquire, thus saving you marketing expenses.
So keep communications lines open with existing customers, via emails, newsletters, phone calls, or hand-written cards. Show them how much you appreciate them by offering discounts or surprise offerings (gift card, thank you refund, or small gift). And curate content especially for your existing customers, so they know that you are keeping them in mind and are addressing their changing needs in this economy. Write up a featured customer story, with their permission, with a case study or testimonial from them to show them how much you appreciate them.
How to Market your Brand while Also Cutting Costs
“The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”– Benjamin Franklin
The more you know, the less you will be led astray into chasing your tail when it comes to marketing. Know the direction, have a plan and an experienced guide to implement that plan whenever you start a journey. When it comes to marketing in any economy, it’s essential to have a good grasp on the tone and voice of your brand, the key benefits of your products and services, your clearly defined target audience and targeted keywords, your current/ past website and social media analytics, your ad campaign results, your KPI (key performance indicators) or your current most profitable channels, and which channels are yet untapped or underserved. How can you research, measure and analyze all of the above to determine ROI?
So many business owners I’ve spoken to in the past, felt the more they spent, the more they were getting but once analyzed thoroughly, the opposite was often true. I’ve sat on enough calls with clients and their marketing firms (acting as a translator of their technical jargon), to see first-hand how easily it is to get bamboozled when you don’t understand the process of Internet Marketing and SEO. We set ourselves from our competitors by being focused on customer needs by offering choices when it comes to their marketing plans, who will implement, the process they feel comfortable with and how much management they will need from our team.
“A professional website is the beginning of your internet marketing journey … we build strategies that increase traffic to your website and help convert those visitors into customers.”– Startup Production’s mission statement
How our Internet Marketing Analytics & Proposal (IMAP) Report can Help Cut Costs & Improve Reach
Startup Production offers an I.M.A.P. Report, which is our Internet Marketing Analytics & Proposal Report. It not only researches and analyzes your past marketing efforts and your current standing of your online presence, but also forecasts which and how future efforts can be implemented to improve leads and conversions (which equate to sales).
Our IMAP Report includes the following:
- Initial Meeting to decipher need & current goals. (Free)
- Exploration Meeting where we discuss current and past efforts made and their results, demographics of their target audience, the story behind their brand, their products and services, the benefits they provide over competitors, their goals, objectives and call-to-actions, and how their content is fulfilling user intent. (Prior to this meeting, I provide a customized document with 50-75 questions that we will discuss and is particular to their industry that helps the client prepare for the meeting).
- Analysis of current internet marketing strategies, insights and analytics (website, social media, blog, other advertising efforts).
- Research on industry specific marketing, targeted keywords, user intent and target audience.
- Create marketing proposal & plan of action based on above information and research. This will be a comprehensive document of 10-20+ pages that will include full detailed analysis with critiques of current footprint, recommendations, suggested improvements, and ideas for topics for content marketing.
- Develop Action Plan with the set number of hours client has agreed to spend on their monthly marketing and how to specifically use that budget of their time throughout the month.
- First training session to review and discuss initial proposal, share recommendations and marketing plan of action. Train owner and staff on how to implement plan-of-action.
- Second Training session 12 weeks later for analysis and adjustments.
Here are some Frequent Asked Questions about our Internet Marketing Analytics & Proposal Report:
How can the IMAP Report help cut costs? If you have the knowledge, then you have the power, as they say. By understanding what you’ve done right, what you need to improve and what new channels you need to implement, you take the guesswork out of your marketing strategy. You also gain the insight and ability for you and your staff on how to do it yourself. By training our customers on how to implement SEO, run ads, create content, promote their brand, we give them the know-how and freedom to do it themselves, thus reducing costs of outside third parties.
How can Knowledge Save you Money? Many marketing firms, especially some of the national chains, keep very close to the vest what they are charging their clients thousands of dollars a month for. I’ve seen their invoices/reports, with their vague descriptions of “SEO work” or “Content Marketing” or “Geolocation Optimization”, which means little unless you are telling the customer exactly what you are doing to put those in place. For example, if a mechanic put “Fix Car” on your invoice and charged you $3,000, I’m sure you’d ask for a detailed description of the parts and labor that were used as well as what exact issue they were fixing. I’m not sure why business owners don’t ask the same of their digital marketing firms.
