Successfully marketing your business is a challenge regardless of economic uncertainty. But when its overall performance doesn’t look like it’s going to trend upward, this uncertainty can make you sweat. Your marketing dollars must work harder, while your creative campaigns really need to hit the mark with your audience. Simply put, there is less room for error.
If it’s any comfort, even the greats don’t get it right every time. But that doesn’t mean you want to throw caution to the wind when you’re unsure how the economy will perform. Uncertainty leads to anxiety for consumers, too. They start scrimping and saving, looking for ways to make cutbacks or delay purchases. And you certainly don’t want your brand to fall into either of those categories.
So how can you make your marketing stand out while reaching and motivating your audience? It begins with putting yourself in the shoes of your customers in each market segment. While this practice sounds like a no-brainer for marketers, empathy extends to every portion of your strategy. It lays the groundwork for meeting consumers where they’re currently at, establishing trust, and building loyalty.
Besides starting from a place of empathy, you can expand beyond the scope of traditional marketing. Paying attention to customer acquisition and retention through data-driven techniques also builds loyalty. It’s a practice known as growth marketing. With this approach, you aim to maximize conversions at every step of the buyer’s journey. This goal includes the referral stage, where loyal customers participate in your marketing processes.
Do More Than Create Awareness
Conventional marketing might be good at creating awareness. You design an ad campaign and launch it out into the world. You’re probably using some research to define your target audience while determining what media they’ll likely consume. But you’re also relying on your gut to shape your campaign, hoping your audience will see, hear, and read it.
You’re going with a hunch in terms of what messaging you believe will capture their attention. And you’re focusing on growing your business by adding new customers to the flock. Although gaining additional clients fuels growth, cultivating those already in your fold does so even more. That’s why, unlike traditional marketing methods, growth marketing strategies focus on more than just creating awareness.
By embracing growth marketing, your business aims to keep as many customers as possible for as long as possible. Client retention doesn’t take as many resources, since the methods you’re using — customer service, small incentives like discounts, etc. — generally cost less than ads. Plus, the data shows increasing customer retention by 5% can grow profits by 25% to 95%.
With growth marketing, you’re looking at the whole picture. Determine where customers are falling out of the funnel on the way from awareness to brand ambassador. Are there things you can do to boost the percentage of one-time buyers who return for more? The same goes for those who fit into various revenue tiers and refer others to your brand. Marketing doesn’t end with an awareness campaign or when a new client purchases their first product.
Consider Your Customers’ State of Mind
Getting inside your target audience’s head is the reason you do research. The insights you gain help inform all aspects of your marketing strategy, from product designs to promotions. It’s even more imperative to know where your consumers are coming from in times of economic uncertainty.
In contrast to previous economic wobbles, consumer spending remains strong in 2023, despite inflation and dwindling savings. Yet the current uncertainty may impact various segments of your audience differently. In many cases, their priorities and preferences will change. Simultaneously, some preferences won’t shift. You may need to tweak your messaging, reposition your products, and change your frequency.
In this context, frequency refers to the “strength of your signal.” In this radio analogy, frequency is the vibration that distinguishes your brand from others on the same general wavelength. To know your audience is to know your frequency. So if your core audience is heavily impacted by economic uncertainty, find out how they’re responding to it.
Sometimes, you can do this by looking at data from past periods of economic turbulence and seeing which companies and sectors struggled or thrived. However, every period and sector has unique, influential factors. Take real estate, for example.
While home prices tended to decline during the 2008 recession, a lack of inventory has kept price tags up this time around. That fact likely explains why home sales decreased by 4.1% from September to October 2023. Interest rates are high, and prices aren’t falling, making affordability a real concern for most consumers. If you’re in the real estate industry, it’s a concern for you, too.
Still, affordability may not worry consumers in all home buying segments, such as those with higher incomes or savings. They might be able to absorb more of the sticker shock from asking prices and mortgage rates. Rather than stressing affordability, your messaging could explain that reduced competition makes now a good time to buy an exclusive property. Knowing the effects of economic uncertainty on your industry, products, and various audience segments will help you fine-tune your marketing.
