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How to Market In a Down Economy

Five tips for handling your marketing in tough times.

Marketing in a Down Economy
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As I write this article, we are in uncharted territory with the coronavirus. Many of us are on shelter-in-place or lockdown orders. Depending on your state, your business may be considered essential or nonessential. Either way, it’s impacting business negatively.

Before our economy came to a screeching halt, we were on a 10+ year upswing. We all knew a downturn was coming. We didn’t expect it to hit like this.

I tend to be a glass-is-half-full type of person, and I hope you are, too. We don’t know when, but this virus and the havoc it is causing shall pass. I’m not going to sugarcoat the situation though — right now, it sucks. But there are always opportunities in down markets if we are paying attention.

One of the first instincts for most folks in a down market is to pull back on everything. According to a study by Ranjay Gulati, companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today (defensive moves) and investing in growing tomorrow (offensive moves) do well after a recession.

Related: The Fallacy That Marketing Is an Expense

Cutting your marketing during this time is not the best move. How can you expect to bring in new customers if you aren’t investing in attracting them?

The other important thing to keep in mind is that marketing is an investment. If you can invest $1 into marketing and get $2 back, does it matter if we are in a down economy? No.

So what should you do instead? Here are some recommendations for handling your marketing in a down market.

1.Know Your Numbers. It’s critical to get a return on your investment in a down market. The only way to ensure this happens is to measure your marketing efforts so you can identify what is working and what is not. With this knowledge, you can double down on what’s working and cut what’s not.

2. Don’t Invest in Unproven Marketing Channels. Now is not the time to spend a lot of money testing unproven marketing channels. That’s not to say you shouldn’t test, but I wouldn’t recommend spending more than 5-10 percent of your marketing budget on new channels that are unproven. Invest the majority of your marketing in channels you know will work.

3. Take an Omnichannel Approach. Relying on one channel for your leads is risky in a growing market, and it can be debilitating in a down market. Referrals are a great way to grow your business, but in this market, you will need more than that to thrive.

It’s time to look at other marketing channels you can use to generate more business. Email marketing and content marketing are low-hanging fruit for many system integrators. If you haven’t been emailing your customers and prospects regularly, now is the time to start. Email marketing is very inexpensive, and it works!

Content marketing is a different beast. It takes time or money to create, but it builds exponentially over time. It will help with your search engine optimization and build brand awareness for you, too.

One of the channels we have started using is Facebook Live. Doing live video on Facebook isn’t that difficult, and it doesn’t have to take much time either. Video is a great way to create content because it can be repurposed into other forms of content. You can get a lot of mileage from one video.

Creating content will help you stay top of mind with potential clients and current clients alike.

4. Monitor Your Target Audience’s Needs for Changes. Depending on the audience you serve, odds are their needs and wants are going to change as we work through this downturn. You won’t be able to serve them well unless you understand how their needs are changing.

Keep in touch with customers to keep a pulse on any changes so you can make adjustments to your products and services if necessary.

5. Don’t Forget About Your Brand. Small businesses often undervalue brand building. Trusted brands and products are a safe and comforting choice during trying times. How people perceive your brand is critically important right now.

To help build your brand during this downturn, I’d recommend you focus your messaging to develop and reinforce an emotional connection with your brand and demonstrate empathy.

I hope these recommendations will help you start thinking about how you can continue to thrive during this downturn. If I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to provide outside eyes if you’ve got questions and listen if you need it.

We’ll get through this together. Stay safe and healthy.

Tim Fitzpatrick is the president of Rialto Marketing. He spent 10+ years in the consumer electronics industry as a partner in a distribution company before getting into marketing consulting & digital marketing. He helps eliminate the confusion of marketing for system integrators so their business’ can grow.

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