Tips for Marketing Your Business When Fear and Panic Effect Overall Consumer Spending

Heather Berryhill, President & CEO

March 10, 2020, Tulsa, Oklahoma — With over 25-years experience in the marketing arena, I’ve seen a lot! I’ve helped clients weather the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007-09. And now, with fear and panic over the Coronavirus, the stock market is like riding a roller coaster. So, how should your business be proactive from a marketing standpoint during uncertain times?

The number one question we get from clients when they see a dip in the market is, how do we respond from a marketing standpoint? Our response as marketing experts is overwhelmingly always, DON’T PANIC! Stay the course and measure impact and results. An economic slowdown doesn’t have to be an existential threat to your business. In fact, history shows that savvy marketers can grow their business and gain market share through periods of economic uncertainty.

First, act early and don’t wait to put a strategy in place. Statistics show companies who proactively respond during a shift achieve an average of 6% better return over companies who are slow to act or who cut budgets prematurely. Remember, cutting your overall marketing budgets could have a significant negative impact longterm. When business is slow, we recommend increasing the budget to gain a competitive edge over your competition.

Remember this…You have to look at your overall marketing strategy the same way you do with the stock market…with a long-term perspective. Though downturns require short-term actions, substantial competitive opportunities become available to those who keep an eye on the prize…the future.

Biggest piece of advice? Don’t slam on the marketing brakes! History shows that’s a mistake. It only defends profits in the very short term, but also leaves your brand weakened and much less profitable post-recession. In fact, maintaining a healthy level of marketing investment through a recession enables strong businesses to seize market share from timid competitors.

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that customers do generally change their behavior during a recession. So your company’s previous years’ experience of buying journeys and purchase decision cycles may no longer hold true. It’s important to collect new data, pay close attention to what it’s telling you, and position yourself to respond quickly.

Sometimes we may also need to re-focus marketing efforts to the areas of highest ROI and growth. Objectively you should examine where you’re currently investing – offerings, locations, media mix, etc – and the return on investment being achieved in each. Redirect more investment to the highest earning areas, and also, where there’s the highest propensity for growth.

Countless studies have shown that it’s cheaper and more profitable to retain your existing customers than to acquire new ones. That’s especially true during a budget-squeezing recession. Prioritize campaigns which stimulate repeat purchases, up-sell or cross-sell across your business lines. Ramping up your loyalty program, and rewarding customers who recommend your business to others, may also pay dividends.

With digital marketing now predominant, you’re already collecting performance data to continually increase the ROI of your campaigns. A recession is a great time to take your optimization up a notch.

If you take away one thing, it’s to stay the course. Eventually, the shift will work its way back to a healthy economy. Don’t lose sight of what’s to come. Keep your eye on a focused, consistent strategy and you will reap the rewards in the end.

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