Ben Franklin originally said, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” And while that definitely is true, you can also be certain that unless you’re in the middle of one, the threat of a recession is always looming.
Contrary to popular opinion, there are actually a number of opportunities that present themselves during a recession. In fact, many brands have seen massive growth during times of economic crisis. Brands you use every day, like Groupon, WhatsApp, and Uber incredibly got their start during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
With the right preparation and know-how, your brand can position itself to weather the storm and come out even stronger.
But what should you do when the dreaded r-word finally enters? What does that actually mean when you get handed an edict from above to “tighten your belts” or “do more with less”?
Marketing is Essential During a Recession
It’s tempting to cut back on your marketing budget, but data shows that is actually not a good idea. According to a new report from Analytic Partners, if you cut back on marketing spending during a recession, your competitors may swoop in and steal your business.
Content marketing is used by 79% of companies to generate quality leads, and there’s no more important time than a recession to be bringing in those leads. Having a sound content marketing strategy in place helps keep you prepared for any eventuality.
So what marketing strategies make sense during a recession? Here are five ways to make your content marketing plan recession-proof:
First of All, Don’t Panic!
Now is not the time for knee-jerk decisions. But “riding it out” is also not a strategy for long-term survival in a recession.
Don’t make any big decisions right away. Recessions typically result in an erosion of trust in brands, so continuing to put out content consistently keeps your customers’ confidence in your company. (It also maintains that top-of-mind awareness.)
Remember, slow and steady wins the race. There’s no need to pull anything out of your existing content calendar at first. As a matter of fact, now may be the perfect time to increase your content output. Even if it doesn’t feel like the right move during economic uncertainty, the numbers prove that it’s a useful strategy:
- 73% of the top marketers use content to nurture their audience.
- During the last recession, 60% of brands that increased their media investments saw improvements in ROI.
- 50% of brands that increased their marketing spend during the last recession saw improvements to ROI in back-to-back years.
- Brands that increased their paid advertising during the last recession had a 17% increase in their incremental sales.
The added bonus is that advertising costs will likely go down with everyone in a recession. You’ll be able to stretch your dollar even further.
And speaking of getting more for your money, on the whole, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing but brings in 3x as many leads. In fact, companies with blogs generate 67% more monthly leads than those without.
If you don’t already have a blog, you might want to consider adding one as part of your strategy for weathering the recession.
Agile Marketing is Your Friend
Now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to what the data (and your audience) is telling you. Plan to abandon the plan when sticking to the plan is no longer a good plan.
In 2021, nearly every day we learned something new about living life in a post-pandemic world. That leads to a lot of confusing messaging.
So much so that during this time, 99% of marketers who have ever pivoted their content plan, did. In fact, 38% of them pivoted three times. And of that 99%, roughly 78% said it was for the best and made for an extremely effective strategy.
How do you apply that principle now? Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. Pretending you’re not in a recession won’t make the recession disappear.
Your customers’ buying habits will change, the way they consume their content will change, and even where they consume content will change. Take a good look at what the data is telling you and then adjust your approach accordingly.
Now would be an excellent time to take a hard look at your current content strategy. Rip it all down to the studs and see what you’ve got.
- How has your audience changed?
- Where should you be reaching them?
- And what is it that they want to hear?
But what if your primary concern is, “How do I increase sales during a recession?”
The answer is (once again) slow and steady wins the race. Focusing your content on discounts and promotions may yield some short-term increase in revenue but not long-term results. Brand messaging outperforms performance messaging 80% of the time.
Remember that a recession erodes trust. Focus your content on brand-building and values-based messaging to restore and maintain that trust with your audience. Trust and credibility go hand-in-hand. In a survey of bloggers, marketers, and business owners, 30% said that quality content is the most important factor when determining credibility.
Be flexible with your strategy, but don’t sacrifice quality.
Don’t Underestimate Social Media
Email marketing might still be king – with a $42 return on each $1 spent – but social media allows you to bring together many of the ideas we’ve already discussed. While it shouldn’t be your only strategy, social media can be a powerful component of your overall content marketing plan.
Use your social media to deliver values-based messaging, engage with your audience, and make real-time course corrections through times of uncertainty.
Let your data tell you which platform(s) your audience uses and plan your content accordingly. Look for exciting ways to engage your audience, and think out of the box!
Love it or hate it, TikTok users engage 15% more often than users on other social media platforms. As of August 2022, there are one billion monthly active users on the platform or 20.83% of the 4.8 billion worldwide internet users.
That’s a lot of people watching video content. And brands are noticing.
In 2021, language learning platform Duolingo built a TikTok account featuring its mascot Duo the owl. Thanks to a couple of viral videos, the account now enjoys 4.9 million followers.
There’s no denying that video is here to stay. It was anticipated to be the top marketing-related investment in 2022, a trend that will surely continue.
With 75%of B2B buyers saying they use social media to make purchasing decisions, what kind of decision will they make when they land on your social media?
Watch Your Competitors (They’re Watching You!)
It’s always important to have one eye on the competition, but it’s especially so during times of economic strife. Your competitors can be your biggest teachers! But rest assured, they’re watching you as closely as you’re watching them.
