Three Marketing To-Dos in a Downturn

Without a doubt, we are living in turbulent times. 

Businesses are either closed, partially open with a low- to no-contact delivery model, or operating with a remote workforce and some on-site employees. A return to normal will eventually occur, but it is uncertain as to when or how that will happen.

One thing is certain: there are still ways to market to help support a return to business and possible re-invention.  To help support this reflection and planning, I am recommending these three marketing to-dos in a downturn. 

  1. Work on your Mindset
  2. Re-visit your Marketing Plan
  3. Keep Communicating with Customers

Work on your Mindset

Having the right mindset and giving yourself space can help clear your thinking as you assess your business.

For inspiration, take a look at mindset considerations from the Scary Time Success Manual by Dan Sullivan

Tips from Dan Sullivan’s Scary Times Success Manual include:

  • Focus on others and relationships
  • Focus on what’s available (not what’s missing)
  • Focus on gratitude (not complaints)

A shorter-term focus on today can help break down an overwhelming to-do list into something more manageable.

I’d highly recommend watching Wisconsin SCORE Chapters’ Marketing in a Crisis webinar for a more comprehensive discussion on mindset and planning, which leads to marketing to-do number two. 

Re-visit your Marketing Plan

As with any slower times in business, consider stepping back and revisiting your entire business and marketing plan. Now is the perfect time to take a close look at your customer. Which customers are the most important? Hint – it’s likely your most loyal, profitable customer. 

With that customer in mind, I would look beyond the typical segmentation methods and consider psychographics. How are their emotions impacting their purchasing decisions?  Harvard Business Review’s 2009 article, How to Market in a Downturn discusses consumers changing behavior in detail.  

“Throughout a downturn, all consumers except those in the live-for-today segment typically reevaluate their consumption priorities.”

John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz, Harvard Business Review

Price sensitivity may increase as brand loyalty decreases.  

As your customers’ needs and demand changes, so too do your value propositions and short-term strategies. 

I would caution companies to not lose sight of the long-term, though.  Don’t stray away from your core customer base who you want to continue to serve when the economy bounces back.

Take some time to re-assess your 4P’s based on your ideal customer:

  • Product / service: how do current offerings need to change?
  • Pricing: what pricing method is most appropriate for my target customer?
  • Place: can products or services be purchased or delivered in a new way?
  • Promotion: what tactics will best reach my customer? Am I ready for a shift to digital and video?  What tone or message will best resonate with my audience?

The right message will help keep your brand in front of loyal customers, which ties to the importance of continued communication. 

Keep Communicating with Customers

Staying in touch with your current customers is so critical in a downturn. A simple check-in, communicating how you’re responding to the crisis, and asking how your customers are doing is a better approach than asking for the sale.

Everyone is experiencing change right now, so leading with empathy and honest, up-front communication is your best bet. Don’t be afraid to repeat key messages because there’s a lot of voices competing for short attention spans right now. Repetition is key – don’t assume that customers know what you’re doing.

Specifically, send an email with an update about how you’re responding to the Safer at Home order. I have worked on several of these emails using Constant Contact. On a recent email, we included pictures of employees in their home offices. One employee even donned his mask attire that he wears out of his home. This was a hit as customers responded back with their own masked photos.

Here are more communication tips.

Try your best to protect your marketing budget and invest in customer contact in some way shape or form.  The Harvard Business Review article says it so well: 

“In managing their marketing expenses, however, businesses must take care to distinguish between the necessary and the wasteful. Building and maintaining strong brands—ones that customers recognize and trust—remains one of the best ways to reduce business risk.”

John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz, Harvard Business Review

Update Business Information

Take a look at all of your directory listings, including Google My Business to ensure they reflect accurate hours of operation and contact information. Did you see an email like this from Google?

Whenever you do, it’s a friendly reminder to update Google My Business.

Don’t have Google My Business? Don’t wait – claim your Google My Business listing today!

Your posts, pictures, and information in Google My Business show up in the side panel on search results pages.

Be sure to update any other business or organization listings, such as the Chamber of Commerce or other networking groups.

Update Your Website and Social Media

Many websites have a banner or content on their homepage that talks about their response to COVID-19. You can share a similar message on social media profiles, adjusting a pinned post with key information.

With many people active on social media, it’s important to review your content plans and scheduled content. I had to quickly edit a client’s scheduled email promotion that included a basketball ticket giveaway shortly after the NBA had canceled games. Let’s face it – no one wants to be reminded of what they are missing.

Sharing relevant, helpful information on social media is always a good strategy, no matter the situation.

For example, I’ve seen product tips from my hairstylist on how to cover gray hair in a way that won’t do a lot of damage. Another stylist has posted a video on how to trim your own bangs.

Take Time to Create Content

You may ask, how do I know what to write or create?

That’s an excellent question!  I suggest going back to your ideal customer.  What questions do they ask you?  What’s important to them?  

Use data to help you too.  

In How to Find and Grow Your Audience from A2 Hosting, describes checking Google Analytics to hone in on audience demographics.  When you’re in analytics, take a look at most popular pages. You can also check out Google search console to see what keywords brought users to your site. 

Compare your existing content to your customer’s entire purchase journey. What’s missing? Could you write about a commonly asked question? Or create a FAQ page?

Think about writing guides or helpful blog posts, which is excellent top of the funnel content. Many social media pros suggest that up to 80% of your content should be focused on the top of your sales funnel with the remaining 20% split between acquisition posts and algorithm pleasing posts (eg. content that follows the trends on each social media channel).

Do you need proof-reading help? I like using Grammarly as one helpful writing tool. Here’s a recent update email from Grammarly that included the tone they detected in my writing. Pretty cool, huh?

From bigger content pieces, you can find ways to create smaller elements to share on social media.  For example, I can take excerpts and images from this long blog post to share on Facebook, LinkedIN, and in an email newsletter.  I could make a video to promote this blog post.  I can ask my followers a question – either open-ended or create a poll.  

The ideas are seemingly endless.  

During a downturn, focusing on SEO is recommended over pay per click ads. If you’re using paid ads, try to be extremely focused and keep doing what’s performing best.  You can also use re-targeting to reach people who have visited your website.

Back to Business

I hope slower times give you a chance to step back, evaluate, and forge a plan for both short and long-term success. With a continued investment in your marketing and a clear understanding of your customers, you can build even stronger relationships and keep your company and brand around and ready for a rebound.

If you’re looking for help with customer communications, email marketing, or marketing planning, let’s chat. I offer a complimentary 30 minute consultation.

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