8 essential tactics to strengthen your brand position while tough times continue

Warren Buffett once said: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

As the economic crisis continues, when it comes to marketing, now is definitely the time to be greedy.

Here’s why. When times get tough, many businesses put their suppliers on pause or stop trading with them entirely. With trading reduced all round, businesses then decide to cut marketing and advertising, too.

That puts those businesses on the back foot.

What we’ve learned about marketing during tough times

If we look at the two previous economic crashes – the dotcom crash of 2000 and the global recession of 2008 – one thing becomes clear: the businesses that survived and thrived were the ones that continued to invest in marketing.

We know this because a number of professional bodies have conducted studies to identify the best strategies for marketing in a recession.

And the general consensus has been that businesses which maintained or increased spend during a recession held onto market attention. While the competition switched off their ads and other activities, those who maintained spend became more visible to customers and came to the fore.

As Harvard Business School put it in its analysis Roaring Out of Recession: “Within this group [of marketers during a recession], a subset that deploys a specific combination of defensive and offensive moves has the highest probability – 37% – of breaking away from the pack.”

The best tactics for marketing during tough financial times

So, it’s clear that switching off or reducing marketing spend when a crisis hits is a bad idea. But that doesn’t stop the powers-that-be in your business viewing your spend with a more critical eye during difficult times.

And with the constantly evolving landscape of marketing, it can be hard to know which tactics will be most effective during a period of uncertainty.

So, without further ado, here are some marketing tactics you can rely on to help you pull through a downturn and increase market share.

1. Interactive campaigns

Driving maximum prospect engagement with your marketing activity is crucial at any time, but especially during a downturn. Every campaign or piece of content you publish needs work doubly hard to move the needle and prove its worth.

Making campaigns as interactive and engaging as possible becomes key.

For example, quizzes, polls, and games all provide a more engaging and immersive experience for prospects – helping to make your brand more memorable and impactful, whether the prospect goes on to convert right away or further along their customer journey.

Interactive content can be a powerful marketing tool, as it not only captures the attention of the audience, but also allows businesses to gather valuable data about their customers’ buying behaviour during difficult times.

2. Customer advocacy programmes

When it comes to marketing, your customers can be your most powerful tool. There’s nothing more credible or compelling than a customer singing your company’s praises to potential new customers. It really is the holy grail of marketing.

With that in mind, are your client services and sales teams doing everything they can to love customers?

Two quick wins you can work on right now are simply asking your existing customers to review you on Google My Business and asking them to feature in a customer case study. Video is great for this and will give you some very credible and compelling content to use across multiple marketing channels (more on that next)

3. Video marketing

We all know video marketing is here to stay. Marketing Insider Group reports that 80% of people now prefer video over written content. What’s more, 87% of businesses already use video as a marketing tool.

Video allows businesses to convey their message in a far more engaging and visually appealing way. What’s more, video marketing can be pushed out through various channels, such as social media, websites, and email – making it a sound investment for repurposing content across multiple channels.

Use your video content to showcase products and services, tell stories, and build brand awareness – giving your brand the visibility it needs during a period of uncertainty.

4. Leveraging data

In ‘normal’ times, analysing data and identifying trends in customer behaviour is important for businesses to understand how their customers are interacting with their products or services.

During a financial downturn, this becomes crucial.

Luckily, there are a variety of methods available to marketers to access trend data. For example, analysing your first party customer data, conducting surveys and focus groups, and monitoring social media activity are just a few things you can utilise right away.

By understanding changing customer behaviour patterns, businesses can make informed decisions about product development, marketing strategies, and overall business operations.

Additionally, identifying customer trends can also help businesses anticipate and adapt to changes in the market. As we move through and out of an economic crisis, it’s vital that marketers continuously monitor customer behaviour over time to stay current with any changes in trends and adapt accordingly.

5. Content marketing

Arguably, everything you do as a marketer in 2023 is built around content marketing. If prospects and customers are reading, watching or listening to something in the campaigns you put out, then you’re doing content marketing.

With this in mind, you need to be sure your content is hitting the mark in engaging prospects and driving them to take action. This is doubly important in difficult times, when you have a greater opportunity to stand out and bring your brand to the fore.

Dig into your campaign data to better understand customer pain points, content preferences, and the channels they tend to spend the most time. This will help you build a content strategy that closely aligns to prospect behaviour and need.

Content marketing can be done through various channels, such as blogs, social media, and email, and can be an effective way to build brand awareness, drive traffic, and generate leads.

6. Email marketing

Email is still a valuable marketing channel, as it allows businesses to reach a targeted audience and build relationships with customers.

Effective email marketing involves creating eye-catching subject lines, engaging content, and compelling calls to action, and segmenting your email list to ensure that you are sending the right message to the right people.

Through an economic downturn, targeted messaging can be used to drive greater engagement with email campaigns – for example, if you know a particular subset of your subscribers are concerned about price rises, you can send information to help reassure them or offer assistance.

Tools such as speech analytics can help better understand the issues customers are battling with. You can then use the insight to deliver better targeted email campaigns.

7. Paid advertising

Paid advertising, such as Google Ads or social media advertising, can be an effective way to reach a targeted audience and drive traffic to your website.

You may need to adjust your paid ad tactics – such as the messaging and targeting of your ads. And you may need to carefully reconsider your advertising budget and goals to ensure your ads are continuing to generate the results you need.

Be sure to use your PPC campaign data and analytics to help with this, making sure you can optimise your campaigns for maximum effectiveness.

8. Investing in technology

Investing in technology for marketing is crucial for businesses to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced online and offline environments.

And when it comes to staying ahead of other businesses, technology also provides you with a distinct competitive advantage.

Why? Because advancements in technology have transformed the way forward-thinking businesses interact with their customers and can provide valuable insights into prospect and customer behaviour.

But many of your competitors won’t be taking full advantage of this, leaving an open opportunity for you to forge ahead.

Some examples of technology that businesses can invest in to drive their competitive advantage include:

  • Data analytics tools to gain insights into customer behaviour, preferences, and needs
  • Automation software to streamline marketing tasks
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalise marketing campaigns
  • Social media management platforms to automate, manage and measure social media presence
  • Content management systems to improve website performance and SEO
  • Email marketing software to optimise, automate and personalise email campaigns

Investing in the right technology can help businesses increase efficiency, reach a wider audience, and ultimately drive revenue growth – both during and after an economic storm.

Final thoughts

In summary, there are many tactics that are likely to be effective in 2023 as the tough economic time continues.

The key is to invest in the right ones to maintain brand visibility while your competitors cut back and slip from the forefront of prospects’ minds.

By using a combination of the tactics outlined above, businesses can reach their target audience and achieve their marketing goals.

This article was originally published in June 2020. Updated in June 2023.

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About the author - Natalia Selby

Marketing Executive at Mediahawk, with 20 years experience in analytics and content management.

Marketing during a downturn - a Mediahawk report.
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