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Throughout history, there has been many times when the workforce has been interrupted and consumer behavior changes dramatically. Demand decreases. Spending halts. A key distributor goes out of business. No two downturns are exactly alike. It’s a risk of being an entrepreneur.

Our team at RCP Marketing knows that businesses and their leaders have many challenges to face. It’s something we pride ourselves in understanding – we dig in deep to understand your challenges, your goals, what makes you different, and how we can help you attract the right audience. But when a major change with consumer spending pauses production, there is an opportunity to focus on your brand while the competition lays silent. Here’s a great example:

In 1929, during The Great Depression, the popular cereal brand of the day was Post. And they did what every other business did when the Great Depression hit: they reined in expenses and cut back on advertising. Kellogg’s, one of Post’s chief competitors, embraced a different approach. Kellogg’s doubled its ad budget, moved aggressively into radio — which was the new medium of the day. They pushed their new cereal, the economy cratered, and Kellogg’s profits rose almost 30%.

Source: Forbes

Although it may be wise to contain costs, making a decision to cut your marketing budget and limit the support of your brands could jeopardize your company’s performance over the long haul. So, let’s talk about what you can do, not about what you can’t do during this time, in order to stay in front of your customers.

Develop Content for Your Social Media & Blog

Consistent communication that is true to your core values and in your brand voice is king, especially during times of uncertainty. It is always important to stay in touch with your potential and existing customers to stay top of mind. A unified message presented to your workforce can also boost moral (as well as dispel potential and unfounded rumors). Does your current message match how you want your audience to think of you during this crisis?

Focus on Your Website’s SEO

Use this time to boost your site’s organic reach by updating webpage titles, H1 descriptive headers, and meta tags. Review and refresh your page content to make sure your message remains relevant. Update backlinks and help keep your brand at the top of search engine results when your customers naturally come searching for your products or services. Building your organic search traffic is a cost effective way to establish brand credibility and solidify your online presence, and it can effectively block your competition from even appearing on the same page of results.

In a March 2020 survey of 1,000 people to understand how consumers were feeling about brand communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, “More than half (56%) of respondents [were] pleased to hear about brands taking actions to help out communities, like making donations of goods and services.”

Source: Deadline

Take slow production times as an opportunity to look at your blog and social media content. Are there key messages or topics missing that would show your industry expertise? Review your analytics from your website and/or previous social media advertising campaigns to have a better understanding of your audience’s behavior. Are your customers reassessing their priorities, switching brands, or redefining value? This knowledge can help you brainstorm new topics and write pieces that will educate and engage your audience. If you haven’t started a blog, this could be a good time to create that content, establish authority, and stimulate demand. We’ve shared more on the benefits of blogging here.

Consider Traditional or Digital Media

Like in our earlier example, traditional media is important for building mass-market consumer awareness. And your media partners may be willing to support your efforts if you are in need to boost sales. Spot matches, value added bonus placement, and special live opportunities at a reduced cost are a few options that could be available to you. But how can you get a narrower, truer audience if broadcast media simply isn’t in your budget right now?

Despite a deepening recession in 2008, marketers spent 14% more on online ads over the first three quarters than they did over the same time frame in the previous year. Another factor driving this growth in digital-ad spending is consumers migration to online social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn, which help people intensify networking efforts amid layoffs and a tough job market.

Source: Harvard Business Review

Search engine marketing (SEM) combined with social media advertising campaigns can effectively increase your brand awareness, especially when your audience’s online activity is increased due to having extra downtime. Backed by the right strategy, paid search ads can be easily implemented to reach specific consumers who are actively searching using keywords that closely relate to your products or services, and you have the ability to control budgets on a daily basis. Paid search ads are based on a pay-per-click model. Therefore, your brand can get free exposure on search engines and you will only be charged when someone clicks on your ad to visit your landing page.

Re-evaluate Your Lead Nurturing

During normal business operations, you may experience long purchase decision cycles. When your consumers are suddenly more hesitant to spend, these could be even longer. Take a look at your current lead management system. When a new prospect is identified, is your sales team following up properly to keep leads highly engaged? You’ve worked hard to acquire these prospects and, during a down economy, it’s important you and your team do everything possible to maximize these efforts. For example, implementing a simple automated lead nurturing program and/or email retargeting campaign can yield valuable conversions and improve your return on investment.

When challenging times hit, the short-term decisions you have to make can be difficult. However, it can bring the opportunity to remind consumers of why your brand matters, why you’re the brand they should remain confident in and trust. Maintaining a healthy level of marketing through tough times can strengthen businesses for the long-term positioning yourself with a greater market share.

Jon Baarda

Author Jon Baarda

Jon is an expert in direct-to-consumer advertising. He helps clients plan and manage successful projects through direct mail, television and radio. Jon loves basketball and is an active volunteer and coach for his children’s schools.

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