Have you ever heard a boss or business owner friend say something along the lines of “money’s tight, so we’re going to cut back on marketing spend”?
Maybe you’ve even said it yourself?
I get it. When things get tipped upside down, spending money on advertising, design or your website can feel like a luxury. But provided you’re still allowed to operate and you’re providing a product or service that people need right now - the hard truth is this:
Pausing your marketing when the economy dips is like ceasing to water your garden because a heatwave is coming.
You’ll undo all your hard work that’s taken years to build up.
When the climate improves, you’ll be starting from square one.
You’ll lose out on growth in the long-term.
If you’ve noticed a dip in sales, or you’re expecting one (and let’s be honest, that’s most of us right now), then doubling down on your marketing is more important than ever. If you’ve been chugging along with minimal marketing effort in the past, then investing in it now could actually put you in a better position than before.
Now before we start, I also just want to acknowledge that every business owner has their own set of challenges and circumstances facing them right now, and no one should be pressuring you to make the most of this not-so-nice situation if you can’t or don’t want to. We will all cope with what’s happening around us differently, and you should do what feels right for you.
Having said that, if staying proactive is something that helps you feel motivated and as positive as possible during a scary time, then everything I’m about to say is for you. I really hope this can inspire you today, even just in a small way, because goodness knows we all need a little inspiration at the moment!
So, why do you need to keep marketing when times are tough? Let’s take a look together.
You get an opportunity to overtake the competition
Ever heard of a cereal brand called Kellogg’s? These days they’re obviously a household name and a clear market leader, but they weren’t able to reach that position until The Great Depression. Yes, you read that right!
A brand called Post was the market leader in ready-to-eat cereal at the time, but cut back on its advertising investment when the depression hit. So what did Kellogg’s do? They seized the opportunity to launch a new product (Rice Krispies, in fact) and DOUBLED their advertising spend. As a result, their profits grew by almost 30% and they continue to be a market leader to this day - 100 years on!
When your competitors (particularly those who are normally ahead of you) cut back on what they’re doing, it leaves more air-time, attention, and opportunity on the table for you. You just have to be ready to go and get it.
You can avoid losing your loyal customers
Going completely off-the-radar for the foreseeable future means that (at best) your customers will be confused about whether you’re open or not, and (at worst) they’ll forget about you or go to a competitor who is communicating better.
Take this time to stay in touch with your customer base and make sure they know whether or not you are still operating, what your hours are, how they can access you, and any other FAQs they might have depending on your service.
You don’t need to email them every day with updates (I’m sure we’re all getting enough of those already) but start by at least sending an email update when major changes happen, and keep posting often on social media so customers can see you’re still active and get the latest updates from you there.
You can expand your customer base
Expanding your customer base might sound like a crazy pipe dream at the best of times let alone right now, but you might actually have more opportunity than ever to reach a new audience.
Maybe your business can start producing a new product or service that meets an urgent need people have right now? Think factories that have switched to making masks or breweries that are now producing hand-sanitiser. Maybe you’re even a mental health provider who can offer counselling sessions over the phone, or a furniture store who can help get people set up to work from home.
Doing this is not only smart to find more demand for your business, but if you can present the right offering, and promote it successfully, you could find yourself with a whole new customer base that you’d never considered before.
You can still be human
Now of course this all sounds great in theory, but you might be wondering how you can keep promoting your business through a crisis without upsetting anyone or getting that “icky” feeling. Adapting your offering to things that are in demand at the moment is the first step, and beyond that, it’s really just a matter of being sensitive to what people are going through and acknowledging that.
When it comes to how you present your offering, through imagery or words, the key is to try and bring people hope, comfort or happiness in everything you post or publish. There’s no need to play on fear or use what’s happening around us as a way to draw more attention, but if you can share something that will brighten someone’s day - then it’s worth it! And you’re doing a great thing not only for that reader, viewer or customer, but also for your family, staff and other small businesses you’ll be able to support when you can keep those sales rolling in.
How I’m doing it
Still not sure how to put this all into action? Here’s what I’ve personally been doing to keep showing up and helping my customer base lately. Hopefully it might spark some ideas for you too!
I’ve created some free colouring-in sheets to help keep kids occupied at home (or just help the adults relax with some mindfulness time).
I’m keeping my social media posts lighthearted and trying to find the funny-side or good news stories that are coming from our new reality.
I’m sharing as many free design resources as I can to lighten the burden for my clients.
I’m still writing educational blogs (like this one) to inspire and educate small businesses.
I’m keeping everyone updated about any changes that might affect how they use my services, as well as new services on offer that are more relevant for this climate.
If you’ve read this far, then congratulations! You're clearly serious about your business and doing everything you can to ride out the challenges in front of us. Whatever happens, I’m here to support you all the way, and just remember that as cheesy as it sounds - we’re all in this together!
If you’re looking for a little sunshine in your day, feel free to follow me over on Instagram for a good dose of honesty, fun and positivity anytime you need it.