Times are tough for everyone, but if you’re trying to launch or expand your small business, an economic downturn can seem like a death sentence. Don’t worry: it doesn’t have to be!
It’s normal to want to cut costs, so many business owners start with their marketing budget. That’s a big mistake because when sales are down, all you have is your customer base! Great marketing protects your brand reputation so you can survive until the economy improves. The key is to stay “top of mind” for your target audience, and that’s always worth the investment.
Here are the 7 best tips for marketing your small business during a recession.
#7 Provide Value Rather Than Promoting
After the COVID pandemic first gripped the nation, consumer demand plummeted. Many businesses were forced to shut down or scale back. This led to widespread layoffs and unemployment. Obviously, people weren’t amenable to sales pitches.
The businesses that continued to thrive during the early stages of the pandemic were those that prioritized their brand’s community. They may have cut back their promotional activity, but they continued to market themselves as a supportive solution. For example, craft stores began hosting virtual workshops, while SaaS enterprises released helpful content.
These strategies kept the brands “top of mind.” When consumers felt comfortable spending again, guess who got their business?
Consider how you can provide value to your audience instead of asking them to purchase from you. That’s critical for gaining loyalty that will outlast the recession.
#6 Reconnect With Existing Customers
In addition to prioritizing value, focus on how you can engage your current customer base. This is sound advice for good economic times as well. It’s usually more cost effective to recapture previous buyers than to seek new ones!
Plus, consumers love feeling special. By offering VIP sales, loyalty rewards, and so on, you can win them over again. This approach often boosts your revenue without requiring expensive ad campaigns or media promotions! Leverage your email and social media for great marketing with a higher chance of conversion.
#5 Build Your Brand Community
Depending on your industry and target audience, your business may be facing a significant drop in revenue, operating resources, or both. When consumers have limited purchasing power, give them a different sort of power. Invite them to share their experiences and create content with your products. Then, repurpose “user generated content” (UGC) to grow your brand community.
Social media contests are another excellent way to engage potential customers without asking them to buy. Plus, they’re fun, and during tough times, everyone could benefit from some positivity.
That goes for employees, too. Assuming that you can retain your staff, your team must deal with supply chain issues, strained resources, and their own economic challenges. Some may quit because they need a higher paying job. Rates of burnout increase as people grow concerned about the economy.
Now more than ever, it’s time to show your staff how much you appreciate them. Launch internal marketing campaigns that boost employee engagement and provide value during these uncertain times. For example, you could start a company newsletter that features personal finance and mental health tips.
#4 Outsource Your Marketing Needs
During a recession, it may seem hard to justify any marketing expenses. Many small businesses have a small team that’s already overworked! How can you devote the time and energy to developing email newsletters or UGC campaigns?
Thankfully, the worldwide digital marketplace offers solutions:
To expand your marketing strategy without bloating your budget, take advantage of “on demand” creative services such as Flocksy. You gain access to a pool of vetted talent for a flat monthly rate. By distributing your projects among several skilled creatives, you save yourself the time and expense of recruiting new staff or private freelancers.
For more affordable design or branding services, host a contest on a platform like Hatchwise. Graphic designers and brand specialists compete for a prize, so you can essentially “crowdsource” your design needs. Costs vary depending on the project and several other factors, but you can usually get amazing logos, marketing assets, and even product/brand names for a fraction of the typical cost.
#3 Tweak Your Advertising And SEO Strategies
Many business owners spend too much on advertising. “No duh!” you say. What we mean is that paid advertising can quickly cost more than it’s worth. When is the last time you analyzed your ad spending compared to your ROI?
Take some time to audit your advertising strategy and dive into the numbers. Consider how many PPC campaigns reached their goals and whether you could target less expensive keywords.
Also, how’s your website SEO? Is each page optimized to rank highly on Google? That’s a relatively inexpensive way to get traffic without overspending on ads.
If your audit discovers that certain campaigns or channels just don’t deliver results, be willing to let them go. For example, if your Facebook ads rarely drive conversions, it makes more sense to cut that cost than to trim your budget across the board.
The robots are taking over, at least for many marketing and advertising needs! If you’re concerned about the labor costs of your promotional campaigns, take heart that you can probably automate most tasks.
To streamline your social media, email, and search campaigns, leverage a tool such as HubSpot or ActiveCampaign. These marketing automation platforms can post on Facebook, send emails, track audience behavior, and even update your CRM!
Automation helps with your administrative tasks as well. Platforms such as Zapier and Make (formerly Integromat) can organize your data and perform repetitive tasks in mere seconds. They’re a great way to save time, money, and most importantly, your sanity!
This one isn’t a marketing tip per se, but it’s worth noting that optimism goes a long way toward your business’s sustainability. The worst thing you can do is panic and start slashing your budget to ribbons.
Remember: recessions don’t last forever. The key to surviving is to focus on the present, and that means supporting your customers and employees. Their loyalty can buffer your brand from an economic downturn.
While recessions are worrisome, a bit of clever innovation can keep your enterprise afloat. There’s no need to stop marketing. In fact, that would be a costly mistake! Instead, shift your priority to growing your brand community and tweaking your processes. By optimizing your strategy, you can save time and money while protecting your overall brand reputation.