Will I be ready to take on the marketing myself; or what if I need further help? Since we take the guesswork out of it, we make it simple, so simple that we can teach you how to do it yourself, if you have the time or the manpower to get it done. And we provide ongoing assistance if you need some hand-holding for the first three to six-months or longer. We are here as much or as little as you need, with no pressure sales. And for those who choose not to do their marketing in-house, we offer an array of affordable monthly internet marketing services. Our invoices disclose exactly what we are doing to incur a charge, but we also provide periodic analytics reports to show ROI, and regular communication with our clients to make needed adjustments going forward. Our goal is a partnership, a meeting of the minds when it comes to your marketing, thus we include our customers as much as they want to be in deciding content topics, frequency and ad budgets.
Can I customize my internet marketing plan; as well as upgrade, downgrade or cancel my plan at any time? We have no set packages so all our marketing plans are customized to our clients’ needs and built to their specifications and the researched recommendations from the IMAP report. Together after a full discussion of the report’s finding, we will develop a customized plan, with honest feedback to help you decide on what is practical, what is needed and what is overkill. And there are no set timed contracts, meaning all of our marketing plans are month to month, so you are not bound to any specific 6-month, yearly or longer commitments.
What should I do if I want to do my own marketing but do not have much time per month? When it comes to our IMAP Reports, at the second meeting, we determine how much time and/or resources you have to invest in your monthly marketing strategy, and we create a weekly and monthly plan that fits your needs. We determine how to best use your limited time to best serve your marketing goals. If you have a limited budget, we help determine if your budget allocation is currently providing equitable ROI, and how best to use allocate those funds to channels that are performing better with your target audience.
What if I want to do some marketing in-house and while also subcontracting some marketing efforts out, for example content creation? We create various hybrid plans with our customers. Many of our customers do feel comfortable with various aspects of their marketing channels, but need help with others. We will help manage the efforts they don’t want to or don’t have time for; a prime example is writing conte. It goes without saying many business owners struggle to allocate time needed to write good, effective and SEO-friendly content. And many just do not enjoy the process of writing content.
Startup Production has been writing content for customers of various industries for more than 10 years, including medical, service-based, industrial, financial, entertainment, hospitality and non-profit sectors. We enjoy writing and we love to implement your brand’s voice and skillsets into content that will have residual and long-term SEO benefits. Nothing has a longer and more measurable impact that content marketing. We believe it because we’ve seen it time and again.
How do I learn more? Contact Startup Production by email, phone or website form. (link to contact page) to set up that first FREE meeting to go over your goals, wants and needs. Our staff will set up a meeting with myself to discuss your needs and concerns, and how to proceed to the next step.
RECENT MARKETING TESTIMONIAL: “Nicole of Startup Production is a great locally owned female business with years of quality service. I had previously been using a very large out of state company and was spending over $1000 a month. Then I found Nicole who has helped me in so many ways and her pricing has saved me thousands. She is always available by phone or email and very willing to help. I would highly recommend her company if your looking for a great online presence that doesn’t break the bank.” – Paulette Collins (Five Star Google Review)
In Conclusion …
“Marketing is not an event, but a process. It has a beginning, a middle but never an end, for it is a process. You improve it, perfect, change it, even pause it. But you never stop it completely.”– Jay Conrad Levinson
Regardless of the economic climate, marketing your business is always the best path to success. Now is not the time to stay quiet but share your voice, your expertise and your concern for your audience. Startup Production has worked with 100’s of small businesses over the years showing them how to expand their voice in the market, and how to manage their online presence independently. We are here when they need us and not charging them needlessly when they don’t. That is why we don’t charge ridiculous monthly fees on our web design services. We are user-friendly, affordable, offering practical advice for small business owners because we are a small business and thus we understand all that goes into running a business.
Call us today for a phone or Zoom chat.