Marketing in a Recession

We’ve recently been informed that we are now officially in a recession, which is described as two quarters of financial negative growth.

When it comes to recessions, marketers are often ill-prepared.

Recessions come so far apart that many people within a business won’t remember the last one, and a current downturn will likely be quite different from previous downturns, making comparisons difficult.

One of the first things a lot of businesses do is pause marketing activity, in an attempt to try and cut losses whilst maintaining profitability.

However, this is counter-productive and can harm future growth.

If you can keep pushing forward with your marketing activity, albeit more strategically, you continue to put yourself at the forefront of your customer’s minds and you stand to come out of the other side of the recession in a stronger position than your competitors.

This gives you a runway to continue future growth. We take a look at how you continue to grow and acquire new customers, even when times get hard.

Know Your Customers

You know your customers better than anyone but taking the extra time to look at who they are, what their lives are like, and how they are likely to be affected by a recession is the first step to knowing how to target your audience effectively.

There are several different personality types and spending habits that we will see during a recession.

The circumstances and employment status of your customers are likely to dictate how they spend their money.

The Stop All Spending Customer – Usually lower earners, this segment is likely to put the brakes on spending, as they worry about their security and long term financial health. They are unlikely to spend on items they see as luxury and will downgrade on essentials, to ensure they spend less.

The Relatively Well Off Customer– On the flip side, there are those that that are financially well off, and not too concerned about unemployment, knowing they are pretty secure should that happen. These customers are likely to be spending as usual, though they might be a little more selective about certain purchases or brands.

The It Doesn’t Affect Me Customer– Finally, there is a group that doesn’t worry about the recession in the outside world and will continue spending as they have before. They tend to be younger, and saving for the future is an afterthought. Often in junior roles, or still at university (myself in 08/09), their money is to be enjoyed and spent on things and experiences. They are only likely to lock-down spending if unemployment for them becomes a reality.

Know Your Product

Not in the traditional sense of the nuts and bolts, but knowing where your product sits in a customer’s perceptions is extremely important.

The 4 ways to look at your product/service is; are they a necessity, a nice to have, a future luxury, or unnecessary.

By understanding where your products sit (and it might be across different segments throughout your product range), you can make a decision (along with knowing your customer) of what products to promote and to which target segments. 

Necessity – Products which everyone needs to survive or are needed to maintain a sense of well-being. These tend to include; food, alcohol, medicine etc.

Nice to have – These are products which you might buy to make you feel better or for a morale boost. This could include; nice wine, lipstick, chocolate etc.

Future Luxury – Purchases you’d love to buy but is something for the future when things are looking better. This includes; luxury electronics, expensive fashion or holidays. 

Unnecessary – Usually the first to fall in a recession, these products are those which are cut back first.

Each type of product suffers differently to each of the customer types above.

Those that stop all spending are likely to only spend money on essentials whereas those who are relatively well of, are likely to keep purchasing nice to haves and future luxuries, but being slightly more selective in the process.

knowing this means you can continue to effectively target the right customer with the correct product, and stop targeting those that are not going to be profitable during the current economic climate.

Double Down On What Works

In the early stages of a recession, the first thing to do is take stock. In 2020, due to the increase in technology and surge in digital marketing activity, as part of the marketing mix, we have analytics for everything we do.

This means we can analyse and evaluate all channels to see what is working and stop the activity which isn’t delivering returns.

Conducting a full audit of your marketing activities, and seeing where you are leaking cash is going to be essential.

It’s time to close down those Paid Search Campaigns that aren’t delivering a strong ROI and increase the budget for those that do.

PPC in a Recession

During a recession, people reduce spending, which in turn results in more abandoned purchases and lower conversion rates.

This can turn once profitable paid search campaigns into campaigns with a negative ROI. It is time to look more closely at campaigns you have running, and whether they are going to remain profitable.

If not, then pause them and increase funds towards those that are going to deliver results. It is also a chance to look at negative keywords which may have arisen due to the current climate and exclude these.

PPC can be hugely profitable in good times, but costs can run away if not kept in check. If you are unsure about efficient management of campaigns, speak to an expert.

SEO in a Recession

SEO is a long term game. The plans and work we do now, are designed to reap dividends in 6-12 months times, but done well will give results years down the line. 

SEO activity such as using hero content and supporting with a strong blog calendar that offers value to the reader will continue to serve you well.

In the shorter term, however, taking a look at the problems your customers are facing (which may be new problems driven by the recession itself) will allow you to capitalise.

If you are a food and drink producer, for instance, people may be looking for low-cost alternatives to hosting an event or party.

Producing a guide on hosting the perfect low budget party may be a great way to drive traffic to your site and open you up to a new segment.

This is also a great opportunity to look at the back-end of your site and make sure you are performing from a technical SEO perspective.

Ensuring your site speed is optimised and that the site architecture is beneficial including URL structure is only going to benefit you and your business.

