How to Market During a Recession
A planned approach to scheduling and optimizing continuous marketing activities which support customer acquisition and retention. These activities aim to maximize visibility and persuasion through the customer lifecycle.
Key ‘always-on’ activities include paid and natural search marketing to increase visibility as visitors search for products, information or entertainment; social media and influence marketing to encourage recommendations. Once visitors are aware of a brand, their interest can be nurtured by marketing automation techniques to feature persuasive content marketing including email marketing, SMS messaging or push notification plus on-site personalization and off-site re-targeting ads.
Given this, I recommend that to combine them, it’s best to start with the strategy process, i.e. SOSTAC® and then add a plan for relevant digital marketing tactics for each part of RACE. Here is a visual explainer: Technique 1. Create action plans to prioritize your resources Our Managing digital marketing in 2020 research shows that many businesses don’t naturally plan. This chart shows that around half of companies don’t have a dedicated digital marketing strategy and this was similar for the businesses in the workshop. Many didn't have any formal marketing plan.
Percent of businesses with digital marketing plan In any recession, a plan becomes even more important since you will have to revise your goals and forecasts and prioritize on the most effective techniques. Our conversion model spreadsheets can be used to update your forecasts. Larger businesses may develop business continuity plans, but for smaller businesses, having more flexible actionable plans are important. In this guide, I’m going to cover a lot of practical ideas and hopefully, they will prompt some ideas with you that you can test, but they need to be scheduled in. To help implement your ideas, I recommend our 90-day planning technique - which will help you plan and monitor all the tests you select across RACE. For example, in one quarter you may test your home page effectiveness, in another, update your navigation. Technique 2. Sort your analytics! You can’t start your analysis and data-driven marketing without this. By sort, I mean customize your analytics so you can tell whether interactions with your website are really generating value for the business and you. It's important you work on setting up the right types of goals and putting values against them. This is is more challenging when you’re not selling online, but perfectly possible. By defining value for your goals you will then be able to much better understand the effectiveness of your content in achieving goals (though Page Value) and the effectiveness of your media investments (through Goal value per visit). For example, Google's Demo account date shows how Page Value provides a good way of comparing different page types to see how they support conversion - here they vary quite widely. You can identify and then work on pages that are less effective.
Google Page Value example Google Tag Manager - whilst not essential for small businesses - is valuable if you are going to set up more complex goals and remarketing lists. Technique 3. Get the right balance between campaign and always-on activities In smaller businesses, there is a natural tendency to focus on campaign activities to generate awareness and demand. There’s nothing easy about social media strategy development, management, and content creation. Agencies are made up of smart, creative people but arming your intern or account exec with Hootsuite and calling them a ‘ninja’ doesn’t guarantee any ROI for your clients (or long-term account growth for you). Serve the client with social media Offering social media (and related) services to clients may well be a sound business move for you, but you shouldn’t see revenue generation as the first reason for offering them. Start from the position of serving the client: if you have had the account for any length of time you’ll know the client’s market, services/products and marketing plan better than anyone else. This puts you in the strongest position to help them increase their business/brand fortunes with those services.
Thinking longer-term and moving from campaign to always-on marketing activities that support the long-term growth of the brand makes sense in the face of declining budgets. Writing in Marketing Week, Mark Ritson writes, in his article, Marketing in the time of Covid-19, advises that: "If there is one major marketing challenging now facing most big brands it is what to do with their newly slashed marketing budget. If you’ve just lost half of it, the temptation is to dump it all into shorter-term performance marketing and sales promotions. That would be an error. No amount of hot deals and clever sales activation can stimulate a market that is currently terrified, locked inside their homes and unsure of their future. Confronted with a 50% cut in marketing budgets, the smarter play is to actually focus more of it on the longer-term brand-building mission. Performance marketing is going to underperform in the current market conditions". To succeed in always-on digital marketing also means tapping into existing demand as people search for your types of services or review alternative providers in listings. Gaining good ratings and visibility in Trip Advisor is important in the tourism sector, of course. Always-on also involves using automated marketing activities for email marketing and retargeting, which we’ll come back to. Use tools like Google Trends, Keyword Planner, and Google Search Console to see the latest changes in behaviour. A survey of more than 2,200 marketers conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week published in mid-March revealed that the majority believe that the Coronavirus had already heavily impacted marketing activities for the first half of 2020. Among marketers working at brands with a revenue of more than £50 million per year, 55% of those in the UK and 57% of those in North America say that product or service launches are delayed or under review, while 55% of UK and 56% of North American marketers say that marketing campaigns are delayed or under review.
Given these reduced investments in campaigns, redeploying resources to work on 'always-on' activity should be harnessed if practical. Technique 4. Review the gaps in your always-on marketing The visual below shows ALL the activities you could potentially deploy to integrate your paid, owned and earned media activities for inbound marketing. Very often there are gaps in what could be used against what's possible, as this example shows compared to the version earlier in this article. For example, perhaps you could improve your middle or bottom of funnel content, or you could improve your email welcomes, we’ll return to these also. Technique 5. Review your STP Segmentation stands for Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning. it’s well-known as being at the heart of focusing your marketing appeal on key audiences you’re targeting. You can read more in our free marketing models download.
In times of recessions, the balance between different audiences and markets may change. An obvious example in destination marketing is that there will be more local companies. Segmentation Targeting Positioning STP model Digital media attribution is commonly used to assess which marketing channels are influencing leads and sales across multiple customer touchpoints. This is a powerful technique and tools like Multichannel funnels in Google Analytics can help you assess the effectiveness across different attribution models. However, attribution doesn’t definitively show you which techniques are contributing to uplift or decline in leads and sales when you start testing them.
Keep each bidding test simple, consistent and focused on one KPI The cardinal rule is: Keep things simple. You want your tests to reveal clearly whether automated bidding is working well for you. So resist the urge to also test new ads or landing pages at the same time and then try to interpret those results together. Stay focused on automated bidding and you’ll find it easier to see what’s happening and be able to troubleshoot any issues. Choose the largest campaign that you’re comfortable experimenting with When testing, it's important to pick the largest campaign that you’re comfortable experimenting with. In testing, more data means more confidence. Automated bids rely on account history, so they'll perform better in an account with more past data to look at. Keep your experimental split at 50% when possible so that you can generate significant results as quickly as possible. Start with targets that align with your historical CPA or ROAS When you start your test, use your historical average CPA for that campaign as your performance target. This gives you the best possible comparison in performance with your current bidding strategy. You’ll have more confidence in your results. Technique 6. Update your brand tone-of-voice Speaking with a common, appealing voice can be difficult across all of the different channels, so developing an agreed approach for all the various people writing as your brand is a must. Take a look at these brand tone-of-voice examples for quick ways to reconsider your tone-of-voice for these times. Technique 7. Smarter discounting It's a given: consumers have less cash during times of recession and competitors may offer deeper discounts - so this technique can be particularly useful for sectors that are likely to be hit hardest. It's worth testing varying discount levels - potentially offered through a variety of channels - to see what works best within the customer journey and what sees the greatest uptake. This technique may not work for some price points and some audiences, but taking a creative approach to how you distribute the discounts can be as effective as offering a particularly large discount.