How To Adapt Your Marketing To Attract Consumers In Troubled Economic Times

Michele Markham, President and CEO, EAG Advertising & Marketing.

If the predicted impending recession becomes our reality, then yes, it will be different from previous ones – because all recessions are. As different as the conditions may be this time, companies will not be in uncharted waters. History repeats itself, so there will be small business owners who save their money and try to defend their position in the market from the sidelines. And there will be those who are doubling down on marketing and advertising to gain market share over their competitors.

But the marketing budget savers and slashers are missing a big opportunity. For the double-downers, the right marketing strategy and message can enable them to attract consumers like a beacon during tough economic times.

Consumers also fall into categories. There will be some who will hold on to their money, and others will continue to spend, albeit perhaps with shifted priorities. Both groups – and everyone in between – can be retained or attracted to any business with relevant messages delivered through targeted marketing channels.

Advertising channels: fine-tuning or turning them upside down?

The vast majority of consumers will feel some level of anxiety in the face of a recession – even those who will continue to spend as usual. A recession is not the right time to change the brand of a small business, as it could confuse buyers who may already be uncomfortable spending and lead them to another company they’re more comfortable with. Maintaining intimacy is essential in unusual times. Instead, fine-tuning promotional messages or even flipping promotional messages can resonate better with buyers.

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For products and services that qualify as essential purchases, consider fine-tuning promotional messages to focus on value/price, durability and longevity. This will tell existing customers that they are making the right decision by staying with the company. These messages can also convince customers of competitors if they reflect savings, a better built product, or a better service provided. Advertising messages should be examined for tone deafness and redesigned to show your company is listening.

For non-essential or luxury products and services, price sensitivity may or may not be paramount among consumers. Flipping promotional messages — for example, from “fear of missing out” to “buy now and save” — can be a compelling motivator for shoppers to put off a big purchase. On the other hand, shoppers who don’t think twice about making a big purchase could be swayed by messages designed to flaunt and impress.

Nobody knows their buyers better than the sales team and advertising and marketing agency of a small business. Aligning promotional messages with recession-time shopper sentiment validates their decision to stay with the brand or go with a brand. In other words, they are in the right place or on the way there.

Marketing Channels: Reassess the mix and repurpose promotional messages

Currently, inflation is a fact of life and business for everyone. While statistics vary from source to source, advertising costs have increased across all marketing channels. Companies that are doubling down on advertising and marketing still need to keep their budgets under control and spend ad dollars wisely.

During the pandemic, companies have committed more money to digital advertising — and rightly so, given that most consumers have been online rather than on the go. Now considering the real possibility of a recession, digital marketing strategies should be re-evaluated on a return-on-investment (ROI) and cost basis. In my opinion, Apple’s changes to ad targeting and privacy policies aren’t helping, making it harder and more expensive to reach consumers through social media. When it comes to streaming, more and more companies are advertising on YouTube, driving up costs there. Narrowing down to the marketing channels that generate the most leads and sales for your business not only maximizes your marketing budget but also reduces waste that can be allocated to high ROI platforms and refine or change your message.

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Reduce, reuse and recycle. Small businesses need to stay on top of marketing at all times and ensure every dollar is being spent in the right place with the right message in order for their brands to do well, but this is especially true in a tight economy. You can do this in three ways.

• Reduce spending on platforms that don’t deliver results.

• Reuse ads and marketing materials across more than one marketing channel. For example, an animated digital ad can be extended and used for a social media video.

• Recycle older creative work that is still relevant or would be relevant with a few updates.

Optimism with the possibility of a shell shock

A pandemic. Inflation. The looming predictions of a recession. Consumers have been through a lot in a short period of time, to say the least, and some shock cannot be ruled out.

But memory is also short, and it is human nature to be optimistic. When there are lows, consumers know there will be highs soon. And in recent years, small businesses have become accustomed to quickly changing course to meet market conditions. With the right message at the right time and in the right place, marketing can be a beacon that leads consumers to your business.

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