Pulling back on your marketing during a recession doesn’t just signal to your audience that your company might be in trouble, it signals to your competition as well. When you create a gap, your competitors will be all too happy to fill it.
Don’t believe us?
Cutting your marketing budget could cost you business in the short and long term. Research shows that if a similarly-sized business doubles its marketing spend – where you do not – you stand to lose up to 15% of your business to that company.
Conversely, if you apply what we’ve already discussed, you could potentially capitalize on your competitors’ churn during an economic downturn.
Continue to be a consistent presence with your content. Take advantage of lower advertising costs and increase your marketing spend. Identify where your competition has created a vacuum and be poised to fill that space.
Where to Cut Back vs. Where to Spend More
Understanding that content marketing has a longer-term impact on ROI means now would be the time to assess which of your current campaigns are not delivering.
Making data-driven decisions is easier than ever, thanks to the available analytics tools. And during a recession, information is going to be the most powerful asset you have. Using data-driven decision-making puts you in a position to not just survive, but thrive. Brands that adopt a data-driven strategy have seen as much as 5x growth over brands that don’t.
Focus your attention on customer experience and behavior to deliver targeted, personalized messaging that increases customer trust and loyalty.
When you look at the data, you’ll also be able to make more informed decisions about where you might be wasting money in your advertising budget.
What are your “nice-to-haves”? Are you focusing too much on ToFu and not enough on BoFu? Or vice versa? Where are some areas where you could invest more money and see a greater ROI?
For starters, if you want to save money, you should focus on your existing customer base. It’s been long established that it can cost 5x as much to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. But did you know that the success rate of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%? (Versus 5-20% for a new customer.)
If you do attempt to reach new customers, consider taking a more targeted approach and shifting to an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy.
Yet again, this is a longer play, but the reward can be much higher. You’ll increase your revenue potential exponentially by focusing efforts on identifying – and marketing specifically to – larger, enterprise-level accounts.
Having a smaller, more targeted audience means you can also personalize your content for the high touch these accounts expect. Use your agile marketing plan to respond to their pain points in real-time. (Certainly, they’ll have many pain points during a recession!)
You may also want to identify which of your products or services you could bundle together and promote synergistically, commonly known as the Halo Effect.
When you have products or services that have similar messaging or benefits, the advertising dollars you spend on one can also carry over to the other. In fact, data shows that the halo can contribute to half of your overall marketing impact, but when executed effectively, it can increase ROI by up to 10x.
Now would also be a good time to try mixing up your formats and/or diversifying your marketing strategy. Using a multi-channel approach can increase your advertising impact by 35%.
And finally, it may sound counterintuitive if you’re working with a reduced team, but outsourcing your content creation entirely can sometimes be more cost-effective than producing everything in-house.
Why Outsourcing Your Content is Never a Bad Idea
In its 2022 Annual Report, the Content Marketing Institute found that 67% of marketers surveyed stated that over the last year their content teams have been asked to do more with fewer resources.
It also determined that 57% of the most successful content marketers utilize outsourcing.
So what can we derive from that?
Despite being asked to do more with less, successful content marketers outsource at least some of their content marketing activities. And not just the most successful ones. Fifty percent of all marketers surveyed for the report responded that they utilized outsourcing.
We’ve already established that maintaining a consistent presence with your content is imperative during a recession. Outsourcing your content may feel like an unnecessary luxury during an economic downturn, but here’s why it’s not:
- Adding more work to an already lean team makes consistent content output difficult.
- Content creation may be stretching the skill set of your existing team and, therefore, will require more edits and rewrites (which take up valuable time) than hiring professional content creators.
- Outsourcing certain content marketing activities to specialists means you can fill your content gaps without having to take on new, full-time team members.
Your content should utilize a multi-channel approach. But not everyone on your team is going to be an expert in different platforms. Unless you have a large, dedicated content team (which is only true for about 10% of marketers), chances are you don’t have a lot of specialized talent to work with.
Even if you’re not in a position to take on a fully-managed content solution during a recession, it’s a worthwhile investment to hire experts to create the specialized content you need.
As anyone who’s familiar with the “iron triangle” of service will tell you: you can have things fast, good, or cheap. But you can only pick two.
Ensuring quality leads for your company is always worth investing in.
Your Recession-Proof Content Marketing Strategy
Economic downturns can be stressful and uncertain, but failing to plan is planning to fail. Maintaining a consistent presence with your content will not only keep your competitors at bay but will restore faith and trust in your brand with your existing customers.
Focus less on the drawbacks and more on the opportunities that this time may provide. Take advantage of lower advertising costs to stretch your dollar and increase top-of-mind awareness. Where your competitors may pull back, press forward!
A recession might be the time to cut down on your “nice-to-haves”, but your content marketing strategy is not one of them. Review your campaigns with a critical eye, optimize where you can, and plan to weather the storm.
And even if you’re working with a reduced budget, when you partner with ClearVoice to outsource your content creation, we create a custom plan based on your needs and your resources. You’ll never pay for what you don’t want or won’t use.
Talk to a Content Specialist today to get your custom, recession-proof content plan.
There’s enough uncertainty during a recession. Be certain that your quality content will continue to work for you.