Marketing in a Crisis and Economic Downturn

Digital Marketing in an Economic Downturn

The COVID-19 social crisis and economic downturn presents unique challenges for all companies. Every business is facing issues. As we work through this crisis, there will be obvious cut-backs and sacrifices. Marketing communications may seem an expendable expense in times like this, however, it remains critically important to maintain a stable brand perception.

Marketing is an Engine, Not a Switch. 

For many businesses, it might be tempting to think of marketing as a switch that can be turned on and off. That’s not how it works.

Marketing is an engine that builds momentum as you spin it up. The more fuel you add, the more momentum you gain and the faster and more effective it is.

If you suddenly switch that engine off, grinding everything to a halt, you’ve lost all that momentum. You’ve invested valuable money and resources towards marketing. Rather than losing that investment, you’re better off maintaining or even increasing your efforts to remain strong through the storm and stronger on the other side of it.

It’s been well-documented that increased spending in marketing and advertising during a recession can pay off. From Forbes:

“…there have been a number of studies going back nearly one century that point out the advantages of maintaining or even increasing ad budgets during a weaker economy. Those advertisers that maintained or grew their ad spending increased sales and market share during the recession and afterwards.”

The article continues:

There are several reasons to advertise during a slowdown.

  • The “noise level” in a brand’s product category can drop when competitors cut back on their ad spend. It also allows for advertisers to re-position a brand or introduce a new product.
  • Brands can project to consumers the image of corporate stability during challenging times.
  • When marketers cut back on their ad spending, the brand loses its “share of mind” with consumers, with the potential of losing current – and possibly future – sales. An increase in “share of voice” typically leads to in an increase in “share of market.” An increase in market share results, with an increase in profits. 

Start With Strategy

Now is the time to reconsider the strategy and campaigns you’ve been working on and adjust your content plan. The components you need to consider include:

  • Content
  • Digital Advertising
  • Strategy

Here are some considerations and ideas for your plan moving forward:

Advocate Helpfulness

During the crisis, be a knowledgeable and relatable resource for your clients. Now is not the time to appear to be capitalizing on the crisis.

    • Avoid disingenuous or opportunistic promotion
    • Highlight the things your business may be doing for your staff and customers now and in the near future

Utilize Communication Channels

If it’s appropriate for your business to send updates to your contacts, keep in mind the following:

    • Lead with empathy
    • Keep the message short; focus only on critical information
    • Be creative when appropriate
    • Consider other channels such as social media and website messaging
    • Stick to your brand’s voice
    • Include what your brand may be doing to help
    • Segment your list, if it’s large enough

Provide Thought Leadership

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What information would they seek out and find useful?  Revaluate your content strategy and develop content around helping your customers weather the storm.

    • Produce useful content that helps inform your customers or even entertain them while many of your contacts are working from home
    • Help educate customers about what the “new reality” will look like in your industry d
    • Provide studies and factual information

Implement Onsite Chat and Chatbots for Customer Service

Your customers are just as concerned about their business as you are. Their projects may be mid-stream or they may have other concerns or questions. Providing a website chatbot or live chat feature will allow them to remain helpful to your customers with convenient access.

Update Your FAQs

Provide easy access to questions your customers may have with a specific crisis-related FAQ. This is a convenient way for your customers to access information and for you to provide transparency and helpfulness. If you don’t have FAQs on your website, now is a great time to add them.

Adapt Your Paid Search

Review your paid search campaigns on Google and social media and make sure they’re not currently insensitive to the situation. Be sensible about what and how you’re advertising at this time. If appropriate reallocate or save your budget for the later.

A Decision to Make

Only you can determine what the best course of action should be for your business. There are many very real considerations to work through including cash flow and financials. But if it’s feasible and realistic to continue your marketing or even increase it right now, it could pay off exponentially in the months and years to come.


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