Email Marketing in a Recession

If you already have a large database full of customers, email marketing can be a pretty recession-proof strategy for you.

You hopefully have a database of segmented and engaged customers that are waiting to purchase.

By focusing on engaged customers such as those that have recently purchased directly from you, you can work your email content around encouraging repeat purchases, something which should have a higher conversion rate than trying to chase new business.

Linking your email marketing with other channels can be extremely powerful, by coupling email campaigns with re-marketing and re-targeting you can drive up the engagement and conversion rates.

Social Media in a recession

As far as marketing channels that offer bang per buck, social media has been a game-changer.

For brands with engaged followers, it can be a key traffic driving channel.

To succeed with social media marketing, it’s key to be consistent and as with any other kind of content marketing, post content that offers value and is interesting to your followers.

A constant stream of sales posts and promotions might deliver results in the short term, but will quickly become tiresome.

Finally, before using a channel you need to think whether your customer base is actively using that platform and if they are, you are displaying the right messages on those channels.

  • Post consistently – 3/4 times a week minimum, as an average allows you to build up a strong presence.

  • Think about the user base – for instance, If your core customers are in there 70’s does it make sense to be using Instagram and Snapchat and likewise if you are marketing children’s products are you going to get much interaction from focusing on Linkedin?

  • Post appropriate content for the platform and user base – Think about the correct content for the platform you are posting on. Large subject matter articles are going to be strong on Linkedin, whereas lifestyle based posts that appeal to peoples dreams are going to be more powerful on Instagram.

  • Be proactive – Social media platforms have 1000’s (if not millions) of people on their platform that might be interested in your products and services. Be proactive in following those (and engaging with them) with similar/relevant interests.

Other Useful Tools

With more people tightening spending, it’s naturally going to lead to tougher decision making when it comes to purchasing.

Ensuring you have fully optimised product pages, with multiple images (both product and lifestyle), strong product description and features & benefits will help.

If you can add further hero content on the page to sell the product that will help too.

A recession is likely to lead to a higher number of abandoned baskets.

Implementing re-targeting through abandon basket technology will allow you to contact customers who have left your site, to put your offer back under their nose via email or display ads.

Incentives such as a small discount or free shipping may help to get the sale over the line.

Measure Everything

The only way to know for sure what’s working is to measure your campaigns and assess their performance.

By optimising and utilising analytics across multiple platforms and setting up goals, you can track which of those activities are delivering and which aren’t.

It isn’t a one size fits all approach and what might work well for one sector, won’t in another.

Plan for the future

Once you’ve taken stock and ensured you are running campaigns profitably, it’s time to look at actions you can take to shorten the length of your recession and come out of it on the front foot.

We’ve mentioned things above which can deliver results and much-needed revenue in tough times, however, it’s important to ensure you are future-proofing your current assets so they keep on delivering.

Doing a content audit, to revisit and update old content so it adheres to best practice and current brand guidelines are going to keep giving it legs.

By going through old web pages and blogs and making sure they still have the correct information, the latest company details and branding, and a call to action (CTA) can keep it looking fresh and effective.

It’s important to remember these pages are most likely still the first interaction to your brand some visitors will have.

If your website is sat on an old platform, not mobile optimised and looking outdated compared to competitors, it might be time for a website migration to bring it up to date.

There are still lots of websites out there that aren’t mobile optimised and with over 50% of web traffic coming from mobile, that is going to cost you.

As things start to improve, it’s time to start spending, not only to grow but to give you an advantage over slow-moving competitors.

During this stage, it’s important to start testing. Running test paid search campaigns, for instance, to see how they perform and giving further budget to those that convert or giving more money to paid social adverts.

Don’t Be Frightened to Hire an Agency

Hiring an agency can seem like a big step, however, if your objective is to grow, there are lots of reasons to do so;

  • We are a collective brain of experience covering multiple categories and functions.

  • We allow you to save money by not needing to hire internally, not just wages, but technology, pension and insurance.

  • Although agencies can sometimes have a bad rep, the majority agencies want to see clients win and we will go the extra mile to ensure that happens.

  • You can dial up and down the work depending on what your goals are. If you only want to focus efforts on SEO, so be it, if you want to tap into a full-service digital marketing team, we can take care of it.

Why Farm Gate Marketing?

  • Not all agencies are created equal. There are some fantastic London based agencies out there, but are they likely to understand the day to day life of a rural brand at the core of its community? No. Rural life is at the core of our business and we’re passionate about seeing rural businesses succeed.

  • We’re pretty good at marketing. Although we come from rural roots, that’s not to say we don’t have plenty of experience working with some of the worlds biggest brands. From, BMW to Berghaus, Unilever to Private equity houses owning some of Britain’s coolest brands, Our team has either worked in marketing for them or with them on projects.

  • We don’t have an expensive London office and all the expenses that come with being in the capital, this means we can pass on these savings and offer our clients value for money on their projects.


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