Take a Second Look at Your Brand Story
During economic uncertainty, competition is going to kick up a notch. Consumers aren’t just potentially trimming their budgets. When they do spend their money, they’re looking for brands with compelling value propositions and causes they connect with. You can become one of these by communicating an authentic brand story. Giving customers a behind-the-scenes view can serve to humanize your business.
In sharing your story, strive to be consistent and craft a cohesive message. You might want to simplify that message, redirecting focus to your core value proposition. What you don’t want to do is jump all over the place, trying to be everything to everyone. That move can come across as inauthentic and confusing to your audience.
Rather, you want to show how your brand is distinctive and the ways it makes a difference for your target market. At the same time, look at all aspects of your story’s messaging. Is the tone appropriate for how your audience might be feeling right now? And does the unique selling proposition resonate with shifting needs?
Taking real-time feedback into account can help you rethink the story you tell. If customers report that they’re feeling pinched, highlight your cash-strapped startup days and why you persisted in bringing your offering to market. For an audience to understand your brand, you have to share more than a promo. Tell them why your offerings exist, what goes on behind the curtain, and what your brand values.
Pay Attention to the Data
Part of a solid marketing strategy is using data to guide your decisions. With growth marketing campaigns, you use data from A/B testing and performance feedback to guide your choices. The information you gather helps refine your tactics so you can discover what successfully moves clients through the funnel.
After all, the goal is to advance them to the next stage. Yes, you know you’re not going to move everyone to the referral endpoint. It would be unrealistic to think that. Yet you want to leverage the data to determine where to improve your marketing mix.
Examples include testing different versions of emails and website landing pages. You can also experiment with various forms of personalization, including offers based on purchase history. You could use data to go bigger, such as reshaping business practices and product designs. It’s about listening to what your audience is saying while seeing how your efforts measure up.
Tracking key metrics, such as customer churn, can indicate whether you have a retention problem. But you’ll have to dig into the data and gather additional feedback to determine why you’re losing clients. During economic uncertainty, it could be because there are appealing substitutes. If participation in your referral program is low, maybe you have a trust issue. Analyze what all the data points are telling you and aim for long-term solutions.
Use Multiple Channels
Audiences hang out on more than one social platform. They’re exposed to messages from various channels, including email, online ads, digital PR, radio, and print. Most companies don’t limit marketing messages to a single channel. Instead, they meet their target audiences where they’re at. You have to know what media your consumers interact with and the channels that drive conversions.
Be aware, though, that digital services can be one of the hidden costs of running a business. Creating a website, redesigning one, creating online content, and managing social posts add up. You still have employee overhead if you’re doing some or all of it in-house. Your employees might also not be optimizing their time, spending too much on figuring things out instead of executing.
You want to create cohesive cross-channel marketing experiences while being cost-effective. Listening to the performance data will also help you here. An honest look at your in-house resources will do the same. You can and should partner with outside vendors when your staff lacks the necessary expertise. Or maybe you need to enhance your employees’ abilities and allocate their time better.
Use a web analytics platform to determine whether you’re using channels where your audience engages with your brand. You don’t have to maintain a presence on every social site. But you do have to tie in your social presence with your website, app, retail footprint, and other messaging formats. Make it seamless for consumers to move back and forth between channels.
Marketing During Economic Uncertainty
Promoting your business when the economy is on shaky ground is challenging because consumers get more selective. You’ll need to determine how your market segments are responding to the economic headwinds and modify your messaging accordingly.
At the same time, remember that marketing during economic uncertainty should extend beyond customer acquisition. Your existing clients constitute a more profitable and long-term revenue-generating segment. Appeal to them at each stage of the buyer’s journey by finding ways to add value and leverage data. And don’t neglect to consistently communicate your brand’s unique selling points through synergistic, engaging experiences.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by AlphaTradeZone; Pexels; Thank you.