With increasing talks about a recession and a rise in costs for goods and services, businesses are starting to look into how to cut costs, and usually, the marketing budget is the first one to go. Let us tell you why this is wrong and what you should do instead. Let us teach you how to recession-proof your brand using marketing.
During a time when consumers are being more economically conscious, marketing is not optional — it’s essential. Instead of cutting your marketing budget altogether, it’s better to rethink your marketing strategies and reallocate marketing spending towards budget-friendly and purpose-driven channels. And no, we’re not saying this because we’re a marketing agency, we’re saying it because it was scientifically proven.
The psychology of the consumer during a recession
It is essential to keep in mind that sales aren’t caused by clever advertising and appealing products alone, it is also caused by the consumer’s disposable income, having a safe view of their future, trusting the economy and the businesses they buy from, and a lifestyle that fits your business/brand in their day to day life.
Let’s divide the consumer into four different segments:
- The Slam On The Brakes – This is the most vulnerable segment and they reduce their spending to a minimum.
- The Pained but Patient – This segment is resilient and optimistic about the long term but less confident about the prospects for recovery of near-term spending.
- The Comfortably Well – This segment feels more secure about its ability to ride out current and future bumps in the economy. They consume at near-prerecession levels, though now they tend to be a little more selective with their purchases.
- The Live for Today – This segment carries on as usual and for the most part remains unconcerned about savings.
Now that we have established the four types of consumers, let’s see how they divide their purchases:
- Essentials are necessary for survival or perceived as central to well-being.
- Treats are indulgences whose immediate purchase is considered justifiable.
- Postponables are needed or desired items whose purchase can be reasonably put off.
- Expendables are perceived as unnecessary or unjustifiable.
Of course, food, shelter, clothes, and transportation are part of the essential category, but the rest differ from consumer to consumer, and as we established before, these tend to change during a recession.
So what is the best approach for your brand and business during a recession?
During recessions, consumers change their spending habits and their priorities, which leads to a drop in sales. This, of course, makes businesses cut their costs, but failing to support brands or examine core customers’ changing needs can jeopardize performance over the long term. So what can you do?
1. Tailor your tactics
During downturns, it is essential to balance your short-term sales with your long-term investments. Streamlining product portfolios, improving affordability, and bolstering trust are three effective ways of meeting these goals.
- Streamlining your product portfolio means that you should analyze all your products and services and focus more on the ones that have the best chance of increasing your sales.
- Improving affordability means that you will need to have competitive prices and increase the frequency and depth of price promotions.
- Bolstering trust means that trusted brands are a comforting choice in trying times. Reassuring messages that reinforce an emotional connection with the brand like “we’re going to get through this together are vital.
2. Focus on loyal customers
Taking care of clients is taking care of your business. A loyal customer base is the best asset you can have during a recession. It’s cheaper, simpler, and definitely more effective.
Focus on your existing clients and show them you appreciate them by keeping in touch through appreciative emails, discounts, and exclusive deals. After all, they are the ones who make repeat purchases, retain your services, and recommend you to other prospects.
3. When in doubt turn to ROI
Gut feeling and instinct can only help you so far. You may think you know what is and isn’t working but you can’t really be sure if you don’t have the right data.
Always pair your human experience with real data that provides value so you can double down on what’s working and scale back on what isn’t.
4. Be flexible
When you have a business in an unstable economic environment, flexibility is crucial. You have to be able to adapt and you have to do it quickly.
In order to stay flexible, you have to have a good knowledge of all your marketing channels and be ready to adapt as you go.
5. Return to basics
Cutting back on your costs can mean going back to the basics: organic posts, newsletters, lives, and user-generated content.
- Organic social media posts. Building your audience through organic posting, rather than paid advertisements, shows a desire to create and connect with your community.
- Newsletters. Show your customers they matter, and that you’re there for them during this period of economic uncertainty. Send them direct, personalized email offers, discounts, or access to exclusive programs.
- Facebook groups. Groups are another place to engage with your community and provide value to your target audience. Build loyalty by making your followers feel seen and heard.
- User-generated content. What better way to get new content than from your core audience? They buy your product, they use your product, and they are the best spokesperson for your product.
6. Take advantage of the holidays
Recession or not, everyone loves a good deal during Black Friday and everyone buys gifts during the holiday season. Make the most out of it by preparing in advance with exclusive deals, great products, and an impressive customer experience. This will not only increase the loyalty of your audience but also put you on the map for new customers.
7. Position yourself for recovery
Businesses that make it through the recession by focusing their attention on consumer needs and core brands will be strongly positioned later on. However, you must understand how people’s behavior may change following the recession so they will be able to offer products and communicate messages aligned with the needs of new consumer segments.
As you prepare for what’s next for your business and brand keep in mind that community and loyalty are what will determine which brands sink or swim. The brands that will thrive will be the ones that are determined to understand their customers and meet them where they already are.